Mechanical disease-sniffing device vs dogs

A number of researchers from various universities have joined together to try and develop a mechanical device that can rival the scenting ability of dogs to detect diseases in people. No one denies that dogs have a remarkable ability to detect the early stages of disease in humans. But the cost of training the dog and the dog’s length of service makes using them expensive. If scientists can develop a device that can equal a dog’s nose it would reduce a lot of the cost.

What has proven elusive to scientists is that dogs can pick up connections that researchers cannot mimic in a machine. For example, some dogs that have been trained to detect one type of cancer will identify other types of cancer as well. When the researchers tried to determine what the dogs were detecting, they were not able to. The differences were not detectable by current tests. What complicates the problem is that the different cancers that were detected by the dogs do not have any biomolecular signatures in common. The dogs were able to generalize from one kind of cancer to be able to identify others.  

The detection system that has been developed is 200 times more sensitive than a dog’s nose but the machine cannot figure out the elusive patterns that the dog can, that allows the dog to detect various cancers. In other words, the machine cannot think and make the connections. Until the researches solve the mystery, the machine cannot replace the dog.

The important point for people who use dogs for scent detection work is that dogs are capable of analyzing scent in a much more complex way then they have been trained to do. The bottom line is that if your scent dog gives you an indication that does not make sense to you, trust your dog and look further.

Will your dog rescue you if you need to be saved?

Researchers Joshua Van Bourg and Clive Wynne, Arizona State University professor of psychology and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory wanted to find the answer to this question. They evaluated 60 dogs who had no specific training to rescue people, by having the dog’s owners hidden in a box with a movable door. The owners were taught how to sound distressed and called out “Help” or “Help me.” As one control they had the owners sit in the box and read from a magazine and as another control drop food in the box. Out of the three tests, 84% of the dogs rescued their owners, more than the control tests.

“What’s fascinating about this study,” Wynne said, “is that it shows that dogs really care about their people. Even without training, many dogs will try and rescue people who appear to be in distress — and when they fail, we can still see how upset they are. The results from the control tests indicate that dogs who fail to rescue their people are unable to understand what to do — it’s not that they don’t care about their people.

Pain in Animals

Because animals are very similar in many ways to people, they experience some of the same problems. Recently researchers at the University of Leeds have learned that chemical triggers in the nervous system can malfunction making pain much more intense in response to certain stimuli. This is similar to the way humans suffer from long-term, chronic pain such as associated with neuropathies, arthritis and migraines. The chemistry involved amplifies the electrical signal to the brain which alters the sensation of pain.

With this new discovery, researchers may be able to find a better way to control pain in both humans and animals.

Author’s Note: What comes to mind is when our pets seem to have long-term pain that does not seem to represent the level of the cause of the pain. The pain is real, but seems extreme or continues after healing.

Fearfulness in dogs

An interesting study has determined that dogs raised in urban settings are more fearful of people and other dogs than those raised in rural areas. The survey revealed that inadequate socialization of puppies was one of the main cause of fearfulness.

Jenni Puurunen at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki based the research on approximately 14,000 dogs. It was noted that in humans, people living in cities have more mental health issues than those living in rural areas. The researchers are not sure if there is a connection between people and dogs in this regard. Fearfulness was more common in spayed females and small dogs.

They also found that fearful dogs were less active and their owners did not take them for training and other activities. Another fact that came to light was that there were significant differences in breeds. Spanish Water Dogs and Shetland Sheepdogs were very fearful while Wheaten Terriers were among the bravest breeds. The Cairn Terrier and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi had the least fearfulness toward other dogs. This indicates that genetics also plays a part in fearfulness.

Sue’s Note: Because fearfulness can be inherited and the environment a puppy is born in contributes to fearfulness, it is very important to carefully select an ethical breeder and avoid situations where puppies are mass produced solely for profit.

Do you really want a dog?

There are many reasons why people decide to get a dog (or any other pet). It is important to think it through before making a decision. Although this article focuses on dogs, it applies to any type of pet.

