Month: October 2019

Canine genetics and behavior

Dog owners and breeders know that certain behaviors dominate certain breeds. For example herding dogs have the instinct to herd. Hounds have the instinct to hunt with their nose, some breeds are better guard dogs and the list goes on. This is what makes breed traits what they are. But it has been somewhat of a mystery about how this happens genetically because not all dogs in a particular breed have the same strength of the trait for that breed and some lack it entirely.

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In a new study, James A Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues Evan L. MacLean of the University of Arizona, Noah Snyder-Mackler of the University of Washington, and Bridgett M. vonHoldt of Princeton University conducted a study to try to unravel how genetics affect breed trait behavior.

Their study concluded that genes do play a large part in breed behavior, and those gene most affect the brain rather than other bodily tissues. However, they stressed that there is a large margin to allow for the differences between individual animals.

What this means to the dog owner, and especially the potential dog owner, is that getting a dog from a reliable, ethical and trusted breeder is critical to your dog’s behavior. The genetic tendencies can and do vary from line to line. It also means that if you adopt a mixed breed or purebred dog, you will have no idea what it’s genetically controlled behavior will be.

This is important to understand because if behavior issues arise, you will have to allow for the possibility that it is genetically influenced. The method that you use to alter any unwanted behavior that is genetically influence will be different than simple training methods. Always consult a certified behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org.

Also keep in mind that genetically influenced behavior is not limited to dogs but is a part of the makeup of all living beings. Yes, environment and learning also comes into play.

Measuring device-critical in feeding your dog

Prof. Jason Coe from University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College did a study to see how accurately people measure dry dog food. While this may not seem like an earth-shattering study, it can have a huge impact of the health of all dogs. Coe found that 48 percent of the people tested underestimated and 152 percent overestimated the amount of food that they fed their dogs.

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This can cause dogs to be either underweight or overweight. Small dogs are especially at risk because even a small error in the amount of food can cause them to become overweight.

A two-cup measuring device was the least accurate form of measuring food. This is because it is hard to eyeball one half or one cup of food. A measuring device that is the correct size for the amount you want works better than the two-cup device. What works the best is a kitchen scale. This is the most accurate way to ensure that your dog gets the correct amount of food.

Of course it goes without saying that if you feed your dog table scraps or other items, you must account for that too. Yes, table scraps of a high quality are OK in small amounts. You also have to consider treats, especially if you are training your dog and using treats as a reward.

One of the culprits that I have found is if your dog is around small children, since kids often share their food with a dog. I have seen my grandson sitting next to my dogs and sharing, ‘one for you and one for me.’

It is always best to take notice of your dogs’ physical condition and if you see that they are losing or gaining weight, reassess what you are feeding your dog and how much. If there has been no change, sudden weight loss or gain does warrant a trip to your veterinarian.

Night blindness in dogs

Dogs suffer from the same type of night blindness as people. People who have congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) have normal vision during the day but have trouble seeing things in dim light. Because dogs cannot tell us what they see or do not see, we can only assume that they have the same problem. We do know that they suffer from CSNB by their behavior. If you notice that your dog seems to be okay going out during the day but does not want to go out at night or acts uncertain when the lights in your home are off, you might want to have a veterinarian ophthalmologist examine your dog.

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The good news is that a team of veterinarians have proven that dogs suffer from CSNB and they have identified the gene that causes it. Once the gene has been identified, veterinarians can work to find a cure. That is exactly what veterinarians Keiko Miyadera and Gustavo Aguirre, a professor of ophthalmology and medical genetics at Penn Vet, and Rueben Das, then of Penn Vet and now of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, in collaboration with a team led by Mie University’s Mineo Kondo are doing.

As with inherited disorders and diseases that are common in dogs and humans, a cure for one will lead to a cure for the other.

Squirrels eavesdrop on bird chatter

It is always amazing to learn how different species work together. A recent study showed that grey squirrels listen to the chatter of birds to determine if there is danger or if it is safe.

red headed woodpecker good photo

Anyone who watches birds at a bird feeder will recognize the chatter of birds that are content and feel safe. Squirrels also respond to bird chatter to see if it is safe to raid the bird feeder or forage in the area. If the birds react to danger, the squirrel also reacts. By the same token, if the birds return to their normal “all is safe” chatter, the squirrels also assume it is safe.

This brings up interesting questions about how many other animals communicate in this way. I have noticed a difference in my pet budgies reaction to the safe chatter of songbirds when I have a window opened. They seem to chatter more then when they are by themselves. The only other time my birds are as vocal is when they like the music I am playing. Interesting to say the least.

Parasite from cats killing sea otters

For decades scientists have been studying why some California sea otters are dying. Recently researchers led by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have linked feral and domestic cats as the source of Toxoplasma that is killing sea otters.

