Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.
Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.
Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms.
Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.
Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.
Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.
Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans.
If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.
What Caused the Recall?
This recall was issued after the company was notified by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture of the positive Salmonella finding.
Product affected was isolated to 1 lot of 540 lbs (108 boxes) and distributed to distributors in Minnesota, Georgia, Kansas, and Pennsylvania.
The products were sold at pet specialty retail stores.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
Raw Basics tests all batches of products for all pathogens in a hold and release program before releasing for shipping.
What to Do?
Consumers who have purchased the affected product are are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 800-219-3650.
U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.
Dog treats have come a long way over the years. We used to keep a box of those dry, bone-shaped biscuits in the cupboard to give to Fido every once and awhile. Today, trainers and dog owners agree that healthy and nutritious treats are an essential training tool that provides positive reinforcement for pups.
Don’t Be Fooled By Cheap Ingredients in Nice Packaging
Unfortunately, the extremely profitable pet industry features several brands oversaturating the market with cheap treats made with low-quality and potentially harmful ingredients. You can’t trust the brand packaging itself, as pet food companies use tricks to make their food appear better than it is. Their pretty packaging can be misleading, but the ingredient list offers a more truthful look at what’s actually in your dog’s food. Pick up any dog treat product at the store, and you will see a long list of ingredients– many of them you can’t even pronounce, let alone understand.
The Worst Ingredients in Dog Treats and Dog Food
Butylated Hydroxyanisole or BHA
Butylated Hydroxytoluene or BHT
Food dyes including Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and 4-MIE
Propylene Glycol or PG
Corn and wheat gluten
Meat and grain meals and by-products
BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidants that are possible carcinogens that may also interfere with hormone function. Long-term exposure to high doses of BHT is proven to be toxic in mice and rats. It can also cause liver, thyroid and kidney problems and can hurt lung function and blood coagulation.
Ethoxyquin is a fat preservative that is also used as a pesticide as well as in the process of making rubber (yuck!). Studies have found that it can cause liver damage, as well. Synthetic food dyes are entirely unnecessary and only contribute to the visual appeal of a product for humans– your dog couldn’t care less! They link to cancer, allergies, and hyperactivity. Propylene Glycol is a controversial form of mineral oil that may cause allergic reactions as well as skin, liver and kidney damage.
Corn and wheat gluten are both ingredients used as meat substitutes that are less nutritionally complete than real meat proteins. Manufacturers add them to dog foods and treat to make their products seem better than they are. Other ingredients including If you’re feeding your dogs products containing these ingredients, they may not be getting the nutrition they need. Furthermore, many dogs are gluten intolerant and can suffer from severe inflammation and allergic reactions when consumed.
Of all the ingredients listed above, rendered fat, and meat/grain meals or by-products probably sound the most familiar. The problem is there are little to no regulations when it comes to disclosing from which animals pet food manufacturers are sourcing their “rendered fat,” “meals,” and “by-products.” You may be feeding your beloved pets the remains of diseased cattle, tumor-ridden chickens, roadkill, zoo animals, and even euthanized dogs and cats from veterinarians and shelters. Rendered fat is also a source of harmful microorganisms, toxins, and can facilitate the growth of harmful bacteria and mold.
Other Bad Ingredients to Look Out For
Other ingredients to look out for include: white flour, monosodium glutamate (MSG), corn syrup, farmed salmon, xylitol, sugar alcohols, sodium nitrate, soy, sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP), salt, vegetable oil, cellulose, brewers rice, corn, sodium hexametaphosphate, animal digest, pea protein, and artificial flavor.
The Preen Pets Difference
At Preen Pets, we only use simple whole ingredients like extra lean chicken breast, USDA extra lean beef, and sweet potatoes to create healthy, all-natural treats your dogs love. We never use ingredients you haven’t heard of. And certainly, none that could potentially harm your dog.
Our treats do not contain questionable ingredients. Many other treat companies use chemical preservatives, synthetic food dyes, and cheap sources of protein.
At Preen Pets, we see dogs as members of our family, so we only use ingredients we’d be comfortable consuming ourselves. We craft our treats here in the U.S.A. using all-natural farm-fresh ingredients that are hormone free and slow-oven baked to retain as much nutritional value as possible. We are so confident your dogs will love our treats, we offer a 100% money-back guarantee.
