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.

Canine hookworms resistant to treatments

            Hookworms are a common problem in dogs. These worms have a hooklike mouth that attaches to the dog’s intestinal tract. There are serious consequences if a dog in highly infested. Currently the most prevalent breed to have hookworms are Greyhounds. The conditions that they are raised and raced in is conductive to the spread of hookworms.

            Because of the widespread adoption of racing greyhounds’ hookworms are spreading to other dogs as well. A dog does not have to ingest the worms to become infected. The larvae live in the soil and can burrow through the dog’s skin and paws. Also, a female can pass the worm to their puppies through their milk. Hookworms also can infect people.

            What is upsetting is that veterinarian researchers have found high levels of hookworms in dogs that were treated. It is important that dogs are retested after a treatment to ensure that all of the worms have been killed.

            The most upsetting thing about hookworms is that they are becoming resistant to the three medications used to deworm a dog. The researchers are concerned that only the drug resistant hookworms will be left and will spread. Right now, the only deworming medication that is successful in killing the resistant hookworms is emodepside. However, that medication is only approved for cats.

            What a dog owner can do is avoid dog parks, where hookworms can live. Have your dog tested for worms frequently, especially if it is an adopted Greyhound, and make sure if your dog has hookworms, retest after treatment.

Juvenile epilepsy in Parsons Russell Terriers

When epileptic seizures caused the death in some Parsons Russell Terriers at six to twelve weeks of age, researchers delved into the cause. These puppies’ seizures were so severe that they died and medication would not help them. The researchers at the University of Helsinki found a gene disorder similar to the cause of Alzheimer’s in humans.

Riley, PRT

They developed a test that can determine if a dog carries this recessive gene. Because the gene is recessive, both the sire and dam must carry it to produce the defect in dogs. Therefore, it is essential that breeders of PRT’s have their dogs tested before they breed.

Behavior and personality traits identified in cats

With cats being the number one pet, there is surprising little research about their personality and behavior traits, especially in relation to cat breeds. This study has managed to explore the world of cats. They studied 4300 cats in 26 breed groups. Their study was the most extensive and significant to date and opens the door for further research.

By using questionnaires in an efficient manner, the researchers at the University of Helsinki have identified the following:

  • Activity/playfulness
  • Fearfulness
  • Aggression towards humans
  • Sociability towards humans
  • Sociability towards cats
  • Litterbox issues (relieving themselves in inappropriate places, precision in terms of litterbox cleanliness and substrate material)
  • Excessive grooming
Turkish Angora – Bonnie

 According to the study, “The most fearful breed was the Russian Blue, while the Abyssinian was the least fearful. The Bengal was the most active breed, while the Persian and Exotic were the most passive. The breeds exhibiting the most excessive grooming were the Siamese and Balinese, while the Turkish Van breed scored considerably higher in aggression towards humans and lower in sociability towards cats.”

The result of this study coincided with a previous study, giving it more validity.

Author’s Note: It is just as important for anyone who plans to add a cat to their home to be aware of the personality traits of cats as it is for future dog owners to select the right type of dog for their living arrangements. Even if a cat is a mixed breed, certain physical characteristics can give the potential cat owner an idea of the breed group it comes from, helping them make a selection.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have the most harmful genetics

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been a breed for over 1000 years. However, during that time there were “bottlenecks” in the breeding of these dogs where only a small number of dogs were bred.

Researchers studied eight different breeds and found that the Cav had the greatest number of disease-causing genes than any of the other breeds studied. They are especially prone to heart disease.

picabay photo

Note: The study only sampled a limited number of dogs of each breed studied. While this is a good indicator, I would have liked to see a larger number of dogs tested from a wider geographical area. However, breeders who sincerely love their breed, what ever it is, can improve the breed by selective breeding for the right reasons. Too many people breed indiscriminately and do not test their dogs for genetic defects. As a canine behavior consultant, I have seen the results of this for my entire career.

Does my dog have separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a genetic issue. This means that owners do not cause it, however, they can bring it out in a dog and intensify it. Research has shown that dogs that are noise shy, such as a fear of thunderstorms tend to also have separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is a panic attack and is very similar to a panic attack in people. It is not fun to have and if it happens often enough, such as when a dog is left alone frequently, can cause the dog’s quality of life to degrade. Imagine being afraid for eight to ten hours, five or more days a week. It is also important to understand that separation anxiety is very stressful, and a dog’s health is affected the same as a person from constant stress. Therefore, separation anxiety not only destroys a dog’s mental health, but can also harm their long-term physical health as well.

Riley – Parsons Russell Terrier

Before you determine that your dog has separation anxiety, you must rule out medical issues that can cause the same symptoms. This will require a thorough examination by your veterinarian. The examination should check for the following:

CBC, Chemical profile, thyroid profile, urinalysis and fecal exam, dental health, GI distress, diabetes, renal failure, colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

After you have ruled out any medical reasons for your dog’s behavior you can then examine the behaviors.

Before you label your dog as having separation anxiety, you must determine if your dog is simply behaving as a normal dog. Puppies, chew and destroy things. Is your dog completely housebroken? Is something teasing your dog outside of your home, making him bark? Is your dog marking? Did you change his food or give him a treat that made him unable to wait to eliminate?

