Man-eating Lions and Tigers

Many people remember the movie The Ghost and The Darkness about the man-eating lions of Tsavo which was based on the real events that took place in Kenya, Africa. This occurred in 1898 when Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, a British engineer, was assigned to build a bridge over the Tsavo River and encountered the two lions. Since there was a two-year drought and a rinderpest epidemic which killed a large number of the local wildlife, the theory was that the lions killed humans out of desperation.

However, the latest research conducted by Larisa DeSantic, assistant professor of earth and environmental studies at Vanderbilt University and Bruce Patterson MacArthur, Curator of Mammals at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Ill, tells a different story.

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The photo of the Tsavo lions was taken from the book The Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo printed in 1925 and reprinted in 1996 by the Field Museum.

DeSantic has studied the teeth of the Tsavo lions, other man-eating lions and tigers and believes that dental issues caused them to turn to humans as prey. DeSantic’s study showed that one of the Tsavo lions, the one who killed and ate the largest number of humans, suffered from a severe dental disease that made normal hunting impossible. The other lion in the pair ate a larger quantity of normal prey such as zebra’s, than the one with the dental disease.

These findings substantiate the conclusions of a famous hunter, Major Jim Corbett who hunted man-eating tigers in Kumaon, India in the 1930’s – 1940’s. In his book, Man-Eaters of Kumaon, Major Corbett says, “A man-eating tiger is a tiger that has been compelled, through stress of circumstances beyond its control, to adopt a diet alien to it.”

Major Corbett used his famous dog Robin to help track the man-eaters he hunted. Below is a picture of Robin and one of the man-eating tigers known as the Bachelor. The photo below was taken from his book, Man-Eaters of Kumaon, printed in 1946.

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Again, modern science has helped unravel mysteries from the past and help scientists understand the unusual behavior of wild animals. This information hopefully will benefit animals and humans today.

Both Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson and Major Jim Corbett have written books about their experiences with man-eating cats. Both are interesting to read.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170419091626.htm

How smart are elephants?

We know that elephants are one of the smartest animals. They are one of the few animals that can recognize themselves in a mirror along with great apes, dolphins and magpies. But scientists wanted to know if they recognize their own body in relationship to their environment, known as “body awareness.” Human children cannot do this until they are two years old. To test this, scientists attached a stick to a mat and then had the elephants stand on the mat while asking them to hand the tester the stick. In 42 out of 48 tests, elephants stepped off the mat so that they could pick up the stick to give to the tester. This shows that elephants are aware of their body in relation to their environment.

Why is this important? Animals that show self-recognition demonstrate cooperative problem-solving, perspective taking and empathy. This leads to cooperation in a social environment. Understanding this in animals may help us understand them better and learn how individual animals determine how to help others.

Although many animals have not been tested or have not passed this type of test, it does not mean that they are not capable of self-recognition or body awareness. Many times, the right test has not been developed for that species of animal. Think of the many accounts of animals preforming unusual feats of heroism, helping other animals or humans in life-threatening situations when they have never been trained to do so. It is something to think about and is exciting to think of how much more we have to learn about animals.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170412085345.htm

Dogs are smarter than many people realize

In the first five years of a human’s life, a child will develop the ability to understand emotions, intentions, knowledge, beliefs and desires. This is referred to as the Theory of Mind. Until recently tests to determine if dogs can do this have had poor results. But recently, cognitive biologists from the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have developed a test that shows dogs are able to do the same thing.

Their experiment involved hiding food in one container and having the other containers smell like food but did not have any food in them. Then two people would point to the containers, one person knew where the food was and pointed to the correct container, the other person did not point to the correct container. The dogs tested were able to determine by looking at the people which one knew where the food was and successfully picked the right container 70% of the time. In another test a third person as added and the dogs still had a high success rate.