Browse Our Dog Treats >
I don’t know how many of you have dogs, or what treats you give them, if you have them. Our animals are very large, so of course, I like to get them treats that are large. Bully sticks, to get large ones, are kind of expensive. They are supposed to last a really long time, but 225 pounds can do away with one in no time.
A couple of years ago, we went, around this time of year, down to the local pet supply store. They had a two pack of these things redbarn twisters or some such name. They are like 20-22″ long. Perfect. Special Sale Price $8.99. Cool, I could afford that.
Later, when I went to track some down to order, they are like between $9-$13 each. And I have to have 2 of everything, and they last no time.
Anyway, recently I had ordered a bunch when I found them on special. There was a little issue with a couple of them. Not a real big issue, but something that I wanted the company to be aware of, so that they could keep an eye out on it.
The lady that assisted me, Sue Jonsson, after reading my email, was totally wonderful! She sent me out another bunch, in fact a few more than I had ordered for that particular order. It was like early Christmas for my dogs, they were ecstatic! I gave each of them a whole one. Yes, I am so chintzy that I cut them in half so that I can actually afford to give them both a treat.
Not too many companies out there that do that sort of thing anymore. It has been a long time since I have seen a company that cares as much as RedBarn.
March 2, 2017 — Blue Buffalo has issued a voluntary market withdrawal of 17 varieties of its Blue Divine Delights and Blue Wilderness Trail Trays due to quality issues with the foil seals on the top of the cups.
No other Blue Buffalo products (including any variety of Divine Delights not listed below) are impacted by this issue.
The company is not aware of any dogs becoming ill from these products.
The following products are affected by the recall:
BLUE Divine Delights Filet Mignon Flavor in Gravy
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights New York Strip Flavor in Gravy
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Prime Rib Flavor in Gravy
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Rotisserie Chicken Flavor in Gravy
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate Filet Mignon Flavor
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate Porterhouse Flavor
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate Grilled Chicken Flavor
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate Top Sirloin Flavor
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate Angus Beef Flavor
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate Roasted Turkey Flavor
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate with Bacon, Egg and Cheese
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate Sausage, Egg and Cheese Flavor
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Divine Delights Pate Steak and Egg Flavor
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Wilderness Trail Trays Duck Grill
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Wilderness Trail Trays Beef Grill
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Wilderness Trail Trays Chicken Grill
3.5 oz cup
BLUE Wilderness Trail Trays Turkey Grill
3.5 oz cup
What to Do?
Blue Buffalo has asked consumers to stop feeding the affected product to pets and bring any remaining cups affected by the withdrawal to their place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions about this market withdrawal are invited to contact Blue Buffalo at 877-870-7363.
U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.
Or go to http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.
Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.
Get Dog Food Recall Alerts by Email
Get free dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Dog Food Advisor’s emergency recall notification system.
Dogs suffering allergic reactions and death after being injected with popular Merck vaccine
Friday, July 08, 2016 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: leptospirosis vaccine, side effects, pet health
Leptospirosis vaccine http://www.naturalnews.com/054601_leptospirosis_vaccine_side_effects_pet_health.html
(NaturalNews) Dog owners and veterinary associations in the United Kingdom have been warning of a rash of dangerous and even lethal side effects from a popular vaccine designed to protect dogs from a rare and mild illness.
The disease in question, leptospirosis, can be serious in both dogs and humans, but most cases are mild. It is spread via the urine of infected wild and domestic animals, typically mice and rats, and is most common in poor and rural regions of tropical countries or Eastern Europe. It is not common in the United Kingdom. For this reason, the vaccine is considered optional, rather than required or even recommended.
Seizures, immune failure and death
The leptospirosis vaccine, Nobivac L4, is produced by Merck subsidiary MSD Animal Health, which says that despite its optional status, it is one of the most widely used dog vaccines. More than a million doses of L4 are used in the United Kingdom each year. According to the company, the shot should only be given to dogs older than nine weeks, with a followup dose a month later and a yearly booster.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) disagrees with this recommendation, warning that the vaccine is particularly hazardous for puppies younger than 12 weeks. The L4 vaccine is “associated with as many or more adverse reactions than occur for any other” optional vaccine, the WSAVA says.
According to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) of the British government, since the newest version of the vaccine was introduced three years ago, there have been more than 2,000 reports of serious adverse effects, including more than 120 deaths. The VMD is now monitoring the vaccine, but has not said whether it will consider pulling it from the market.