Consider the following:

  1. Do I have the time to care for a dog? Training, housebreaking, exercise, grooming and daily interaction.
  • Can I afford the cost of the dog throughout its lifetime? Costs include purchasing or adopting the dog, food, veterinary bills, grooming, spay/neuter, boarding, possibly fencing and space for the dog.
  • Do I have time for the extra housework a dog will cause? Some breeds shed a great deal, muddy paws, accidents.
  • Is it OK to have a dog where I live and will live in the future? Does my job require frequent moves, if I rent, am I allowed to have a dog, do I travel a lot, what about vacations?
  • Are any family members willing to help care for the dog? Are there family members who would be hindered by a dog running around the house?
  • Am I willing to make the commitment to care for the dog for its lifetime? Nothing is worse than abandoning a family pet, isolating the dog or neglecting its needs. Dogs are social animals and suffer mentally the same as a person would if they are neglected.
  • Be sure you understand the type or breed of dog that you want. Not all dogs will fit into your lifestyle or home. Know what training requirements, grooming, exercise, and medical issues that are involved with that type of dog.

If you decide to add a dog to your home, it is important to be educated about where to get the dog.

  1. Animal shelters or rescue groups

These are often the first place a person will look for a dog. Keep in mind that neither of these agencies may know the history of the dog(s) that they have for adoption. A dog that is housed in a shelter or rescue group will not behave the same as when it is adopted. It takes about six months for a dog to adjust to a new home. The first six months is the “honeymoon” period and the dog’s behavior may change after six months. Also keep in mind that some people do not tell the truth about why they have given the dog up for adoption. They believe that someone else will be able to fix the dog’s behavior issues. That being said, it is possible to get an excellent pet from these agencies.

  • Friends, neighbors, newspaper ads, pet shops or the internet

These are the riskiest places to get a dog. A good, quality breeder will not allow their puppies to be sold through these venues. Most breeders have waiting lists for puppies. The above-mentioned sources are often backyard breeders or commercial breeders who have little or no knowledge about breeding quality dogs. Pet shops and newspaper/internet ads often get their dogs from puppy mills where the dogs are bred at every heat, forced to live in horrible conditions, receive no socialization or handling by people, are not tested for genetic diseases, are malnourished, are not true to the breed and are often not purebred.

That means the dog may not behave or look like it is supposed to. The latest trend are designer dogs which are cross-bred dogs. These do not adhere to any standard and there is no proof other than a DNA test to ensure that they are the mix advertised.

Some of these sources will provide AKC or other types of “papers” with the dog but papers are often forged or misrepresent the dog they are issued with. No registry organization guarantees that the dog is a quality dog or even that it is pure. Often pet shops purchase their puppies from a broker who is a middleman. The price is inflated and the poor-quality puppy may cost more than a well-bred dog from a reputable breeder. The other disadvantage of getting a dog from these sources is that the seller is in the business of making a profit, therefore they will sell a puppy to anyone without discussing the characteristics of the breed or try to match the buyer with the right type of dog.

What about papers?

         Many people think that if the dog is registered that the papers ensure that the dog is top quality. The reality is that few dogs bred by quality breeders are show quality. Some breeders only produce working lines but even then, there is no guarantee that the dog will perform as expected. Some people can falsely report the number of puppies in a litter and then give an unrelated puppy registration papers. Unfortunately, there are registries that specialize in registering puppy mill dogs and dogs that did not have papers to begin with.

These registries help breeders that cannot meet the national registry requirements or have been banned from registering dogs because they are puppy mills. Papers on a dog are only as good as the information reported to the registering body, the registering body does not check the breeder or dogs.

Puppy Mills

         Some people do not understand that puppy mills exist throughout the world. All puppy mills operate under the same basic conditions.

  1. Dogs are bred indiscriminately without regard to health, breed characteristics, temperament, and physical type for the breed. Often the puppies are not pure. Many of these dogs are inbred for many generations causing severe health issues.
  • After a lifetime be being bred every six months in horrible conditions, such as overcrowding, poor shelter, living in their own waste, lack of good food, water and veterinary care, these dogs are killed when they cannot produce puppies.
  • Many of the puppies are shipped through a broker and suffer the stress of a long trip, often in the back of a hot or freezing truck/van, and suffer physical and mental health issues as a result.

Getting a purebred puppy

         Be sure to research the breed or type of dog that you want. Understand the physical aspects of the breed, (for example some breeds drool a lot), the health issues, exercise requirements, training requirements, and grooming needs.

         Once you have narrowed down the type of dog you want, find a good quality reputable breeder. Nationally recognized registries are a good place to start. Some breeds such as the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie have their own internationally recognized registries. Each country has its nationally recognized registry such as the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, and so on. Some states have a Federation of Dog Clubs which is another excellent source of information. (If anyone wants a free brochure that I have written about how to select the right dog and breeder please feel free to contact me for a copy).

