Puppies born in the summer are at a greater risk of heart disease

Puppies born June through August have the highest risk of developing heart disease says a study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. They feel that air pollution may be the cause. Their study showed that breeds that are already prone to heart disease were not affected by their birth month but breeds that are not prone to heart disease were affected.

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Puppies born in July had the highest risk, at 74%. The researchers found that the risk for heart disease existed for both dogs and humans. Outside air pollution during pregnancy and at the time of birth appears to play a role in later development of heart disease. They coordinated their findings with research that had been conducted on people and found similarities. While the connection between outside air pollution is suspect, it has not been completely proven to be the cause but is a strong suspect.

I would like to see further research to see if the risk is greater in cities and countries where there is greater or less air pollution and compare it with the current findings. In the meantime, for those dogs born within the suspected time-frame, it would benefit dog owners to make sure that they take their dogs for annual checkups and watch for signs of heart issues. Also, diligent breeders could avoid having puppies born in the summer.

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Maternal separation affects rat’s brains and changes adult behavior

Associate professor of psychology Christopher Lapish at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science has shown that if a baby rat is taken from its mother for 24 hours when the baby is nine days old, it changes their behavior as adults.

The study showed that there was memory impairment and less communication between brain regions as well as other neurological changes in the rat’s brain. Rats that were separated showed significant behavioral, biological and physiological, brain abnormalities in adulthood.

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The findings in this study have a bearing on humans as well. According to co-author Brian F. O’Donnell, professor of psychological and brain sciences at IU Bloomington, “children exposed to early-life stress or deprivation are at higher risk for mental illness and addictions later in life, including schizophrenia.”

This research is also supported by the findings that if kittens are taken from their mothers before they are weaned, they tend to show more aggressive behavior as adults. I know that children who are taken from their mothers at birth and put up for adoption have a higher rate of attachment disorder as a result.

Because rat brains have similarities to human brains, this study can lead to further findings. It would be interesting to study the behavior of all animals that are bottle fed by humans and even those that are fostered with a different mother to see if there are differences in their behavior from those that are raised by their birth mother.

Bees can do math!

Researchers have designed a test that proves bees can do basic math.

Since scientists have known that bees understand the concept of zero, they wanted to determine if bees could perform the basic math functions of adding and subtracting. Their tests have shown that bees can do this.

This is very important because solving math problems requires the use of both long- and short-term memory and the complex mental management of numbers.

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The team from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia taught the bees to recognize colors that represent addition and subtraction. Once the bees were taught the meaning of the colors, they were able to use the colors to solve math addition and subtraction problems. While this level of math may seem simple to us, it really involves complex thought processes.

In past studies, beekeepers claimed that they did not get stung by their bees (at least not too much) because the bees understood that they meant no harm and were friendly to the keepers. If bees can perform mathematical functions it is certainly reasonable that they could understand their relationship to bee keepers.

What is amazing is that the tiny bee brain can do this. As we discover more ways to communicate with animals and insects, it will open a whole new world and understanding of our animal and insect friends.

The only barrier we have to fully understanding other creatures is the barrier of language. How amazing this finding is because it shows us how much we have yet to learn.

French Bulldogs have a high risk of health problems

A study by Researchers at The Royal Veterinary College (RVC), UK found that ear infections, diarrhea and inflammation of the eye surface (conjunctivitis) were the most common problems in the French Bulldog that were one year of age and older.

What is also interesting is that females tended to be healthier than males. Of the 26 common health problems in this breed, males were more likely to get 8 of them.

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(photo from internet free stock)

The very characteristics that make the French Bulldog popular, such as their short nose and skin folds, contribute to their health issues. Breathing issues are seen in over 10% of the breed as well as skin problems due to their skin folds.

This means that breeders have to be very diligent in their breeding program to help reduce the health issues. People who want to own this breed should be aware of the health issues and be prepared to pay for the extra veterinary care that these dogs require.

Secrets of the Snout by Frank Rosell

Secrets of the Snout by Frank Rosell, University of Chicago Press, ISBN: 13: 978-0-226-53636-1, 265 pgs., $23.40.

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Professor Rosell has done a wonderful job explaining how a dog’s nose works. He gives us accounts of different types of detection dogs which is a delight to read. The book is easy to read and understand because written for the average pet owner.

While other books have covered a dog’s scenting abilities, Professor Rosell has included the latest research along with keen insight to dog behavior. He explains what makes up scent and what a dog detects.

Each chapter features a specific dog’s scenting experience which helps the reader gain useful insight as to how dogs do their jobs. He explores topics such as, can a dog tell identical twins apart and other interesting experiments.

There are extensive notes for each chapter as well as a thorough index which makes it easy to locate specific material. I highly recommend this book for all working dog and pet owners who would like to understand their dog’s world of scent. This book was first published in Norway and was so popular that it was translated into English and published in the United States.