Known adverse effects from the vaccine include blindness, swollen glands, seizures and anaphylactic or immune reactions. In 2014, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) added a warning label to the vaccine highlighting the risk of “anaphylaxis and various immune-mediated conditions such as anaemia, thrombocyte-penia and arthritis.” The WSAVA recommends the shot not be given to dogs younger than 16 weeks.
However, British vets are regularly giving the shot to dogs as young as seven weeks – younger than recommended by the EMA, the WSAVA or even the manufacturer – without warning of the potential hazards.
Vets in ‘denial’
According to spaniel breeder Bridgette Evans, every dog she has given the L4 vaccine to has suffered an adverse reaction. Out of one litter of six pups, every single one developed swollen glands, in some cases as big as tennis balls. One of the dogs died within three weeks of the shot.
Carol Blackburn-Harvey, another breeder, said her dog became “overbalanced” and unable to walk three weeks after getting the shot, and died soon after.
“Vets are not willing to admit or are in denial about the risk posed by the vaccine – it can kill perfectly fit and healthy dogs,” Evans said.
Many pet owners believe that the VMD is concealing the scale of the problem by under-reporting the number of dogs affected, and that it isn’t taking a hard enough line against manufacturer MSD.
In fact, MSD itself seems to have admitted some fault, since it is known to have paid at least one customer’s vet bills for damage resulting from the shot.
Foot-dragging by the VMD makes it all the more important that dog owners report any suspected negative effects from the L4 shot.
“It is critical that pet owners report any suspected adverse reactions to their vets so they can be thoroughly and scientifically investigated and reported to the veterinary medicines regulators,” said Gudrun Ravetz, junior vice president of the British Veterinary Association.
Taking care of your pet doesn’t just mean protecting it from unnecessary vaccines, but also protecting it from harsh and dangerous chemicals. The Health Ranger’s Pet Shampoo, available at the Natural News Store, is made just from saponified high-grade oils, essential oils and plant-based extracts, with no artificial chemicals.
Ya know, I rarely post anything light-hearted, rarely anythign without the doom and gloom of what is going to kill us all (Fukushima) I even have a blog called DeKalb County Sux, where I show total discontent with the way the County is run.
Never anything about how wonderful something or someone is.
Today, I felt the need to post just that thing, something nice.
So, I am going to tell you how wonderful Pawstruck.com is. I was sad that I was going to have to move on to order the treat that my four-legged babies love the most. I won’t give a lot of details cause I was offered something I could not refuse to stay with them. I mean really, some companies, apparently, want to keep you as a customer enough to bend over backwards for you, to show how much they appreciate you. Pawstruck.com did that for me. Little ole me!
I want everyone who has four-legged babies to order at least one time from there. You won’t be sorry. I know, that I have yet to regret placing an order with them. They have great prices, and for once, a company really cares when you thank them for all they have done…
So, to show my appreciation to them, and to my friends here, that read my blogs, I wanted to pass them on to you. Seriously, I have not seen a company care this much for years.
Give them a try, you won’t be sorry!
Tens of thousands of years ago, before the internet, before the Industrial Revolution, before literature and mathematics, bronze and iron, before the advent of agriculture, early humans formed an unlikely partnership with another animal—the grey wolf. The fates of our two species became braided together. The wolves changed in body and temperament. Their skulls, teeth, and paws shrank. Their ears flopped. They gained a docile disposition, becoming both less frightening and less fearful. They learned to read the complex expressions that ripple across human faces. They turned into dogs.
Today, dogs are such familiar parts of our lives—our reputed best friends and subject of many a meme—that it’s easy to take them, and what they represent, for granted. Dogs were the first domesticated animals, and their barks heralded the Anthropocene. We raised puppies well before we raised kittens or chickens; before we herded cows, goats, pigs, and sheep; before we planted rice, wheat, barley, and corn; before we remade the world.
“Remove domestication from the human species, and there’s probably a couple of million of us on the planet, max,” says archaeologist and geneticist Greger Larson. “Instead, what do we have? Seven billion people, climate change, travel, innovation and everything. Domestication has influenced the entire earth. And dogs were the first.” For most of human history, “we’re not dissimilar to any other wild primate. We’re manipulating our environments, but not on a scale bigger than, say, a herd of African elephants. And then, we go into partnership with this group of wolves. They altered our relationship with the natural world.”
