Goats recognize human emotions

Dr. Alan McElligott led a study at Queen Mary University of London that determined goats react to human facial expressions. Dr. McElligott found that goats prefer smiling or happy faces to ones that were angry. The study also showed that they also use the left hemisphere of their brains to process emotions.

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Previous studies have shown that dogs, cats and horses and many other animals also recognize facial expressions in humans and react to them accordingly. With each study we learn more about the animal kingdom and how alike in many ways all animals are.

 

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Virtual dog helps prevent dog bites

Dogs Trust and the University of Liverpool researchers have created a virtual reality dog that people can approach and interact with that displays signs of aggression.

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The purpose of the project is to educate people, including children, how to recognize signs of aggression in a dog in a safe environment. As the user approaches the dog its behavior changes to include lip licking, lowering of the head and body, front paw lifting, growling and showing of teeth. The team plans to improve the virtual dog to show a variety of behaviors and situations.

This is an excellent project and I hope that it will succeed and be used worldwide to help educate people and teach them how to recognize and understand canine body language. This could also work with all types of animals and would be a safe fantastic way for people to learn about animal behavior.

Do cats respond to their name?

Professor Toshikazu Hasegawa from the University of Tokyo with Atsuko Saito, Ph.D., who is currently an associate professor at Sophia University in Tokyo conducted a study to see if cats recognize their own name. The researchers felt that since cats are not as social as dogs and other mammals, that they may not respond to their name the way more social mammals do.

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What they found is that cats do respond to their name if their owners use the cat’s name often. It is interesting that previous research has shown that cats do distinguish between their owner’s voice and a stranger’s voice, can follow a person’s pointing finger to find hidden food, and may change their behavior depending on their owner’s facial expressions.

In my experience I have successfully taught my cats to come when called, sit and stay and do other things. This required that they understand and respond to their name as well as other words. I am glad that some researchers are looking into ways to validate the intelligence and abilities of cats. As for cats not being social in my experience some are very social, and some are not so social. I have owned cats that behaved more like dogs than cats. More research needs to be done.

Sleepovers for shelter dogs

A team of researchers from the Canine Science Collaboratory have determined that if volunteers take shelter dogs home for a few days, it reduces their stress level. The benefits of this mini-vacation last for a while after they are brought back to the shelter.

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The researchers found that the sleepovers provided a break for the dogs from the stress of the shelter. The team found that dogs in a shelter cannot get the sleep that they need because of how busy and noisy it is in a typical shelter.

The team is also looking into other programs that allow dogs to leave shelters, such as field trips and long-term foster care. With a grant from Maddie’s Fund, they are enrolling 100 animal shelters across the country in a study to understand how foster care impacts the dogs in shelters.

Identifying shelter dogs

Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory researchers Lisa Gunter and Clive Wynne collected DNA from over 900 shelter dogs that were at the Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (AAWL) in Phoenix, AZ, as well as the San Diego Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SDHS) in San Diego, CA.

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They found that although only 5% were purebreds, there were 125 distinct breeds that made up the mixed breed dogs. They also found that unless the dog was a purebred, shelter employees could only determine the mix  about 10% of the time.

Interestingly the three most common breeds were the American Staffordshire Terrier, Chihuahua and Poodle but they represented less than half the dogs in the shelters.

The researchers feel that since the bully breeds stay in shelters up to three weeks longer before being adopted, that the emphasis should be on the individual dog’s behavior to match them with their new families rather than the breed. They stress that a behavior assessment program would be very beneficial for shelter dogs.

I personally agree that each dog should be judged on its own merit rather than its breed. Labeling all individuals of a specific breed is profiling at its worst.

 

 

Non-invasive test for liver disease in dogs

Veterinarians at the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies have worked with medical doctors to develop a blood test that can detect early liver disease in dogs. They based their studies on the molecule miR-122 which is found in humans who have liver disease.

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Their studies showed that dogs have the same molecule as humans and the team has developed a blood test that can be used on dogs.

Professor Richard Mellanby, who is the Head of Companion Animal Sciences at The Hospital for Small Animals at the University of Edinburgh has stated that the blood test provides a safe, non-invasive way to detect liver damage in dogs. Research in dogs has helped human illnesses many times, it is exciting that human tests can now help dogs.

