Pot and Pets: Should Dogs Get High?
University of Manchester
A pointer named “Major” is identified as the first known example of a modern dog. A description of the dog was found in a now-obscure 1865 edition of a Victorian journal called The Field. It marks the earliest reported dog breed based on physical form and pedigree. “The invention of ‘breed,’ physically and imaginatively, still shapes how we see and think about dogs today,” Michael Worboys, Director of the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, told Discovery News. Worboys and his team found the information concerning “Major” while preparing a new museum exhibit on dogs.
The first domestication of dogs was thought to have taken place 31,680 years ago -- but new research suggests the skull in question likely belong to a wolf. This particular specimen was found with a still-visible mammoth bone in its mouth.
The paleolithic dog remains resembled a modern Siberian husky, but suggest an animals that was significantly larger. Today, the Siberian husky, Samoyed and Alaskan malamute breeds are all closely related. "The most remarkable difference between these dogs and recent dog breeds is the size of the teeth,” paleontologist Mietje Germonpré said. Other early dog breeds, with a focus on the U.K., are featured in the museum exhibit curated by Worboys and his team. Entitled “Breed: The British and Their Dogs,” the exhibit runs at the University of Manchester museum through April 14.
Another team of researchers, led by Heidi Parker of the National Human Genome Research Institute, used DNA analysis to determine the genetic relationships of numerous dog breeds. One such ancient breed is the Afghan hound. As its name suggests, it's native to the Middle East. It’s one of the oldest dog breeds in existence, and was originally used for hunting hares and gazelles.
Parker and her team found that Akitas are yet another ancient breed. These dogs originated in Asia and are genetically similar to chow chows. The breed was not included in the first dog show. “The first dog show was in 1859 when only two varieties were shown: pointers and setters,” Worboys said. It had nothing to do with the handsome Akita’s looks, as he explained that the first dog show was “for gun dogs only.”
The sleek-bodied saluki comes from Iran, where its distant ancestors might have once lived near the earliest farmers from the Fertile Crescent. Dogs in this region evolved the ability to eat a starch-rich diet around 12,000 years ago. “Our findings show that it was crucial to early dogs to be able to thrive on a diet rich in starch,” Uppsala University’s Erik Axelsson, who led a related study, told Discovery News. “That indicates that dog domestication may be linked to the development of agriculture. It is possible that dogs may have been domesticated independently at locations where agriculture developed early, such as the Fertile Crescent and China.”
One of the most ancient dog breeds native to the United States is the Alaskan malamute. The DNA study found that they are genetically similar to Siberian huskies. This large, muscular dog was used -- and still is -- for pulling sleds, hauling freight by other means, and for additional work tasks.
The basenji is “an ancient African breed,” according to Parker and her colleagues. While “Major” the pointer is the first documented modern breed of dog, the basenji is arguably the first dog to be heavily bred by humans. Although this dog hails from central Africa, paleontologists believe its wolf ancestors originally came from eastern Asia.
Remigiusz Józefowicz/Wikimedia Commons
In China, the chow chow is affectionately referred to as Songshi Quan, meaning “puffy-lion dog.” It is genetically close to the Akita, also from Asia. It represents yet another early breed.
Of the four most ancient known Asian dog breeds, the shar-pei was the first to diverge from a wolf ancestor, suggesting it is the oldest known Asian breed. This dog is famous for its deep wrinkles and blue-black tongue. Mutations of the same gene that causes wrinkles in these dogs can also cause wrinkling of human skin.
Miles, a 12-year-old Labrador retriever mix, was slowly dying of cancer. His owner, after seeing the effect that narcotic painkillers such as tramadol were having on Miles, decided to try something else: medical marijuana.
Within hours of taking a tincture of marijuana from a medical pot dispensary in Los Angeles, Miles' appetite returned, he stopped vomiting and began walking and running around. "It couldn't have been a coincidence," his owner told the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
As marijuana's once-ironclad restrictions become more relaxed, and researchers begin to find more therapeutic uses for the formerly banned substance, pet owners around the world may be wondering: Is pot good for my pet? [10 Surprising Facts About Dogs]
Pot's health effects
Since 1970, marijuana has been classified by the federal government as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no recognized medical uses and a high potential for abuse, placing it in the same category as heroin and LSD.
Many medical authorities, including the American Medical Association and the National Association for Public Health Policy, scoff at pot's Schedule I designation. So do legions of people who openly buy the drug at pot dispensaries in the dozens of states and countries that allow medical use of marijuana.
But veterinarians warn that marijuana -- despite its potential therapeutic benefits -- isn't always a good choice for dogs, cats and other animals.
Two dogs died in Colorado from marijuana toxicosis after ingesting butter laced with medical-grade marijuana, according to a 2012 report in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.
Puppy see, puppy do
The study's authors report that Colorado -- which recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana -- had experienced a fourfold increase in the number of pets seen in vet clinics for pot ingestion between 2005 and 2010, commensurate with an increasing number of licenses for medical marijuana during that period.
The problem is compounded when a pet eats marijuana contained in a food, such as chocolate brownies or raisin cookies, that is also unhealthy for pets.
"If you give a dog a stick of butter or a bowl of cooking oil -- marijuana or not -- it's going to get sick," Colorado State University veterinarian and associate professor Timothy Hackett told Coloradoan.com.
"If you called me up and said your dog ate a whole tray of regular brownies, I'd be concerned enough to tell you to bring him in and induce vomiting," Hackett said. "If the dog ate one cookie or something like that, I'm not worried. I'm worried about you turning your back and a shoebox full of pot brownies being gone."
Is my dog stoned?
Marijuana doesn't affect dogs, cats and other animals exactly the same way it affects humans, according to experts. They may stumble around, look or act confused, appear sleepy or just dopey, Hackett said.
But in severe cases, dogs have reportedly shown symptoms like vomiting, tremors and incontinence, and rarely, some can die from marijuana toxicosis.
However, in the vast majority of cases involving marijuana ingestion, the animals simply get over it in a matter of hours. "I've seen many stoned dogs and most of them do just fine," Hackett said.
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This story originally appeared on LiveScience.com.