Larson wants to pin down their origins. He wants to know when, where, and how they were domesticated from wolves. But after decades of dogged effort, he and his fellow scientists are still arguing about the answers. They agree that all dogs, from low-slung corgis to towering mastiffs, are the tame descendants of wild ancestral wolves. But everything else is up for grabs.
Some say wolves were domesticated around 10,000 years ago, while others say 30,000. Some claim it happened in Europe, others in the Middle East, or East Asia. Some think early human hunter-gatherers actively tamed and bred wolves. Others say wolves domesticated themselves, by scavenging the carcasses left by human hunters, or loitering around campfires, growing tamer with each generation until they became permanent companions.
Dogs were domesticated so long ago, and have cross-bred so often with wolves and each other, that their genes are like “a completely homogenous bowl of soup,” Larson tells me, in his office at the University of Oxford. “Somebody goes: what ingredients were added, in what proportion and in what order, to make that soup?” He shrugs his shoulders. “The patterns we see could have been created by 17 different narrative scenarios, and we have no way of discriminating between them.”
The only way of doing so is to look into the past. Larson, who is fast-talking, eminently likable, and grounded in both archaeology and genetics, has been gathering fossils and collaborators in an attempt to yank the DNA out of as many dog and wolf fossils as he can. Those sequences will show exactly how the ancient canines relate to each other and to modern pooches. They’re the field’s best hope for getting firm answers to questions that have hounded them for decades.
And already, they have yielded a surprising discovery that could radically reframe the debate around dog domestication, so that the big question is no longer when it happened, or where, but how many times.
* * *
On the eastern edge of Ireland lies Newgrange, a 4,800-year-old monument that predates Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza. Beneath its large circular mound and within its underground chambers lie many fragments of animal bones. And among those fragments, Dan Bradley from Trinity College Dublin found the petrous bone of a dog.
Press your finger behind your ear. That’s the petrous. It’s a bulbous knob of very dense bone that’s exceptionally good at preserving DNA. If you try to pull DNA out of a fossil, most of it will come from contaminating microbes and just a few percent will come from the bone’s actual owner. But if you’ve got a petrous bone, that proportion can be as high as 80 percent. And indeed, Bradley found DNA galore within the bone, enough to sequence the full genome of the long-dead dog.
Larson and his colleague Laurent Frantz then compared the Newgrange sequences with those of almost 700 modern dogs, and built a family tree that revealed the relationships between these individuals. To their surprise, that tree had an obvious fork in its trunk—a deep divide between two doggie dynasties. One includes all the dogs from eastern Eurasia, such as Shar Peis and Tibetan mastiffs. The other includes all the western Eurasian breeds, and the Newgrange dog.
The genomes of the dogs from the western branch suggest that they went through a population bottleneck—a dramatic dwindling of numbers. Larson interprets this as evidence of a long migration. He thinks that the two dog lineages began as a single population in the east, before one branch broke off and headed west. This supports the idea that dogs were domesticated somewhere in China.
But there’s a critical twist.
The team calculated that the two dog dynasties split from each other between 6,400 and 14,000 years ago. But the oldest dog fossils in both western and eastern Eurasia are older than that. Which means that when those eastern dogs migrated west into Europe, there were already dogs there.
To Larson, these details only make sense if dogs were domesticated twice.
Here’s the full story, as he sees it. Many thousands of years ago, somewhere in western Eurasia, humans domesticated grey wolves. The same thing happened independently, far away in the east. So, at this time, there were two distinct and geographically separated groups of dogs. Let’s call them Ancient Western and Ancient Eastern. Around the Bronze Age, some of the Ancient Eastern dogs migrated westward alongside their human partners, separating from their homebound peers and creating the deep split in Larson’s tree. Along their travels, these migrants encountered the indigenous Ancient Western dogs, mated with them (doggy style, presumably), and effectively replaced them.
Today’s eastern dogs are the descendants of the Ancient Eastern ones. But today’s western dogs (and the Newgrange one) trace most of their ancestry to the Ancient Eastern migrants. Less than 10 percent comes from the Ancient Western dogs, which have since gone extinct.
This is a bold story for Larson to endorse, not least because he himself has come down hard on other papers suggesting that cows, sheep, or other species were domesticated twice. “Any claims for more than one need to be substantially backed up by a lot of evidence,” he says. “Pigs were clearly domesticated in Anatolia and in East Asia. Everything else is once.” Well, except maybe dogs.
