Dogs understand words

Scientists are one step closer to unraveling how and if dogs understand specific words in human speech. Research has provided evidence that dogs can understand basic words that they have been taught and know the difference between words they know and words they do not know.

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What scientists are trying to determine is if you say “squirrel” does the dog associate excitement with the word or does the dog actually picture a real squirrel. To do this they did MRI’s on 12 dogs who were taught the name of a specific object. Their studies were not conclusive but did show differences in the dog’s brains when the object they knew was spoken vs the one they were not taught. I think the famous Border Collie, Chaser, is strong evidence that dogs do associate a word with a specific object. But it is fun to keep researching about dog’s minds.

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Over 20,000 puppies die each year from Canine Parvovirus in Australia

Canine Parvovirus kills over 20,000 puppies each year in Australia. This is largely due to the fact that many people cannot afford preventative shots or expensive treatment. Often the puppies are killed or abandoned. About 40% are euthanized.

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The study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Mark Kelman, a veterinarian and PhD candidate at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and published in Transboundary and Emerging Disease showed how wide-spread the problem is.

Fortunately Dr. Kelman has started a group called Paws for a Purpose which has started some pilot vaccination programs in high-risk rural areas to try and prevent cases from occurring.

Because of how diseases spread from country to country, it is very important to keep your dogs vaccinated no matter where you live. I personally have seen (years ago) litters of puppies die from CPV in rural Virginia due to a lack of shots or the use of lesser quality shots because people did not want to or could not spend the money for proper veterinary care.

Australia’s on-going problem with CPV stresses the need for quality veterinary care for all of our pets.

K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery

K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery

By Vi Hummel Shaffer, ISBN:978-1-55059-762-2, Brush Education, 386 pgs.

$44.95

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This book was years in the making. Ms. Shaffer has compiled notes, interviews and her personal experience spanning over 26 years. Ms. Shaffer is a SAR/R dog trainer and handler specializing in forensic human remains detection. Her resume is too extensive to list here, trust me she has tons of experience.

The material in her book is well documented with notes, bibliography and additional sources. She also includes a list of suggested reading.

There are six major sections with multiple chapters in each section. All in all there are 38 sections.

The major headings are:

The Making of a TEAM: Building a Strong Foundation

Canine Abilities and Scent Detection

Instructors, Training and Certifications

Cadaver and Human Remains Detection

Disasters and Disaster Teams

Additional Issues

Ms. Shaffer has been part of a number of high-profile cases such as the Madalyn Murray O’Hair murder and the Pentagon bombing.

K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery is a must have for anyone who is interested in K9 SAR and forensic detective work using dogs.

Asthma – Children – Pets

A recent study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital to determine if second-hand smoke and living with a pet had a role in controlling severe asthma in children, found interesting results.

In the past if a child had asthma and the family had a pet, the family was often encouraged to get rid of the pet. This is a heartbreaking situation. If the child is old enough to realize that it is because of them that the pet was re-homed, it could cause the child to feel as though they are the blame. This feeling of guilt on top of the grief of losing the pet can be very difficult for a child to deal with.

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However, the most recent study has shown that if the child’s asthma is managed per NAEPP (EPR-3) guidelines that second-hand smoke and pets do not cause the asthma to get worse or prevent it from improving.

This is very good news for families where a child, or even a family member, suffers from asthma. It also means that a child who has asthma does not have to be denied the joy of owning a pet.

Pet Health Insurance

I received an interesting email from Nate Matherson about his PetsQuote, a pet insurance and general pet advice web site https://petsquote.com/

I think the concept is a good one because I know how difficult it was for me to decide which pet insurance to get for my dog. What caught my attention is that Nate has a very interesting article about bird insurance. I know from personal experience that avian veterinarian visits can be as costly as veterinarian visits for dogs and cats.

Veterinarian care for birds is critical since they often do not show illnesses until they are very sick. Regular yearly checkups for birds are just as important as it is for other pets.

Many people do not realize that some of the large bird species are very expensive to purchase, so bird lovers have a significant investment in their pet birds. Not to mention that they love their birds as much as dog and cat owners.

Currently my home consists of two dogs, one cat and five birds. Quite a mix! And yes, they all get along.

I hope Nate’s site will help some of you find the right insurance to help keep your pets healthy.

https://petsquote.com/pet-insurance-for-birds/

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Finding a lost cat

Sometimes it is more difficult to find a lost cat than it is to find a lost dog. This is because lost dogs are more likely to come when called or to approach strangers. When cats get lost and are frightened and they tend to hide.

The first thing you need to do is start searching right away. Do not wait a day or so to see if your cat comes home. Let every veterinarian, shelter and rescue group in a five mile radius know that your cat is missing. Give them photos of your cat with your contact information. Do not rely on trying to describe your cat since it is hard to describe all the details, even the color of your cat.

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Put posters up, especially by any public transportation sites, including school bus stops. Make sure your posters are easy to read from a distance. The next most visible place to put posters are supermarkets and other stores that are popular. Be sure to ask if it is OK to put your poster up before you do it.