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The study showed that dogs are to find out what humans can or cannot see. As scientists continue to find ways to accurately test the knowledge and abilities of all animals we will discover how intelligent the animal world is. As far as what this study means to the average dog owner, it may explain why your dogs can outsmart their owners, such as learning where treats and toys are hidden from them. How many times have dogs managed to open cabinet doors to help themselves to their food or treats? Think about it.

Read the entire article at: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170407091829.htm

Pets benefit babies by reducing the rate of allergies and obesity

Previous studies have shown that children who grow up around animals, including livestock, have a reduced rate of allergies. Now another study suggests that having a pet in the home, especially dogs help infants invitro as well as after they are born, have less instances of allergies and obesity.

Anita Kozyrskyj, a U of A pediatric epidemiologist who is one of the world’s leading researchers on gut microbes (bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans and animals) and her team have studied the relationship between less instances of allergies (especially asthma)  in children who live with pets, for over two decades.

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Her Team has shown that a mother’s exposure to pets while pregnant, and the child up to three months after the birth, increases two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira which are responsible for the reduction of allergies and obesity. These bacteria were almost doubled in the child’s body when pets, mostly dogs, were present before and after birth.

Kozyrskyj’s study also showed that having pets in the house during pregnancy reduced the transmission of vaginal GBS a group B strep during birth. GBS can cause pneumonia in newborns.

How wonderful are our pets!

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170406143845.htm

Myotubular myopathy in humans and dogs, now there is hope!

Myotubular myopathy in humans and dogs causes a male infant to be born with muscle weakness which includes difficulty breathing, leading to death in infancy. This type of myopathy only affects the muscles and does not have any impact on intelligence.

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Dr. Ana Buj-Bello led a team of researchers in France (Genethon/Inserm) along with teams at the University of Washington and Harvard Medical School, have developed what could be a treatment/cure for this genetic defect which they have applied to dogs.

The team has developed and manufactured an adeno-associated virus (AAV) that works on a cellular level and gives the dog a normal copy of the MTM1 gene that travels to the entire body. The treatment is easy to administer, given by an intravenous injection and restores long-term muscular strength.

Myotubular myopathy is often found in Labrador Retrievers and Rottweilers. The puppies may appear normal at birth but by 7 – 19 weeks they develop muscle weakness, decreased muscle mass, a hoarse bark and have difficulty eating.  The puppies are usually smaller at birth, walk with a short, choppy gait, often falling over. Eventually the puppy cannot stand or even hold their head up. Dogs affected are typically euthanized by six months of age. Labrador and Rottweiler mixes are also affected.

Dr. Ana Buj-Bello’s work may be a life-saver for dogs and eventually people as well. Everyone who has a Labrador or Labrador mix or a Rottweiler, and considers breeding their dog should talk to their veterinarian about having their dog genetically tested to see if they are a carrier of this genetic defect. You can order or inquire about a test from: https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/dog/CNMLabrador.php

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170405101918.htm

Medicating a cat

Medicating a cat can be one of the most difficult tasks that a cat owner faces. Most cats do not like to take medications. It is difficult to give a cat liquid medications, but they can be squirted into the side of the cat’s mouth, if you can hold the cat while doing it. Some pharmacy’s will compound medications for pets, using a chicken or beef flavor, which can make giving liquid medications easier.

However, giving a cat pills is even more difficult. Most cats are hard to hold and it is almost impossible to drop a pill into the back of the cat’s mouth far enough so that they must swallow it. If you miss, the pill can become wet with saliva and fall apart or be less likely to slide down the cat’s throat on a second try.

Trying to pry a cat’s mouth open when they know a pill is coming can result in being bitten. Janna Hautala, MSc (pharmacy) is addressing this problem by experimenting with flavored and flavor coated minitablets for cats. If she succeeds, cats may enjoy taking their medications, which will be a bonus for both them and the cat’s owner.

In the meantime, a pill popper is a good way to place a pill in the back of a cat’s mouth so that they swallow it. This helps to prevent the owner from being bitten and will help keep the pill dry until it is placed in the cat’s mouth.

