New wolf hunting tactics observed

It has long been thought that wolves hunting methods only involve running down large prey until they are too exhausted to fight. However, new research has shown that wolves have developed a stalk and ambush method of hunting in the summer, designed specifically to catch beavers.

Beavers have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. Wolves have learned to wait downwind from where the beaver comes out of the water to go on land.

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Researchers found that this hunting method is not limited to a few wolves, but has spanned several years through multiple packs over the Northern Hemisphere where wolves and beaver co-exist.

The study shows that wolves are flexible in their hunting methods and can change to the method that works at that time.

Author Note: This also demonstrates the wolf’s intelligence and ability to communicate the method to other members of the pack.

New stem cell therapy for dogs

For the first time a team of researchers have developed the first step to easily use stem cells to create stem cell therapies to fight diseases in dogs. By doing this they can also model diseases.

The research team from Japan, led by Associate Professor Shingo Hatoya from Osaka Prefecture University used a “foot-print” free method that controls how the cells replicated in the body preventing problems with the previous methods that were used.

The research team believes that with continued research, their findings might be able to help humans since dogs share the same environment and develop the same diseases, especially genetic diseases. Perhaps the the research will expand to other animals, helping all of our pets.

Stem cell therapy for dogs

Associate Professor Shingo Hatoya from Osaka Prefecture University, and his team have developed a more reliable way to develop easy stem cell therapy for dogs.

Dempsey

This has paved the way for more research that will enable veterinarians to treat otherwise untreatable chronic and degenerative health issues in dogs. In the past, this was not as critical because dogs did not live as long. But with modern medicine, dogs are living longer and thus are suffering from age related conditions that exist more today than in the past.  

The research team feels that because dogs and humans share much of the same environment, the results of their research may have a ripple affect to humans since they share some genetic diseases.

Birds spread Lyme’s disease and ticks

A new study by Global Ecology and Biogeography with lead researcher Daniel Becker, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University developed a model that identified, with an 80% accuracy, the species of birds that spread Lyme’s Disease. They found 21 new species that spread the disease.

The research team found about 102 other studies that showed Lyme disease infection from ticks feeding on the birds. There were 183 species of birds that infect the ticks with Lyme’s. The birds have a broad range that spans the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

What this means is that even though the birds do not spread Lyme to people, the ticks on them can drop off of the bird into a garden or yard and then attach to a person. Because birds can fly great distances, they can spread Lyme’s disease to areas that previously did not have it or did not have a lot of it.

The study found that thrushes are the riskiest bird as well as perching birds and those that eat seeds and forage on the ground. 

Author’s note: Tick activity is always the strongest in the spring and fall where there are definite seasons. Always take precautions when outside, especially wearing long sleeves, long pants with your socks over the cuff of your pants. This prevents ticks from crawling up your pant legs. Use bug repellent and cover your head. After working outdoors, remove and wash all clothing and be sure to check your entire body for ticks.

Therapy dogs, robots or real dogs

Dr. Leanne Proops from the Department of Psychology of Portsmouth University conducted a study to see if children would respond positively to a robotic therapy dog vs a real dog. The researchers used a biomimetic robot at a West Sussex school with 34 children who ranged in age from 11 – 12. The robotic dog was a MiRo-E biomimetic robot developed by Consequential Robotics.

They also used two real therapy dogs, a Jack Russel mix and a Labrador who were from the Pets as Therapy group.

Before the therapy session the children were asked to fill out a questionnaire about how they felt about the real dogs and the robot. The researchers found that the children spent the same amount of time petting the real dogs and the robot, but they spent more time interacting with the robot.

The children did report that they preferred the session with the real dog. However, they did express more positive emotions after interacting with the robot.

Even though this was a small study, the researchers are hopeful that in cases where children are afraid of dogs or are allergic to them that robots could be a substitute for real therapy dogs. The robots could also become more available with little or no upkeep and training requirements.

My comment: However, there was no way based on this report to judge if the children interacted with the robot more because it was unique and different. Dogs are not uncommon for most children, robots are.  

Tick disease Powassan virus (POWV)

The good news is that researchers at The Wistar Institute have designed and tested the first-of-its-kind synthetic DNA vaccine against Powassan virus (POWV). This disease is an RNA virus in the flavivirus family the same as Zika.