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photo from pixabay

The parasite forms egglike stages referred to as oocysts. Feral cats eat rodents and birds that have the oocysts in their bodies. From there the oocysts live in the cats until they are passed through the cat feces. The feces are washed into the sea and live in the kelp. Then snails eat the oocysts and the sea otters eat the snails.

People who own cats can help by keeping their cats indoors. Cat feces should not be flushed into septic or public wastewater systems since they will cycle back into the ground.

The oocysts are also washed into the waterways by rainwater, therefore preserving wetlands, forests and grasslands will help keep the parasite and other pollutants out of the oceans. Managing storm water runoff and replacing pavement with permeable surfaces will help.

If all cat owners in California, especially those who live near the ocean, do what they can to help, we can reduce the death rate of sea otters.

Another canine therapy job

Dogs have proven themselves over and over again as a benefit to humans who are stressed or ill. Yet scientists have found another way that dogs can help people.

Waiting patiently to search croped (Jib a Border Collie)

Often military personnel must be transported by air to distant facilities for treatment. These people are often in a state of chronic and acute stress as well as requiring medical care.

Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, Ph.D., R.N. who is a researcher at the Florida Atlantic University in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing has determined that therapy dogs have drastically helped these patients, especially those with PDST.

What is awesome is that the study was assisted by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Nursing; the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing, Uniformed Services University; TriService Nursing Research Program, Uniformed Services University; and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

This research is supported by The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) is the awarding and administering office (award number HT9404-12-1-TS06, N12-011). This research is sponsored by the TriService Nursing Research Program, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

It is a real plus that so many organizations supported this study and hopefully therapy dogs will be assigned to help the soldiers that need them.

Must-Have Smartphone Apps for First-Time Dog Owners by guest blogger Penny Martin

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Photo Credit: Pexels

 

There are some basic materials  you need to be a great dog parent. This includes the right dog food, a quality leash and collar, ID tags, and a supportive, cozy bed, just to name a few. And in this day and age, there are apps that can help you keep your dog safe, organize information, and stay on top of health concerns.

However, you also need a reliable smartphone that is compatible with the latest dog apps and that provides fast internet service. If your current phone is not up to the task, consider getting an upgrade. There are plenty of options to choose from, so you’re bound to find a model that’s easy to use, fits your budget, and allows you to access your favorite apps.

If you want the highest-performing model, consider something dynamic with enhanced features—something with exceptional battery life that helps you to stay constantly connected. The new iPhone 11 Pro is such a device. It comes with impressive battery capacity, a triple-camera and a 5.67-inch display height, among many other features that makes it an excellent choice for dog owners. Or you might consider the Samsung Galaxy S10+, an Android option that includes a dual-aperture camera, long battery life, and enhanced integration with Windows systems.

THE APPS

Now, since using apps is a major benefit of having a good smartphone, let’s discuss some of the best dogs apps on the market:

FitBark

It’s exactly what it sounds like—the dog version of FitBit. When used in conjunction with FitBark dog activity monitors,  PCMag notes the FitBark app helps you to keep track of your pup’s daily activity and health status. Also, it tracks their sleep and will alert you of any activity that suggests your dog is dealing with stress and anxiety. It will even monitor how much your dog scratches in certain areas so that you can check them for a skin condition. And yes, you can connect the app to FitBit and exercise with Fido!

Whistle

Used with a tracker, the Whistle app  can monitor your dog’s daily activity and health. But its primary function is GPS tracking. By attaching the tracker to your pup’s collar, the Whistle app allows you to always know where your dog is, whether Fido is just in the backyard or has wandered off of your property. The app uses AT&T nationwide LTE-M network and Google Maps for easy and accurate tracking.

Chewy

As Best Company explains, the Chewy app  makes getting supplies for your dog as easy as possible. With more than 1,000 brands to choose from, Chewy will sell and deliver food, toys and other supplies to your door; and for orders of $50 or more, they provide free two-day shipping. When you create a profile for your pup, the app will show you the right kinds of food for his breed, and you can even set up automatic shipments to come each week or each month.

Pet First Aid

When it comes to preventing emergencies, and dealing with them if they happen, Pet First Aid  is the best app for dog owners. Developed by the American Red Cross, this app offers simple, step-by-step guides on how to treat Fido from home and routinely check on his health—including videos and graphics for some of the most common emergency and first aid situations. Furthermore, Pet First Aid provides information on preventative care and can direct you to nearby veterinary hospitals in the event of an emergency.

Becoming a dog parent is a big step in life. With the joys of your newfound companionship comes a host of responsibilities you may not be used to. But don’t worry, as long as you love dogs, you can be a great dog owner! Just make sure you have all your essentials and remember to take advantage of all the great dog apps available.