There are two basic types, one is the Kruuse Buster Pet Pill/Tablet Syringe with Soft Tip and the other is called a pill gun.

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The best way to use them is to tilt the cat’s head back, pry open the cat’s mouth by squeezing the back of the cat’s mouth on both sides to force it open with one hand and then quickly put the pill gun in the back of the mouth and dispense the pill. Quickly close the cat’s mouth and hold it until the cat swallows the pill. If the cat loves a special treat you can give the cat the treat the instant the cats swallows the pill.

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Timing and rewarding the cat is essential or the cat will fight when it is time for the next pill. Of course, the best thing a cat owner can do is teach the cat or kitten to allow you to open their mouth and give them a pill. This can be done by going through the motions of giving the cat a pill but instead of a pill, they are given a small, pill sized treat that they love. It also helps if the cat only gets that treat when you practice giving the cat a pill. Make sure that the treat is easy to swallow and does not hurt the cat’s mouth or throat.

 It is essential that the cat owner practice giving the cat treat as a pill at least every other day. Hopefully in the near future, there will be cat pills that cats like to take.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170322103701.htm

Cats can suffer from high blood pressure

 

Most people do not realize that cats suffer from high blood pressure the same as humans. High blood pressure or hypertension is more common in older cats and often goes undetected.

Hypertension in cats can cause a multitude of health issues, such as organ damage to the eyes, heart, brain, and kidneys and even blindness.

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The good news is that your veterinarian can easily check your cat’s blood pressure with a cuff that is put on the cat’s hind leg or tail. It is a painless procedure.

If you have an older cat it may be a good idea to have your cat’s BP checked when you get your cat’s yearly wellness check. High BP can be treated and treatment can prevent serious health issues. Talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s blood pressure.

 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170301105503.htm

Play laugh in Kea’s, a New Zealand parrot

Dogs do it, rats do it and chimps do it, why not birds? A new study has determined that the Kea, a New Zealand parrot has a “play laugh” that will get other Kea’s to play with them.

Researchers felt that the play laugh was infectious making other birds play with each other. If a bird heard the play laugh and had no one to play with, they would play by themselves. The researchers plan to study more about this aspect of the Kea’s behavior. What is interesting is that this is the first time a researcher has discovered play laughter in a bird. All other research showed it in mammals.

However, this should not be surprising, anyone who has owned multiple birds has seen them play together or at the same time but this is the first time a call or sound has been connected with the behavior

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170320122838.htm

Chronic colitis in cats

Chronic colitis in cats has been an ongoing problem for cat owners and veterinarians alike. Cats who have it suffer from diarrhea that comes and goes. Often the bowel movements are soft, like a ‘cow pie’ and can have blood and/or mucus in it. The most common cause is a protozoan Tritrichomonas foetus which typically infects the large bowel.

The cats that are most affected are young, about one year of age, come from catteries, shelters or places where there are multiple cats. This infection is transmitted both by feces and orally. What makes this a difficult infection to treat is that it does not respond to most medications. The only medication that seems to work is ronidazole. However, the effectiveness of this drug is in question.

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For multiple cat households or multiple cat environments cleanliness is the best preventative measure that a cat owner can take. More research needs to be done and hopefully can resolve this issue in cats.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170320104032.htm

New genetic test for dogs can determine if they carry acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a genetic lung disorder that affects young dogs and leads to death. It is especially prevalent in Dalmatians.

The gene that has been linked with this syndrome is the anillin protein ANLN. Some dogs who had the gene defect also had only one kidney and some had hydrocephalus or water on the brain. It appears that this genetic issue may be related to those problems as well.

A dog can be a carrier of the gene and not show symptoms. If both parents are carriers, then it is more likely that the puppies will suffer from ARDS. Breeders will be able to test their dogs before breeding and hopefully drastically reduce the instances of ANLN in dogs.

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The genetic test will be available from MyDogDNA test (www.mydogdna.com).

This discovery may also help scientists understand respiratory diseases in humans benefiting both dogs and people.

 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170314092756.htm