* * *
Other canine genetics experts think that Larson’s barking up the wrong tree. “I’m somewhat underwhelmed, since it’s based on a single specimen,” says Bob Wayne from the University of California, Los Angeles. He buys that there’s a deep genetic division between modern dogs. But, it’s still possible that dogs were domesticated just once, creating a large, widespread, interbreeding population that only later resolved into two distinct lineages.
In 2013, Wayne’s team compared the mitochondrial genomes (small rings of DNA that sit outside the main set) of 126 modern dogs and wolves, and 18 fossils. They concluded that dogs were domesticated somewhere in Europe or western Siberia, between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago. And genes aside, “the density of fossils from Europe tells us something,” says Wayne. “There are many things that look like dogs, and nothing quite like that in east Asia.”
Peter Savolainen from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm disagrees. By comparing the full genomes of 58 modern wolves and dogs, his team has shown that dogs in southern China are the most genetically diverse in the world. They must have originated there around 33,000 years ago, he says, before a subset of them migrated west 18,000 years later.
That’s essentially the same story that Larson is telling. The key difference is that Savolainen doesn’t buy the existence of an independently domesticated group of western dogs. “That’s stretching the data very much,” he says. Those Ancient Western dogs might have just been wolves, he says. Or perhaps they were an even earlier group of migrants from the east. “I think the picture must seem a bit chaotic,” he says understatedly. “But for me, it’s pretty clear. It must have happened in southern East Asia. You can’t interpret it any other way.”
Except, you totally can. Wayne does (“I’m certainly less dogmatic than Peter,” he says). Adam Boyko from Cornell University does, too: after studying the genes of village dogs—free-ranging mutts that live near human settlements—he argued for a single domestication in Central Asia, somewhere near India or Nepal. And clearly, Larson does as well.
Larson adds that his gene-focused peers are ignoring one crucial line of evidence—bones. If dogs originated just once, there should be a neat gradient of fossils with the oldest ones at the center of domestication and the youngest ones far away from it. That’s not what we have. Instead, archaeologists have found 15,000-year-old dog fossils in western Europe, 12,500-year-old ones in east Asia, and nothing older than 8,000 years in between.
“If we’re wrong, then how on earth do you explain the archaeological data?” says Larson. “Did dogs jump from East Asia to Western Europe in a week, and then go all the way back 4,000 years later?” No. A dual domestication makes more sense. Mietje Genompré, an archaeologist from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, agrees that the bones support Larson’s idea. “For me, it’s very convincing,” she says.
But even Larson is hedging his bets. When I ask him how strong his evidence is, he says, “Like, put a number on it? If was being bold, I’d say it’s a 7 out of 10. We lack the smoking gun.”
Why is this is so hard? Of all the problems that scientists struggle with, why has the origin of dogs been such a bitch to solve?
For starters, the timing is hard to pin down because no one knows exactly how fast dog genomes change. That pace—the mutation rate—underpins a lot of genetic studies. It allows scientists to compare modern dogs and ask: How long ago must these lineages have diverged in order to build up this many differences in their genes? And since individual teams use mutation rate estimates that are wildly different, it’s no wonder they’ve arrive at conflicting answers.
Regardless of the exact date, it’s clear that over thousands of years, dogs have mated with each other, cross-bred with wolves, travelled over the world, and been deliberately bred by humans. The resulting ebb and flow of genes has turned their history into a muddy, turbid mess—the homogeneous soup that Larson envisages.
Wolves provide no clarity. Grey wolves used to live across the entire Northern Hemisphere, so they could have potentially been domesticated anywhere within that vast range (although North America is certainly out). What’s more, genetic studies tell us that no living group of wolves is more closely related to dogs than any other, which means that the wolves that originally gave rise to dogs are now extinct. Sequencing living wolves and dogs will never truly reveal their shrouded past; it’d be, as Larson says, like trying to solve a crime when the culprit isn’t even on the list of suspects.
“The only way to know for sure is to go back in time,” he adds.
* * *
The study informally known as the Big Dog Project was born of frustration. Back in 2011, Larson was working hard on the origin of domestic pigs, and became annoyed that scientists studying dogs were getting less rigorous papers in more prestigious journals, simply because their subjects were that much more charismatic and media-friendly. So he called up his longstanding collaborator Keith Dobney. “Through gritted teeth, I said: We’re fucking doing dogs. And he said: I’m in.”