         It would be to your advantage to hire a certified canine behavior consultant (iaabc.org) to help you evaluate a potential litter/puppy. It is true that puppies go through developmental stages, but a good behavior consultant can often pick out potential problems if any exist.

         Be wary if a breeder has multiple litters at the same time or the dogs live in a kennel and do not receive much attention. These breeders may keep their dogs in better conditions than a puppy mill, but the dogs are still neglected in a number of ways. Also avoid situations where the dogs are bred by people who put out a handmade sign advertising puppies for sale. There are religious groups who run puppy mills as a source of income.

Getting an adult dog

         Some people do not have the patience or desire to go through the first year of raising and training a puppy. The advantage of getting an older dog is that what you see is what you get for the most part. Many adult dogs are in need of a good home because of their owner’s situation, not because the dog has a major problem. Often breeders retire dogs after their show career and when they are too old to breed any longer. A good breeder may retire a bitch after two or three litters. That means that the dog is still young. A potential show dog that did not make it may also be available for adoption.

In many cases if a dog’s owner cannot keep their dog, they will return the dog to the breeder to be placed. And again, a shelter or rescue group may also have wonderful dogs for adoption. It is a great kindness to adopt a senior dog who may have been given up because the owner had to retire to a facility where they could not have the dog. This will ease the pain of separation for both the owner and the dog if the dog finds a loving home.

Contracts

         It is not unusual for a breeder or an organization to require that you sign a contract to purchase or adopt a dog. Make sure that you read the contract carefully and better yet, take it to a lawyer for review. Some commercial breeders will give you a bitch at no cost if you promise to let them breed the dog a number of times. Often the dog’s owner must pay for all of the expenses and then they cannot have a puppy from the breeding to sell to recoup the cost of birthing and raising the litter. What happens is that after the dog’s owner has met the required number of litters, they will breed the bitch themselves to make some money. At no time is the bitch evaluated to be worthy of breeding or are the puppies judged to be a good quality. It is simply a way to mass produce puppies and claim that they are “home raised.”

         Another clause in a contract may say that the breeder will withhold registration papers until the dog is either neutered or spayed. This is to ensure that non-show quality puppies are not bred. This is actually a good thing to promote the breeding of quality dogs only.

         Be careful when reading a contract and look for empty guarantees. They will look something like this: “We guarantee that this puppy (fill in the blank).” There is no statement as to what the breeder will do if the puppy does not turn out as it was guaranteed. While it sounds nice on paper, it is an empty guarantee. Or the guarantee will require that you return the dog to the breeder for another puppy. The breeder knows that most people will be too attached to their dog to give them up, therefore they get out of their guarantee. If the dog develops a severe problem, would you want another puppy from that breeder? I would hope not. The bottom line is that no breeder can honestly guarantee anything about a puppy since genetics is not that exact and the breeder has no control about how the owner has treated or taken care of the puppy/dog. The breeder can guarantee that at the time you receive the puppy it is healthy. Make sure to take the puppy to a veterinarian within days after bringing the puppy home.

         Almost all shelters and rescue groups will require an adoptive owner to sign a contract that guarantees that the puppy/dog will be neutered or spayed and often, if you cannot keep the dog, that it will be returned to the agency that adopted it to you. This is a good thing.

Training the dog

         Regardless of how old your dog or puppy is when you bring him home, you should take him for training. If you have adopted an older dog, the training may not be necessary for the dog, but it will help you and your dog bond and learn to understand each other. Everyone handles a dog differently so your dog needs to learn about you as much as you need to learn about the dog. Puppies of course, need training. The best time to start a puppy is about two weeks after you bring him home. You can start teaching a puppy basic rules until he is old enough to go to a puppy kindergarten class. Do not wait until your puppy is six months old to start training. Even if you do not formally train your dog right away, your puppy/dog will be learning anyway and often he will make up the rules to suit his own needs and desires. 

With careful thought and consideration, getting a dog can be one of the most enjoyable things in your life. It would be wise to review this article each time you want to add a pet to your household. Feel free to ask me any questions.

Winter bird watching

Winter bird watching is an activity that the whole family can enjoy. No matter how cold or snowy it is, birds will come to your bird feeder. It is a great activity to teach children to identify birds. Accompanied with a child’s version of a bird book, they can learn about the birds that they see. If you live in an area that is not cold and snowy, you will have the opportunity to see the birds that migrate south for the winter. This is often the only time you will be able to see some species of birds.