Keep your posters fresh, otherwise people will think they are old and that you have found your cat. How frequently you need to put up new posters will depend on the local weather. You can buy clear plastic sheet protectors that will help keep your 8 ½ x 11 posters clean and fresh. If possible have someone put the posters up for you while you look for your cat. Also place an ad in your local newspaper in the lost and found section. If you can afford it, include a picture of your cat in the ad. Even a head shot will help.

The good news is that neutered and spayed cats tend to stay closer to home than those who are intact. Typically intact cats will stay within five miles of their home. Neutered and spayed cats are usually within three houses from your home.

Looking in the five-mile radius can be difficult depending on the layout of the land. It will help if you get a map of your area and using your home as the center, draw a circle five miles away from your home. This will be your search area. The first thing you want to look for are natural barriers such as water or other terrain features that would block your cat from traveling in that direction.

If most of the area is composed of brush and trees, you will have to look under the brush and up into the trees. If the area is suburban or urban, you will have to look in every hiding place that a cat would go. Most cats will try to stay away from noise, people and traffic. That means looking on people’s property. Be sure to ask permission first so that the homeowner does not become frightened by having a stranger searching around their house. Be prepared to give each homeowner a flyer about your cat. Most cats will not wander more than three or four houses away so focus in those areas. Be sure to go in every direction from your home.

If your area has storm drains check them out. If your cat is in one you can lure the cat out with cat food that has a strong aroma. You may have to resort to a live trap. Most shelters will loan you a trap or two so that you can catch your cat.

Even if you find your cat you may not be able to get near enough to grab the cat since most frightened cats will not come to their owners. Some will even run away. If this is the situation you may have to use a live trap. Most cats are more active at night which means that this is the best time to put the trap out. Set your trap at dusk or just before dusk. Cats are also active in the early morning, just before dawn. Bait the trap with something of yours or the cats as well as with food.

While you are out looking for your cat, call your cat’s name. Then stay still and listen if the cat meows. Some cats may come out, but do not expect that to happen. However if the cat calls to you, you will be able to go to the cat.

Another good strategy is to leave the cat’s favorite food and water around your house. If you put some sand around the dishes you can see if there are cat tracks around the food or if other animals such as foxes, raccoons, or rodents are eating the food. Of course you will not know if the cat tracks are those of your cat but at least you will know that there is a chance that your cat is coming home to eat.

It is possible for a cat to be so frightened that he does not recognize his surroundings and cannot find his way home. This is especially true if the cat is strictly a house cat and never roams the neighborhood. You can help your cat find his way home by leaving a trail of your cat’s used litter leading to your house. Remember, cats have a very good sense of smell, so they will recognize that scent and can follow it home.

Although you may not want to think of this possibility, be sure to have the local shelter check if any deceased cats are yours. This is especially important if your cat is very old or is ill. If your cat did not survive, at least you will know and can take care of your cat’s remains as you choose.

The main thing is not to give up. There are many cases where a cat has been found months after getting lost. It helps if you have had your cat micro-chipped. This way if your cat is turned in to a shelter, they can scan the chip and contact you. Be sure to keep the information on the microchip up-to-date which can be done on the chip’s web site.

Being diligent, positive and not giving up will help you find your cat. And lastly, do not blame yourself that your cat got out and ran away. As careful as we are, it happens to the best of us.

K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search Dog Training Problems

I want to share with my loyal followers that my latest book, K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search Dog Problems, published by Brush Education, has won first place in the bi-annual National League of American Pen Women’s contest, in its category.

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Although this book is written primarily for SAR dogs, it can help owners and trainers of other working and sport dogs solve some of the training issues that they have. If you would like an autographed copy of my book please order it directly from my web site at http://www.sbulanda.com

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Getting overweight cats to lose weight

Many cat owners who have overweight cats find it very difficult to get their cats to lose weight. There are a number of reasons for this but one of the main reasons is that owners often underestimate how overweight their cat is. In some cases, they do not recognize that their cat is overweight. The other factor that contributes to weight problems in cats is that cats do not exercise very much. Even when owners try to get their cats to exercise and succeed, it is not enough to help the cat lose weight.

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Kelly Swanson, Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Univ. of Illinois has conducted research to determine the safest way to help cats lose weight.

One of the problems associated with reducing weight in a cat is that there is a health risk if the cat loses too much weight too fast. The liver becomes over loaded with fat which can cause is hepatic lipidosis. The best way to prevent this is to reduce the cat’s food intake gradually. Cats will hit a plateau the same as people who go on a diet. The key is to keep slowly reducing their food intake.

Interestingly, the researchers monitored the overweight cats in the study to see if their activity level increased with their weight loss. They found that it did, a tiny bit, but not enough to make a difference. Therefore, it is important that cat owners continue to play with their cats to get them to exercise more. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ways to help your cat exercise. In the photo above, I discovered that my cat liked to chase tiny snowballs in footprints. Who would think a cat liked to play in snow?

Overall, the researches concluded that when the cats lost weight, they were generally healthier. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

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.