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I was speaking to Perfect Girlfriend the other day on the phone through my snuffles and wheezes, and she worried out loud about the swine flu, since BC has more than its fair share of cases. We started talking about the vaccine, and I mentioned that there has been a vaccine out for dogs for months.

“For dogs. For DOGS?” exclaimed the aspiring doctor, “We’re still waiting on it for people, but dogs get one?”

That’s the thing, though. Dogs get all kinds of stuff that people don’t. Animal science, in a lot of ways, is much further advanced than people science, simply because it’s easier to approve medication and testing for dogs than it is for people. If another thalidomide thing happens, but to dogs, people don’t lose as much sleep at night.

For example, take Anipryl. Generically named deprenyl, this drug has been around since the seventies. They use it for Parkinson’s and depression in people. But in dogs, they use it for Cushing’s disease and for senility. That’s right. In dogs, cognitive dysfunction closely resembles Alzheimer’s in humans (similar plaques on the brain) and they have a treatment for it, which works. The creator of the company which makes Anipryl is actually a Parkinson’s patient/researcher who thought that deprenyl was the most miraculous drug evar. He found that preliminary studies showed that it actually reduces the overall effects of aging. That’s right, it’s a life-extender. It actually makes animals live longer, although apparently it mostly works on male rats rather than females. Something to do with dopamine? I dunno.

Anyway, the FDA was having none of it so he founded the veterinary drug company because they CAN use it on dogs. They have been treating dog Alzheimer’s (it’s VERY common in older dogs) with this drug since 1992. It’s still not  approved for use in humans for Alzheimer’s, although studies keep going on indicating that it really might help people too, and I think some doctors are beginning to use it as off-label use.

So your dog can have its senility cured, but your grandmother? Not so much.

Then there’s the DHA thing. Recently, everyone’s been talking about DHA. Recent studies have revealed that DHA is even better than Mozart for making babies smarter. Mothers who take DHA supplements (usually cod liver oil – remember your mother forcing that stuff down your throat? Blech) during pregnancy end up with babies whose IQs are higher, who are better at problem solving, and have better hand-eye coordination. Suddenly scientists realize that there is DHA in breast milk but not in formula, and they are now thinking that this explains why breast-fed babies tend to be 6-10 IQ points higher than formula fed babies. So of course now formulas are rushing to add it and advertise it.

The pet industry has known about DHA for forever. Iams has been boasting about it in their commercials recently, that they have the “smart puppy” omega-3 supplements in their puppy food, but actually, the veterinary diets have put DHA in their food for a long, long, time. This is one of the many reasons why I made a point of feeding my Beloved Dog a veterinary diet when he was a puppy just five short years ago… and then resolved to take omega 3 supplements when I was pregnant!

Then Iams started adding it in their food and doing a bunch of studies which they published with much noise and clamour, duplicating what the Waltham Centre and Hill’s had found out long before: puppies whose mothers ate DHA enriched food while pregnant ended up doing much better on intelligence tests. For example, 68% of DHA enriched puppies were able to learn to recognize symbols which indicated the direction to go in order to find food, while only 30% of non-enriched puppies could do that. Studies also found out long ago that DHA was essential for proper eye development in rats.

And it’s not like they didn’t connect it with humans. They did. Notice that this abstract is from 1980. I wasn’t even born yet. But do you see how cautious they’re being? Basically they’re saying “So, apparently fatty acids are associated with bigger brained babies. Interesting.” Why weren’t companies like Similac looking into this thirty years ago? I don’t know why it took thirty years for them to start advertising it to the world at large, but I know one thing – the veterinary industry knew it, and took advantage of it without any qualms.

Hell, even pregnant mothers know this instinctively. When Perfect Girlfriend was pregnant, she developed cravings for seafood. It was like her body was saying “give us the fish oil! BABBY NEEDS FISH OIL.” But instead, thanks to our throwing mercury about recklessly and poisoning our waters, mothers are advised to avoid eating too much fish during pregnancy.

Anyway, my point is, when it comes to the cutting edge of science research – your vet hears it first.