Month: July 2018

Animals can identify both time and space

Edward Wasserman, Professor of Experimental Psychology in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa has determined that pigeons use a common area of the brain to judge space and time. This suggests that these abstract concepts are not processed separately.

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Parrotlet “Sweet Pea”

To determine this, the pigeons were put through the “common magnitude” test. This is where the birds were shown (on a computer) a horizontal line either 6 cm or 24 cm long for either 2 seconds or 8 seconds. When they correctly pecked one of four visual symbols, the length or the duration of the line, they received food.

This compares with a person’s ability to determine space and time without the use of a watch or ruler. Other animals that have been tested have also shown this ability.

One common example that almost all pet owners have witnessed is when their pet knows that they are coming home each day. The dog or cat who waits for their owner to come home from work at the same time each day exhibits what the researchers have tested in pigeons.

There is so much about animals that we are still learning. If only they could talk and tell is what is on their minds!

Dogs try to communicate with angry humans

Animal behavior researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the University of Lincoln, UK found that dogs will mouth-lick in response to photos of human faces that appeared to be angry. The researchers also let the dogs hear angry human voices and did not see the same mouth-licking behavior. This indicates that dogs are responding to visual stimuli and that they recognize the emotional expressions of human faces. The fact that the dogs tested did not respond the same way to pictures of other dogs indicates that mouth-licking is a way that dogs try to communicate to humans.

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This is an interesting study because it shows us that dogs do use visual clues as well as their other senses to respond to humans. The fact that they only responded to humans shows that they have specific ways to try to communicate with humans.

With studies such as this one, we learn more about the emotional lives of dogs as well as the unique ways that they attempt to communicate with us. It also indicates that they care about their relationship with humans since this behavior is evident in all if not almost all dogs.

Hydrating Working Dogs

Dogs who work in hot weather such as border patrol dogs, search and rescue dogs as well as military dogs often become dehydrated when they work in hot environments.

Scout SAR training window

Handlers of these dogs do not agree about how to hydrate their dogs to prevent heat stroke and dehydration. There are three major ways that handlers hydrate their dogs.

  1. Free access to drinking water
  2. Subcutaneous hydration (a needle under the skin) of water and electrolytes
  3. Drinks containing electrolytes

Researchers studied all three methods and found that they all worked. However, they found that by using a chicken flavored electrolyte drink, even dogs who were reluctant to drink, would drink more liquid.

The researchers tested the dog’s urine and found that they passed the sodium and therefore did not have a buildup of sodium in their body which had been a concern about using electrolyte drinks. Thus, drinking a chicken flavored electrolyte drink did not have any negative effects on the dogs.

Ghosts of the Buffalo Wheel by Joe Jennings

Ghosts of the Buffalo Wheel by Joe Jennings, 273 pgs., ISBN: 9781980726098, $11.50, self-published

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This is the second book about Sam Webber and Gunny the SAR dog, The Ghosts of Iwo Jima was the first in the series. This adventure takes Sam, Gunny and the team to the Buffalo Wheel, also known as the Medicine Wheel which is a real life National Historical Landmark in Wyoming. Based on clues, the team was assigned to find the remains of Butch Cassidy.

Mr. Jennings did quite a bit of research about the Medicine Wheel and what really happened to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He mentions historical data about the pair and theories about their fate in his book.

The story weaves in native American traditions and lore as well as forensic research techniques that are used to determine if the remains that are found are those of Butch Cassidy. There is also the drama of the search and an attempt to steal the supposed gold that Butch hid from an old robbery.

This book is as entertaining as Mr. Jennings first book and it is especially fun for SAR people to read. I highly recommend it.

 

Dog ownership lessens risk of heart disease

In a unique Swedish study, researchers found that people who owned dogs had a lower mortality rate then those who did not. They also found that people who lived alone and owned a dog had less cardiovascular diseases then people who lived alone who did not own a dog.

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The researchers studied 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 making this a comprehensive comparison. What the study did not show was why there was a difference between dog ownership and non-dog ownership.

One possibility considered was that people who own dogs are more active because they walk their dogs. There was also no indication as to whether or not there were other factors such as the type of people who own dogs vs those who do not.

However, the bottom line is that dog ownership, again, has proven to benefit the health of their owners. It would be interesting to study how growing up with a dog or pet affects the health of children as adults if they continue to own a pet vs those who get a dog or pet later in life. We know that children who own pets are less prone to developing allergies. It would be interesting to know what other physical and mental benefits pet ownership has on children.

Allergies in Pets

All types of pets, just like people, can suffer from allergies. Unfortunately, pets cannot tell us when they feel poorly. We must look for the symptoms.

There are a few common types of allergies in pets but not all are true allergies, some may be sensitivities which can be as bothersome as a full-blown allergy.

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Skin Allergies are the most common type and are usually caused by flea bites, food and things in their environment.

Flea allergies are the easiest to find and stop. By keeping your pet free of fleas, you can prevent the allergic reactions. If fleas are the problem you may see red and inflamed skin, scabbing, and flea dirt which looks like small black dots.

Flea dirt or droppings are digested blood so if you put one in a drop of water it will turn red. To get rid of the fleas you need to consult with your veterinarian as well as an exterminator. The veterinarian will help make your pet more comfortable and control the fleas, however, if your pet has fleas, they will be in your home. You must use an exterminator, or the fleas will come back because at this point they have infested your house. The eggs are microscopic and will hatch periodically.

Sometimes various foods can cause sensitivities that are not full allergic reactions. Typically, food related allergies and sensitivities manifest themselves by causing the pet’s skin to itch. This usually happens around their paws and ears. Sometimes they can get an upset stomach as well. The usual culprits are beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy and milk.

Environmental allergens are often the same ones that bother people. Things like dust, mold, and pollen are often seasonal, so you may not see the allergic reaction year-round. The typical areas that are affected are: paws, ears, wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and between the toes.

Although it is more rare, acute allergic reactions can be a result of bee stings or shots. For this reason keep a close eye on your pet after being vaccinated. Signs can be facial, throat, lips, eyelids or earflap swelling. Any of these signs should be an immediate visit to your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Always have the phone number and address of your nearest emergency clinic handy.

Overall, the general signs of allergies or sensitivities are:

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking

It is critical that you take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any sign of an allergy or sensitivity. If your pet continues to scratch, rub or bite an area of his body, it can lead to other types of infections, not to mention that your pet may feel miserable. Keep in mind that allergies and sensitivities can develop at any time in a pet’s life, therefore you must be vigilant and watch for any signs that they have developed.

Allergies and sensitivities will often affect your pet’s behavior which you may be the first thing you notice. If your pet seems a bit withdrawn, sullen, irritable, not as interested in playing, it would be a good idea to pay close attention and look for signs of allergies or other illnesses. It is always wise to err on the side of caution and schedule a visit to your veterinarian rather than wait until your pet becomes more uncomfortable. Because of the potential seriousness of allergies, it is not in your pet’s best interest to try and treat them yourself.

Like people, pets can lead a happy normal life with allergies if they are treated and if possible, prevented.