What is important is that the blood test is safer to use than biopsies which can cause complications and can be expensive. I hope they continue the research to develop a blood test for cats and other pets.

The Very First Dog: Book Three in the Sam and Gunny K9 Adventure Series by Joe Jennings

The Very First Dog: Book Three in the Sam and Gunny K9 Adventure Series by Joe Jennings, ISBN: 9781791950033, $11.50, Self- published.

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This book is a novel and an easy read. It is suitable for young adults. The story blends Native American lore, archaeology and fiction into a very easy read story about a young boy and a search dog who have dreams or “memories” of the past. The story takes you back 15,000 years ago with a dream or vision quest by a young boy. He is called to find the wolves that his people have not seen in many years. A modern boy, Clay, has the dreams and tells them to his family as well as a paleontologist and an Arapaho medicine man who help him understand what he was dreaming. The key to the dreams is Gunny, the search dog.

The book is well written and flows nicely between the dreams and modern day. The interaction of the family is very realistic and relaxed. The main point of the book is to give the reader an idea about the theory of how wolves and humans co-existed and eventually became dogs. What I liked about this book is that Mr. Jennings does not try to claim that the events in his book are fact, but only a theory.

This is a great book to sit down with on a sunny day on the beach or in an easy chair on a rainy day. While it is an adventure, it isn’t a nail biting one.

Mr. Jennings is an excellent writer and having read his two other books, Ghosts of Iwo Jima and Ghosts of the Buffalo Wheel, I can honestly say I was not disappointed. You will enjoy this book.

Cruelty to dogs

Reese and Cassie Richard, an MSU master’s of public policy student who now works for the Oregon Commission for the Blind studied who is most likely to abuse a dog and why. They found that crimes that involve animal neglect are often committed by the owner. This would involve general care such as not giving a dog food or water.

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Kicking or stabbing a dog are often committed by a family member or an intimate partner.  It is usually the dog’s owners who engage in dog fighting, often driven by money. Poisoning a dog is typically done by neighbors. Their study also found that people who are more likely to shoot another person is more likely to shoot a dog.

They stressed that one way to reduce animal cruelty is to address the human aspect of the problem. Better animal cruelty policies, education and inter-agency communication would benefit both humans and dogs.

Canine Leishmania infantum can be transmitted to humans

Dogs contract Leishmania infantum from sand flies. Once the dog has it, the parasite can be transmitted to humans, especially young children. Currently Leishmania is found in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. However, as other diseases have spread, in the future this may also be a risk in other countries.

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Leishmania is a multi-systemic disease that is difficult to treat. However, the good news is that Laura Willen, of Charles University, Czech Republic, and colleagues prepared an immunochromatographic test (ICT) to rapidly screen dogs for the presence of P. perniciosus, a sand fly saliva protein.

According to a report, “The typical history reported by owners of dogs with clinical disease due to L infantum includes the appearance of skin lesions, ocular abnormalities, or epistaxis. These are frequently accompanied by weight loss, exercise intolerance, and lethargy. The main physical examination findings are dermal lesions in 80%–90% of the dogs, lymphadenomegaly in 62%–90%, ocular disease in 16%–81%, splenomegaly in 10%–53%, and abnormal nail growth (onychogryphosis) in 20%–31%. Other clinical findings may include polyuria and polydipsia due to kidney disease, vomiting, colitis, melena, and lameness due to joint, muscle, or bone lesions. The sole presenting signs of disease could be epistaxis, ocular abnormalities, or manifestations of kidney disease without dermal abnormalities.”

Aromatherapy calms horses

In a recent experiment by Isabelle Chea, a then-undergraduate honors student at the UA, and Ann Baldwin, UA professor of physiology and psychology, found that sniffing lavender calmed horses. However, the calming affect only lasted while they were sniffing the vapor.

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This is a good thing because the traditional method of calming a nervous horse is to use tranquilizers which remain in the horse after it is needed. However, sniffing the lavender can be used only when needed with no side or prolonged affects.

Professor Baldwin plans to try other scents and doses to see if they calm horses as well. I would love to see experiments on dogs and cats using various types of aromatherapy to calm them, especially for veterinarian visits.