Month: August 2018

Goats can read human faces and prefer people who smile!

Although Dr Alan McElligott is currently based at the University of Roehampton, he led the study at Queen Mary University of London to determine if goats react to human facial expressions. He found that goats would rather interact with people who smile and are happy. The study further showed that goats use the left hemisphere of their brain to react to positive facial expressions.

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Anyone who works with goats recognizes that they are very attuned to human body language, but this study shows that goats recognize facial expressions and the emotions that they represent. Past studies have shown that dogs, birds and horses also have this ability.

Goats, horses, birds  and dogs  represent a wide spectrum of the animal kingdom. It stands to reason that many other animals, both domestic and wild have the same abilities to some degree. The challenge is to devise a way to test a wider range of animals and birds. It is exciting to be able to understand more about the animals that we love and anticipate what future studies will teach us.

Toxoplasma gondii in cats and humans

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii (TG) is widely spread, infecting about 30 – 50% of the world human population. The main host for TG is our beloved pet cats and cats in general. The parasite is transported to humans by eating insufficiently cooked meat or by contact with cat feces, putting the parasite in the stomach. From there it passes through the intestinal wall. Next our immune cells attack it but instead of killing it, they become “Trojan horses.”

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People who have impaired immune systems and unborn fetuses that are infected with Toxoplasmosis have a high risk of death. However healthy people may show only mild symptoms.

Studies have shown that carriers of TG have more instances of mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. Other studies have illustrated that people who are infected with TG may be more prone to aggressive and risky behavior.  This is because TG will eventually get into a person’s brain.

The good news is that since the scientists at Stockholm University have unraveled the mystery of how TG works and is transported, they have found that when mice are infected with TG and given regular blood pressure medicine, it inhibits its spread.

Grain free diet for dogs may be linked to heart disease

Recently veterinarians have seen an increased in canine dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and when they compared the diets of the affected dogs, they found the common factor was a grain free diet.  The pet foods that replaced grains with peas, lentils and other legumes or potatoes are suspect.

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DCM is affecting dog breeds that are not genetically predisposed to this heart condition. Scientists have shown that dogs can digest grain. They may have difficulty digesting raw grains but those found in dog food are easily digested.

I believe the myth about grains started when researchers compared dogs with wolves since wolves cannot digest grain.

Dog food manufacturers are always looking for ways to persuade people to buy their dog food and this is one way that they can convince people to pay a higher price for grain free food.

Dogs are not wolves and should not be treated as such. The only time you must restrict a dog from eating grain is if the dog is allergic to a specific grain such as corn, wheat, etc.

Therefore, be cautious about feeding your dog grain free food. However, do feed your dog a high-quality food such as Wysong or Annamaet.

What’s in your dog’s treats?

Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy and other researchers analyzed 32 popular dog treats that could be purchased in pet shops and supermarkets. They examined 5 biscuit types, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five bovine skin rawhides, twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks.

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They analyzed the ingredients based on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines looking for the levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).

What they found were rather surprising and should be a caution to dog owners. Seventy-six percent of the treats contained 4 -9 ingredients that were not specifically listed on the label. For example, the classification “cereal” was listed but not what kind. Treats that were made of meat had “meat and animal derivatives” listed instead of which meat and what animal derivatives.

About half of the treats listed “sugars,” and all of them had various amounts of minerals. The researchers suggested that further studies be done on a wider variety of treats and most important, that dog owners who have dogs with sensitivities or diseases should exercise extreme caution when selecting and giving their dogs treats since the ingredients could cause medical issues for those dogs.

While on the topic of treats and chews, to test if the treat or chew is safe for your dog, put a piece of it in water and if it does not dissolve in five to ten minutes, there is a good chance that it will not dissolve in your dog’s intestines and can cause bowel blockage. High on the list of items that cause bowel blockage are rawhide, bones and other hard, chew items.

Feline Epilepsy

Many people realize that dogs can have epileptic seizures, but do not realize the cats can suffer from epilepsy as well. There are two general types of epilepsy, intracranial epilepsy, which is caused by defects in the brain on a cellular level and is more common in dogs and humans, but seems to be rare in cats, and extracranial which are seizures due to injuries outside the skull.

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Seizures in cats are usually caused by brain tumors, infractions or even a stroke. Sometimes the cause of the seizures can be due to kidney disease, liver disease, hypoglycemia and exposure to toxins and poisons.

Some signs of an epileptic event are:

Blank stare

Shake one leg

Cry out in pain

Falling to one side

Uncontrollable Urinating or Defecating

Paddling their feet

Loss of consciousness

Jaw chomping

Become clingy to owner

Shake

Undue restlessness

Unusual salivation

Loss of vision temporally

If your cat shows any of the above signs an immediate visit to your veterinarian is warranted.

Idiopathic epilepsy usually shows up between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age. Seizures are most likely to occur when the cat is resting or asleep, in the morning or at night.

Seizures that are a result of an injury will show up after the injury. The treatment will depend on the cause of the seizure and may require a battery of tests since the seizures can result from various diseases.

If your cat suffers from seizures, keep a log of when the seizure starts and when it ends. It is also a good idea to take note of any environmental events that could have caused the seizure.

If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes get the cat to the veterinarian right away, this is an emergency. If your cat is diagnosed as being epileptic, do not panic. Be sure to have a plan for when the seizure occurs to keep the cat safe, in a place where the cat cannot get hurt. Cats will not swallow their tongue so there is no need to put anything in their mouth. Keep in mind that your cat may take a few hours to return to normal behavior.

By understanding the nature of your cat’s seizures, you can help your cat live a safe, long and normal life. While seizures are frightening to look at, with your veterinarian’s help, they can be controlled.