To be able to take great photos from indoors, simply hang your bird feeder close to a window. As I write this, birds are perching on my feeders about 18″ from my window. If you clean your windows carefully, you can take a photo without seeing the glass.

Researchers have found that bird watching is a calming pass time. For those who are inclined, you can photograph birds as they come to your feeders or perch nearby. The bottom photo is an Indigo Bunting that was eating the seeds that I spread under my Brome feeder. I took this photo through a window.

One of the problems that people have is that other animals, such as deer, squirrels, raccoons and even bears will rob a bird feeder. If you live in bear country it is important to bring your feeders in at night. If you have deer in your area you only need to hang your feeder high enough so that they cannot reach it. I have never had a problem with raccoons being able to rob my Brome feeders. I have lost one or two to black bears.

Fortunately Brome feeders are 100% squirrel proof. I have tried many brands of feeders and found this is the only one that is 100% squirrel proof. The benefit of having a squirrel proof feeder is that the money you save in bird seed will pay for the feeder in no time. Do check out their line of feeders and enjoy birdwatching. Brome also offers a free informative video every two weeks.

Ghosts of the High Uintas by Joe Jennings

If you like stories that include treasure maps, Native American lore, canine search and rescue, Marine Corps ingenuity, and firefighting skills, this is the book for you. Joe Jennings has crafted book five in his Sam and Gunny K9 Adventure Series and it is as great as the previous books.

When two people go missing, the team has to search the high mountains to find them. They are faced with a fanatical religious cult, the weather, and a brush fire purposely set to kill them, but they are helped by a medicine man, Edward See’s Wolf, a Northern Arapaho, his spirit wolf hooxei and his pack.

The events in this book take place in real locations, such as The Buffalo Wheel which is in the Wyoming Bighorn Mountains. A topographical map at the beginning of the book shows the locations in the story. Because Joe Jennings is a real K9 SAR handler and has been on many searches, the story is technically accurate. I can vouch for that as a retired K9 SAR handler and trainer with years of experience.

The book is well written and the mystery makes it a page turner. The action moves at a good pace. I highly recommend this book as well as the previous books in the series.  

Grooming products for dogs and cats

H.I.C.C. Pet has some very nice grooming products for dogs and cats. We all know how difficult it is to bathe most cats but now there is an alternate way to keep a cat’s coat clean. H.I.C.C. Pets has Cat Glove Wipes specifically made for cats that are double sided. One side is used for cleaning and the other for massaging. The formula on the glove is antimicrobial and deodorizing, is safe if the cat licks it and dries quickly. For dogs or cats that have hot spots or have wounds that are healing, H.I.C.C. offers a pet skin care spray that is also safe to use. They also offer a pet grooming glove that can be used on either dogs or cats. Check out their products. https://www.facebook.com/Hiccpetsupplies Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/groompetsbyhicc/

Always Something To Be Thankful For – No Bones About It by guest blogger, Vi Shaffer

Yes, times are tough right now. But there is always something to be thankful for.
So, on this Thanksgiving, why not give thanks for everything you have – regardless
of how little – instead of dwelling on what you don’t have? If you are missing
someone or something, be thankful they, or it, are or have been a part of your
life. Among the things to be thankful for, many people include their dogs or other
pets. Nevertheless, some people don’t like dogs for whatever reason(s) they may
have. But an individual doesn’t have to be a “dog person” to be kind to them and
recognize and appreciate all the ways they contribute to human welfare. Just
think of the service animals, detection dogs, patrol dogs, cattle and sheep dogs,
search dogs, and those dogs who give comfort or alleviate the loneliness of
others.

Yes, dogs come with needs, as does every living thing. Along with food, shelter,
and affection, caring for your dog includes protecting them from harmful things.
That brings up the double usage of “no bones about it” in my column heading.
Not all bones, whether cooked or uncooked, are good for dogs – especially bones
from turkey, chicken, and other fowl. Those types can cause choking, indigestion,
or obstructions in their digestive system, or worse – splinter and perforate the
dog’s organs.