Right from the start, the duo realized that studying living dogs would never settle the great domestication debate. The only way to do that was to sequence ancient DNA from fossil dogs and wolves, throughout their range and at different points in history. While other scientists were studying the soup of dog genetics by tasting the finished product, Larson would reach back in time to taste it at every step of its creation, allowing him to definitively reconstruct the entire recipe.
In recent decades, scientists have become increasingly successful at extracting and sequencing strands of DNA from fossils. This ancient DNA has done wonders for our understanding of our own evolution. It showed, for example, how Europe was colonized 40,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers moving up from Africa, then 8,000 years ago by Middle Eastern farmers, and 5,000 years ago by horse-riding herders from the Russian steppes. “Everyone in Europe today is a blend of those three populations,” says Larson, who hopes to parse the dog genome in the same way, by slicing it into its constituent ingredients.
Larson originally envisaged a small project—just him and Dobney analyzing a few fossils. But he got more funding, collaborators, and samples than he expected. “It just kind of metastasized out of all proportion,” he says. He and his colleagues would travel the world, drilling into fossils and carting chips of bone back to Oxford. They went to museums and private collections. (“There was a guy up in York who had a ton of stuff in his garage.”) They grabbed bones from archaeological sites.
The pieces of bone come back to a facility in Oxford called the Palaeo-BARN—the Palaeogenomics and Bioarchaeology Research Network. When I toured the facility with Larson, we wore white overalls, surgical masks, oversoles, and purple gloves, to keep our DNA (and that of our skin microbes) away from the precious fossil samples. Larson called them ‘spacesuits.’ I was thinking ‘thrift-store ninja.’
In one room, the team shoves pieces of bone into a machine that pounds it with a small ball bearing, turning solid shards into fine powder. They then send the powder through a gauntlet of chemicals and filters to pull out the DNA and get rid of everything else. The result is a tiny drop of liquid that contains the genetic essence of a long-dead dog or wolf. Larson’s freezer contains 1,500 such drops, and many more are on the way. “It’s truly fantastic the kind of data that he has gathered,” says Savolainen.
True to his roots in archaeology, Larson isn’t ignoring the bones. His team photographed the skulls of some 7,000 prehistoric dogs and wolves at 220 angles each, and rebuilt them in virtual space. They can use a technique called geometric morphometrics to see how different features on the skulls have evolved over time.
The two lines of evidence—DNA and bones—should either support or refute the double domestication idea. It will also help to clear some confusion over a few peculiar fossils, such as a 36,000 year old skull from Goyet cave in Belgium. Genompré thinks it’s a primitive dog. “It falls outside the variability of wolves: it’s smaller and the snout is different,” she says. Others say it’s too dissimilar to modern dogs. Wayne has suggested that it represents an aborted attempt at domestication—a line of dogs that didn’t contribute to modern populations and is now extinct.
Maybe the Goyet hound was part of Larson’s hypothetical Ancient Western group, domesticated shortly after modern humans arrived in Europe. Maybe it represented yet another separate flirtation with domestication. All of these options are on the table, and Larson thinks he has the data to tell them apart. “We can start putting numbers on the difference between dogs and wolves,” he says. “We can say this is what all the wolves at this time period look like; does the Goyet material fall within that realm, or does it look like dogs from later on?”
Larson hopes to have the first big answers within six to twelve months. “I think it’ll clearly show that some things can’t be right, and will narrow down the number of hypotheses,” says Boyko. “It may narrow it down to one but I’m not holding my breath on that.” Wayne is more optimistic. “Ancient DNA will provide much more definitive data than we had in the past,” he says. “[Larson] convinced everyone of that. He’s a great diplomat.”
Indeed, beyond accumulating DNA and virtual skulls, Larson’s greatest skill is in gathering collaborators. In 2013, he rounded up as many dog researchers as he could and flew them to Aberdeen, so he could get them talking. “I won’t say there was no tension,” he says. “You go into a room with someone who has written something that sort of implies you aren’t doing very good science… there will be tension. But it went away very quickly. And, frankly: alcohol.”
“Everyone was like: You know what? If I’m completely wrong and I have to eat crow on this, I don’t give a shit. I just want to know.”
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Big Dog Natural of Brick, NJ, has announced it is voluntarily recalling select lots of its raw dehydrated dog food products because they have the potential to be contaminated with either Salmonella or Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.