You can take my bacon, you can take my aspartame but you’ll never take my dog’s ears!
Last Friday I had the very intense pleasure of meeting a colleague’s golden retriever. His name is Fred. He is as sweet as the day is long, and just between us, I am hatching a plot to kidnap him.
There are many great things about dogs. Their paw beans. Their smiles. Their wagging tails and their bad breath. But of all the great things about dogs, the greatest is their ears.
There is nothing – nothing, I say – more pleasurable than the feel of the underside of a golden retriever’s ear flap. Except the feel of the underside of a labrador’s ear flap. Soft as silk, warm and fuzzy, comforting and smile-inducing. And nothing beats the smile on the dog’s face when they get scritched just there.
My blood pressure drops 30 points just thinking about it.
Which is why I am utterly enraged and depressed in equal measure by the latest research out of McMaster University and the University of Delhi.
Some dog-hating, killjoy researchers decided to go looking for bad news and sure enough, they found some.
For a study published online in the Journal of Fungi– the Journal of Fungi, for God’s sake – the researchers tested skin and ear swab samples from 87 dogs housed in a shelter in Delhi. Of those, 52 were strays already under intensive care for severe lesions due to chronic skin diseases. The remaining 35 dogs were household pets treated for minor gastrointestinal and urinary infections. The subjects’ conditions were not related to the pathogen under study.
The swabs were analysed for bacteria and fungi cultures using routine diagnostic protocols for skin and ear infections. Researchers found evidence of Candida auris within the ear canals of four of the animals with chronic skin infections.
Now C. auris, first reported in Japan in 2009, is a type of yeast which has since spread all over the world. It can cause persistent and severe infections and widespread outbreaks in hospitals. Antifungal medications often do not work against it and more than one in three patients with serious, invasive infections will die, according to some estimates. The WHO has declared it one of the world’s four “critical priority” fungal pathogens.
A DNA analysis pointed to genomic similarities between some of the strains found in the dogs and those found in humans, providing further evidence that the spread of infection to other animals and humans is a risk.
“Dogs are common pets. Even though C. auris was only found in stray dogs in this study, there are many stray dogs in many parts of the world. These dogs could act as transmission vehicles for C. auris to reach other animals and humans,” said Professor Jianping Xu, a lead author on the paper.
“We need to be vigilant in the surveillance of dogs, other domesticated pets and wild animals in regions where C auris is endemic,” says Xu. “While C auris spreads easily from human to human, the route of transmission among animals or from animals to humans is much less clear and further investigation is required.”
Oh, that old chestnut.
I’m all in favour of us being acutely aware of zoonotic diseases. Goodness knows the trouble they’ve caused the human race in the last several years.
But honest to God, if we have to start avoiding the joys of dogs’ ears then I am seriously going to lose the will to go on.
Is nothing sacred??
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