A dog can have various levels of separation anxiety. Like any fear or anxiety, it gets worse the longer the dog has it. Older dogs tend not to respond to treatment as well as younger dogs. Therefore, the behavior associated with separation anxiety will not just “go away” or get better with time. It will get worse until it could reach a level were the dog harms himself.

The symptoms are:

Pacing, drooling, vocalization, destructive behavior and inappropriate elimination of urine and feces, usually randomly throughout the house. Often the feces will have mucus in them and do not appear the same as normal stools.

If you determine that your dog does suffer from separation anxiety, it is best to contact a certified canine behavior consultant because the treatment can vary widely and should be tailored to your living arrangements and the dog’s needs. In some cases, medication may be necessary and, in that case, you would need to consult with a veterinarian behaviorist who understands which medications are best and how to administer the medications and how to wean your dog off of them. A non-veterinarian behavior consultant who understands the medications can work with your veterinarian.

The question that I am often asked is how can a person determine if a puppy is prone to separation anxiety. There is no hard and fast rule, but typically if a young puppy cannot be crated, it is often a good indication that the puppy is prone to separation anxiety.

Remember, the sooner you address the problem the better the chance you will be able to get it under control. All behaviors are learned very quickly. An example is a dog who becomes frightened of thunderstorms and as he experiences more storms, he learns that as the barometric pressure changes, a storm is coming and starts to shake before the storm arrives. He will even act as if a storm is coming when the pressure changes and no storm comes.

The breeds that are most likely to have separation anxiety are:

            Labrador Retriever

            Border Collie

            Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

            Jack Russell Terrier

            German Shepherd

            Australian Shepherd

            Bichon Frise

            Vizsla

To find a qualified behavior consultant go to www.iaabc.org

Coat color in dogs and wolves – new discovery

A new study has found that there are five distinct coat colors in dogs and wolves. Previously scientists believed that there were only four. The mystery of coat colors has been solved. (However, we never know what discoveries the future holds.)

This discovery is the result of the work done by an international team of researchers including scientists from the Institute of Genetics of the University of Bern. The team found that a genetic variant which is responsible for a very light-colored coat in dogs and wolves originated in a now extinct relative of the modern wolf.

According to the research a small piece of DNA from this extinct ancestor is still found in yellow dogs and white artic wolves.

Note: This information may help breeders better determine the potential coat color of future litters. I hope that it eventually helps eliminate the deafness and other ills that are connected to certain colorations in dogs, namely the merle, harlequin, piebald and for some breeds the all-white factors, that cause genetic problems.)  

Cats prefer free food rather than work for it

According to a study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, even active cats would rather have “free” food rather than work for their meal.

The researchers offered a sample of cats, the option of getting their food from a food puzzle or having access to their food on a tray. All of the cats preferred the easily available food on a tray.

This was true for active cats and cats used to using a food puzzle. The researchers added that the food puzzles used in the study may not have stimulated their natural desire to hunt and ambush their prey.

The researchers added that this does not mean that cat owners should stop using a food puzzle.

Cats, the new source for genetic research

Scientists use dogs and other animals to learn about genetically related diseases and illnesses that are common to animals and humans. By developing a cure for an animal disease, they often have breakthroughs for curing similar human diseases. One species that has been overlooked in this process is the common domestic cat.

Leslie says Lyons, of the Department of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery at the University of Missouri has explored this option. According to Lyons, cats can be an important asset in understanding the genetic “dark matter” that makes up 95% of DNA. Lyons has found that cats have genetic diseases that are related to the dysfunction of their genetic dark matter.

Lyons feels that cats could pay a role in developing precision medicine for genetic diseases. This could allow scientists and medical personnel to fix the actual gene and what the gene does instead of treating the symptoms.  

Giraffes are socially complex

Recently scientists have learned that Giraffes have a complex social structure. There is evidence that their social life is as complex as elephants and killer whales. Giraffe females that have passed the reproductive stage of their life still help rear the young, the grandmother effect. They have high functioning and complex societies.

stock photo

By understanding their social system, scientists and conservationist will be able to help them survive. It will raise their position in the hierarchy of the animal kingdom, affording them more protection to help them thrive.

Authors Note: What this illustrates is that we know very little about the animal kingdom and should never assume anything. It is exciting to think of researching about animals and imagining what we will learn.

The Animals In Our Lives

I had the honor of contributing to this book. Please spread the word.

Stories of Companionship and Awe

by Catherine Lawton (with Cladach Authors and Friends)

The wonderfully varied stories recount experiences with dogs and cats, sheep and horses, backyard birds and woodland deer, and other surprising creatures. The encounters and adventures of people and animals include childhood memories, individual and family experiences, and wilderness adventures. They all celebrate the companionship we have with animals both domestic and wild, in good times and bad, in times of celebration and times of challenge.

As fellow creatures, we give animals attention and care, and they give us so much in return. If we listen and observe, they teach us about God and about ourselves. This inspirational volume will evoke laughter, tears, and the experience of awe.

Animals entertain us, help us, teach us, play with us, mourn with us, even work with us. They help us experience God’s presence in our lives.

Publication date: August 20, 2021

ISBN: 9781945099274, 5.5″ x 8.5″, 15 Black/White Photos

$17.99 Pre-order Now: https://cladach.com/the-animals-in-our-lives/