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This tick-borne disease is fatal in ten percent of people who are infected. It causes detrimental neurological problems such as encephalitis and meningitis. It is passed quickly to a human from a tick and symptoms can occur anytime during the one-to-four-week incubation period. Symptoms include flu-like fever, body aches, skin rash and headaches.

Even though the disease is still rare, there has been an increase in cases in North America. The areas most affected are the Northeastern states and the Great Lakes region.   

Residents of these areas should be extra careful in the spring and fall when the virus is the most active. As we learned in SAR, you can take some precautions. If you work outdoors, even doing yard work, use bug repellent, wear long pants and put your socks over your pant cuffs so ticks cannot crawl up your pant legs. Wear a hat or scarf to keep them out of your hair and long sleeves. After working outdoors, be sure to take off all of your clothes and examine them and then wash them. Check your whole body, especially your back and other areas you cannot see easily. Take a thorough shower. With care, you can protect yourself from all ticks and tick diseases.  

Cats will play in the snow

          December in many parts of the world often means snow. Almost everyone who is an animal lover knows that most dogs love to play in the snow, but do you know that cats can enjoy the snow too? Many people believe that cats do not like any form of liquid, whether it be a bath, the rain, a swimming pool or even riding in a boat, but there are cats who do find these things fun to do.

          My cat is one of them. It all started when I was shoveling the deck and she saw a chipmunk run from under the bird feeder and dive into the snow. In a moment of excitement, she leaped off the deck and dove into the snow chasing the chipmunk. I stopped my shoveling to see what would happen. It wasn’t long before her head popped up through the snow, the flakes covered her ears, face and nose. She shook herself and started to come back to the deck. But as she walked, tiny snow balls started to cascade down the sides of her path through the snow. She stopped suddenly and pounced on them with both front feet, like cats do.

Playing in the snow chasing little snowballs

          I could see by her body language that she had discovered a new game and was enjoying it very much. She was oblivious to the fact that some of the snow was melting on her body, making her wet.

          As the winter progressed and we got more snow, she decided that she liked to follow me as I did my outdoor chores and pounce on the little balls of snow that slid into my footprints. She also joined the dogs for their romps through the snow. It is quite a sight to see her walk in the paths that they make, ever alert for sliding snow with her tail above the snow, standing straight up with a slight hook at the tip.

          The lesson I learned from this is that a pet of any kind may enjoy playing in circumstances that you would not expect them to like. In the case of my cat or a small dog, I am careful to keep a close eye on them because they could become disoriented in deep snow, become exhausted and not be able to get back to the house. In very windy conditions they may not hear you call, so it is also important to be able to walk to your pet while they play outside in the winter. I have taught my dogs to come to a sheepherding whistle which carries up to a mile.

          It is also important to be sure that your pet does not become too cold.  Dogs will play outside even though they are cold and wet, to the point of shivering, and not want to come indoors. Cats, however, seem to be more willing to come indoors when they get too cold.

          All pets that go for a walk on paved surfaces may have problems with salt, so it is a good idea to wash their feet when they come indoors. A dog can become cold and wet even if you put a dog coat on them.

          The bottom line is, let your pet have the opportunity to experience safe play, even if it is not the type of play that you think they would like. You never know.                 

Zebra finches can recognize up to 50 “voices”

A recent study illustrated that Zebra finches can recognize the song or call of at least 50 members of their flock. They use this ability to find a lost member or to call and see if it is safe to return to the nest.

They need this ability because they usually travel in colonies of 50 to 100 birds and they split up and then come back together. They have distance calls that they use to identify where they are and to find members of the flock.

Zebra finch

While it has been known that songbirds are capable of communicating sounds with complex meanings, the latest research shows that songbird brains are capable of complex vocal communication. This also reflects on their high level of intelligence. Imagine how smart other animals are.

Animals struck by aircraft

When people think of animals being struck by aircraft, birds come to mind. However, researchers have studied how many mammals were hit by aircraft. They found that worldwide, mammals hit by aircraft have increased by 68% world-wide. The range in size was from voles to the giraffe and everything in-between.

In the United States alone, damage to aircraft over a thirty-year period was 103 million dollars. Most of the animal strikes occurred during the landing phase of flight. Typically, the take-off and landing of an aircraft are the riskiest times. The study did not suggest how to alleviate the risk of hitting mammals.  