As difficult as it is for some to ignore those sweet pleading eyes of a pooch while a
Thanksgiving meal is being prepared or served – don’t give in to them. Giving in to
their wants of nibbles may be unhealthy, and counter-surfers can be sneaky and
grab things they shouldn’t have. So be wary. However, you can include your dog
in the festivities with a Thanksgiving dinner – only not one the same as yours.
Instead, give them a plate with small amounts of boneless white turkey meat,
unseasoned potatoes, and vegetables – but no onions or stuffing/dressing. For
those dog lovers who want to give them dessert too – a small amount of
unseasoned pumpkin is good for them – but not that spiced pie filling, and do not
give them chocolate, things that have a lot of sugar – or anything that contains the
artificial sweetener Xylitol. Xylitol can be deadly for your dog!
Afterward, it might be tempting to scrape the scraps off all the plates into your
dog’s food dish – don’t. That also pertains to adding dark meat, the skin of the

turkey or chicken, or rich gravy to their kibble. Although your dog will gobble it up
and enjoy every bite – too much fat can cause stomach pain and digestive issues –
possibly serious pancreatitis.

Remember to emphasize to your family members and guests, including children,
the dangers of giving your dog unsafe food.
It’s easy to be distracted by everything going on in your household, so if children
are present, for safety, it is wise to ask a specific person to keep an eye on them –
especially since kids tend to run in and out of the house playing. You don’t want
to spend your afternoon worried, walking or driving around looking for your pet
that escaped because someone left the door open – or got out of the yard
because it was frightened by all the commotion. It is also important that guests
who bring their dog make sure it is wearing a collar with contact information. If
possible, have them include your contact number if they are from out of town.
Too many dogs manage to get out and become lost when visiting at this time of
year.

In addition, children playing with your dog need watching so they don’t do
anything that will possibly hurt the dog or make the dog snap at them or worse.
And speaking of snapping – arguments have erupted between family members
and friends because of so many opinions in one place. From family matters to
football to politics – raised voices may put your dog in a protective mode,
believing you are being threatened. If that occurs, it’s wise to put your dog in
another room or his kennel where he is away from the ruckus and will feel safe.
That way, you can partake in the “discussions” or scream and cheer without
worry, and your dog will be relieved from the noise. Happy Thanksgiving.

Separation anxiety in dogs

Researchers have recently determined that separation anxiety is a symptom of various frustrations rather than a diagnosis. The key symptoms of separation anxiety are: destruction of household items, urinating or defecating indoors and excessive barking.

The team of scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK found that there are four main forms of distress when dogs are separated from their owners. These include when the dog wants to get away from something in the house, or they want to get to something outside. It can also be a reaction to external noises or events as well as simple boredom.   

A combination of factors such as the dog’s temperament and the type of relationship it has with the owner will determine whether or not a dog will develop separation anxiety.

Sue’s Note: Dog owners often create separation anxiety in dogs by making dramatic arrivals and departures from their home. It helps to prevent this problem by making arrivals and departures as calm and non-specific as possible. If a dog owner notices any of the behaviors listed above, do not wait to engage the help of a certified canine behavior consultant. The longer the behavior is allowed to continue the harder it will be to cure. Cats can also suffer from separation anxiety. To find a qualified behavior consultant go to iaabc.org

Because of the unique combination of issues that contribute or cause separation anxiety, diagnosing the problem is difficult therefore a dog owner should not try to solve the problem themselves or go to a dog trainer since this is not a training issue.

Indoor/outdoor cats and wildlife

Researchers studied 935 indoor/outdoor cats to determine how their hunting habits impacted local wildlife. They found that the cat’s hunting range was small, but the impact on the wildlife in their range was two to ten time more than wild predators. This is because their hunting was limited to their own property or into neighbor’s yards. It was also interesting to note that cats do more damage to wildlife in areas that have been disturbed by housing developments.

Sue’s Note: Many people think that cats need to roam outside. This is not true. Cats can be 100% happy and satisfied as a house cat if their needs are met. Different breeds of cats have different activity levels. Since many domestic short and long-haired cats have questionable parentage, their needs may have to be determined by how the cat acts. If a cat owner feels that their cat needs to go outside, there are products on the market that can confine a cat safely outdoors or in a cat designed window box. Keep in mind a cat that is allowed to roam outside freely becomes prey for other animals such as foxes, coyotes, wolves and free roaming dogs as well as other cats. If the cat is small enough, it may be snatched by birds of prey as well. Cats that eat or come in contact with wildlife are exposed to various parasites as well. For the benefit of local wildlife and for your cat’s well-being, it is better to keep them indoors or have safe access to the outdoors. Google outdoor cat enclosures to see the many products available.