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Like Humans, Dogs Born in the Summer May Have an Unusual Health Risk

If your pup is celebrating a birthday soon, you might want to keep an eye out.

For thousands of years, humans have cared deeply for dogs. We’ve cared for them so deeply that we selectively bred them until they became deformed little monsters. Over generations of artificial selection, domestic dogs have developed a range of physical health problems — hip dysplasia in German shepherds, breathing issues in bulldogs, and heart disease in Cavalier King Charles spaniels — because of the genes we’ve chosen for them. But on Thursday, scientists identified an unusual risk factor for dogs that aren’t normally considered at-risk for heart disease.

In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists showed in a large-scale study that dogs without a predisposition to heart disease born between June and August have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than dogs born at other times of the year. This effect peaked in July, as researchers found dogs born then were 47 percent more likely to have heart problems at any point in their lives than those born at other times during the year. The strange exception to this trend were dog breeds with a genetic predisposition to heart problems — outliers that may be key to understanding what’s actually going on here.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a higher risk of congenital heart disease, so they're usually monitored closely for this issue. 

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The results of the study, which used Orthopedic Foundation of Animals data on 129,778 dogs from 253 different breeds, mirror the team’s previous findings that certain lifetime diseases — including heart disease — were more likely to occur in people born during certain months. That study, as well as others on the same topic, suggest that the month of conception is associated with certain gene mutations. (As you may have realized by now, this study is actually more about humans than dogs, as the dog heart is often used as a research model for the human heart.)

The dog breeds that bucked this trend can help explaining the paper’s findings. The study’s authors suspect that the gene mutation involved in heart disease in dogs born during the summer may be a gene that isn’t normally involved in heart disease, which could explain why the summer peak doesn’t affect dogs that are already prone to heart problems. Of course, there might be simpler explanations. One might be that dogs already genetically predisposed to heart problems are more closely monitored and therefore are less likely to suffer from undiagnosed issues.

Another has to do with breeding. “Dogs that show signs of cardiovascular disease that come from high-risk breeds are often prevented from breeding along with other disease-related conditions,” the authors write. Humans, however, don’t simply decide to take their genes out of the gene pool because they have a family risk of disease, though, so if scientists can better understand the reasons behind this strange summer phenomenon, they can better understand how to help humans live healthier lives.

The researchers report that the monthly heart disease risks for dogs in this study are similar to those exhibited by humans. So, it sees that dogs are not only humans’ best friend; they might also be our best chance at understanding the risks that people with summer birthdays face.

The Incredible Science Behind This Self-Warming, Self-Cooling Bed

Eight Sleep’s new bed will make tossing and turning a thing of the past.

Filed Under Data

Sleep tracking can unquestionably help you establish better habits which allow for a more restful night’s sleep. By keeping track of the nights that you toss and turn, you can identify potential explanations for your sub-optimal slumber. Maybe it’s the time of week that’s got you anxious. Maybe it was the cheeseburger you had for lunch. Paying attention is just the start, though.

Mars One Is a "Money Grab" Where Everyone Loses

If you’re looking for an escape, this definitely isn’t it. 

The space tourism startup Mars One has been called many things over the years, some more flattering than others. Though it’s had the opportunity to fold many times, and in spite of claims it’s scamming its own customers, the project with the stated goal of sending people to Mars has come up with bewildering new techniques to keep its charade afloat.

The 'Stoned Ape' Theory Might Explain Our Extraordinary Evolution

A scientist resurfaces a psychedelic retelling of human evolution.

Imagine Homo erectus, a now-extinct species of hominids that stood upright and became the first of our ancestors to move beyond a single continent. Around two million years ago, these hominids, some of whom eventually evolved into Homo sapiens, began to expand their range beyond Africa, moving into Asia and Europe. Along the way, they tracked animals, encountered dung, and discovered new plants.

Survey Reveals the Top 10 Relationship Deal Breakers in America

If you could build the perfect relationship, what would it look like? 

By Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., The Conversation
on
Filed Under Data & Relationships

There’s an old saying, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” In other words, before you give up, take matters into your own hands and try a little harder.

As a psychology researcher, I believe this adage applies to relationships, too. Before you let go, look for the “knots” that might save you from accidentally letting a great relationship slip from your grasp. Relationship science suggests that the problem is that people tend to overemphasize the negative and underappreciate the positive when looking at their romantic partners.

Millions of Perfectly Synchronized Starlings Are Flying for Their Survival

Scientists are starting to understand the point of this phenomenon.

By A. Jamie Wood and Colin Beale, The Conversation
on
Filed Under Biology

Watching starling murmurations as the birds swoop, dive, and wheel through the sky is one of the great pleasures of a dusky winter’s evening. From Naples to Newcastle, these flocks of agile birds are all doing the same incredible acrobatic display, moving in perfect synchrony. But how do they do it? Why don’t they crash? And what is the point?