Vole

Breeding dogs part three: types of breeders

The following is the third part in a series of eight articles about breeding dogs. Although it applies to a dog, it also applies to cats. People do not realize that there are cat mills which are similar to puppy mills. Note that these articles are based on my years of experience, my opinion and that I do not intend to refer to any individual. Please read the entire eight articles to glean a full understanding of breeding.

A top quality Havanese puppy

Part Three

There are six types of breeders.

  1. There is the ethical breeder who studies lines and has a goal that they hope to accomplish with a breeding. This goal can be for a litter who has a solid temperament. It could be for conformation showing, for a good working dog and a combination of qualities. It is important to understand that temperament and intelligence are the two qualities that make a dog a good pet or working dog. A dog who meets the conformation standard without a good temperament or intelligence is not a desirable pet or working dog.  

Ethical breeders are typically involved with a breed club or organization that monitors the ethics of the breeder. The ethical breeder does not produce multiple litters at one time and often only has one or two litters a year. They do not breed their dogs before they are tested for inherited issues or are under two years old. The ethical breeder will only breed those dogs who are worthy of breeding having been cleared of inherited issues and has been proven as a good show or working dog. Only exceptional dogs are bred. Ethical breeders work with the puppies from birth to placement so that they are socialized.

Ethical breeders often have waiting lists for puppies because their lines have been proven. They also only line breed or outcross. They rarely if ever inbreed.

The ethical breeder rarely makes a profit from their dogs due to the expenses of raising, testing and proving their dogs. Their litters are consistent in temperament, health and conformation. The ethical breeder will often guarantee the quality of their puppies.

Puppies from an ethical breeder are registered with a recognized registry. In the US this will be either the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club. In some cases, there are breed registries that are recognized as well. There are other registries that will register any type of animal and those that cater to the puppy mills. (See Registries Part 2)

  • The new breeder. Everyone has to start sometime. A small in-home breeder who is being mentored by an experienced breeder can be a quality, ethical breeder. Not every breeder has a large kennel. Most ethical breeders have a number of dogs that live in their house with them as pets. A home-raised puppy from an ethical breeder is the ideal place to get your puppy. The quality of the breeding is not measured by the number of dogs a breeder has, but by the care and goals of the breeder.
  • The commercial breeder mass produces puppies from a limited number of dogs. Their puppies are often registered with a national registry but the care and planning of the lines does not exist. Their goal is to make money so they often shortcut the testing and care of their dogs including the puppies. Their puppies are not from proven stock, are not consistent in temperament, health and conformation. These breeders will produce the breeds that are popular and likely to sell. They often produce a number of different breeds.
  • The puppy mill breeder. These people breed solely for profit. The dogs are often kept in cages and rarely given attention. They are not part of the family but viewed as livestock. They do no testing or planning and have no goals except to produce puppies and make money. Often these puppies are not pure and are not registered or if they are, they are registered with a non-recognized organization that supports puppy mills.

These puppies are often not consistent in temperament, conformation and are more prone to health issues.

  • The backyard breeder. This is the person who thinks they can make money from their pet. Due to a lack of understanding about breeding these puppies are one step away from the puppy mill breeder. The parents have no health testing, there is no consistency in the litter since they are randomly bred with no understanding of genetics. Because the backyard breeder does not understand all that is involved in producing and raising a quality dog, they do not take the precautions or socialize the puppies properly.
  • The last type of breeder is a rather recent phenomenon. This is the designer dog breeder. These people take two different breeds and try to create a dog of their own design. There is no consistency in the puppies that result because they do not have a solid goal. One of the excuses these people use is to create an allergy free dog. Because allergies are not a result of dog hair but of dander, this is not possible. All dogs have dander. Unfortunately, since there is no consistent conformation with designer dogs, there is no way other than a DNA test, to prove that the dogs are the mix that the breeder claims. I have had clients come to me with a dog that was supposed to be a Labradoodle and the dog grew up to be a terrier. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee the puppies and the buyer cannot know for certain that they are getting what they paid for. Also, it is unfortunate that these breeders charge as much or more for the mixed breed puppies as a buyer would pay for a well-bred puppy from an ethical breeder. These puppies are not registered or if they are, they are not registered with a recognized organization.

What is also important to consider is that a person who has a well-bred dog from an ethical breeder is not likely to cross this quality dog with another breed. Therefore, by default, many designer dogs are created from less desirable stock, often obtained from puppy mill breeders.