The Chapters include:

  1. Dogs at Work
  2. A Dog’s Sense of Smell
  3. A Good Judge of Character
  4. Pet Finder
  5. Search and Rescue
  6. On the Hunt
  7. Police Work
  8. Customs and Border Control
  9. Military
  10. Medical Detection
  11. Field Assistant
  12. Pest Detector and Building Inspector
  13. Other Work Tasks for Sniffer Dogs.

Sexually Transmitted Disease in Dogs

The canine transmissible venereal tumor is spread in dogs worldwide through breeding as well as biting and licking the infected area. Professor Ariberto Fassati of UCL (University College London) has discovered that the disease is related to a single common ancestor, making it the same in all dogs. Professor Fassati also discovered that the dog’s immune system can cause the cancer to regress spontaneously or within a few weeks after only one radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment.

Professor Fassati found that the healthy cells around the tumor were vital in causing the regression of the cancer. What is very exciting about this finding is that canine transmissible venereal tumor is very similar to various human cancers such skin cancer, bone cancer, and certain blood cancers. His research may lead the way to better treatments for humans.

“There are two key messages of our study,” Fassati says. “First, we should not focus on the cancer cells only but also understand the importance of normal tissue around the cancer in promoting rejection. Second, we must be able to induce the production of large amounts of certain chemokines to attract loads of immune cells to the tumor site.” His research may lead the way to better treatments for humans.

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Winter Bird Watching

As summer ends and fall begins, it is not too soon to think of winter bird watching. Early fall is the best time to plan and prepare for winter bird watching. However, you can start anytime during the year.

When you mention bird watching, most people think of spring, summer and fall.  Spring and fall are good times to look for migratory birds that may not spend the summer where you live. Places such as Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania is one site where you can watch migratory birds. There are other sites throughout the world.

The summer of course is a great time to watch the resident birds raise their young and learn their survival skills. But the most overlooked time of the year to watch birds is the winter.

This is the time when bird feeders and heated birdbaths attract a wide variety of birds that are sometimes hard to spot during the other seasons. Without the leaves on trees and food harder to get, these birds are more likely to spend time around your feeder and bird bath. The more elusive and shy birds are easier to spot and the bold ones, such as the Chickadee’s, will land on your hand for some black oil sunflower seeds. Nothing is quite as thrilling to a bird watcher then having a sweet little Chickadee look you in the eye and snatch a seed right from the palm of your hand. Do note that it takes time and patience to get the birds to eat out of your hand.

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But a real treat is to get a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker in the winter. Despite being large (15”) this is a very shy and hard to spot bird. Because of its loud pecking, and the large holes it makes in trees, you are more likely to see where it has been or hear it rather than actually see it. This bird is very difficult to sneak close enough to in order to get a good look. I find that it is even more difficult to photograph it because if the bird sees you it will fly away.

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If you want a real treat, put out a wildlife seed block and you will have just about everything that lives in your area paying a visit. Here in the Pocono’s I have a huge flock of turkeys that come for three square meals a day.

Winter bird watching can be very successful if you put up squirrel proof bird feeders (such the Brome standard pictured here) filled with sunflower seeds. A platform feeder for the ground feeders (such as Dark-eyed Junco’s and doves) as well as the larger birds can be filled with a wild bird seed mix. The Brome squirrel buster bird feeders are the only ones that I have used that really work, and the birds love them.

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Here a rare Red-headed woodpecker visits my platform feeder.

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On very cold harsh days I occasionally supplement the seeds with freeze dried meal worms. The worms also help the insect eating birds that may stay in the area, such as Bluebirds. They also help Robins who may come too early in the spring or get caught in a late snow storm.

If there are bears in your area, they are less of a problem in the winter and you can leave a bird feeder outside at night. But to be safe, take it in. Keep in mind that birds typically are most active at dawn and dusk. Although during harsh days they will feed throughout the day.

Do not take in your hummingbird feeders until there is a risk of the nectar freezing. While resident hummers may have migrated, some of the northern hummers will appreciate a chance to feed as they pass through.

The safest and best heated bird bath is the model pictured. You do not want to put a heating element in your regular bird bath because if the deer or other animals drink the birdbath dry the element will fail. This bird bath is safe if the water is drained out of it.

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You can also get a large branch or small tree trunk and make a wonderful woodpecker feeder by drilling two one inch holes through the trunk. An eye hook and a simple dog leash clasp that you can buy at a hardware store with some clothes line or wire to hang it, works well.

I put the clothes line over a branch of a tree to pull it high so the deer will not eat it and then tie it off so I can raise and lower it to fill it. You can find inexpensive suet cakes at outlets like Ollies and cut a one inch slab off of the cake and push it into the hole. You can also pack the holes with suet from a butcher or ask the butcher at the local supermarket to save you suet. The prepared suet cakes can be used year round since they are OK in the heat but the natural suet does not do well in the warm weather. You can also make your own suet which can go into a cage suet feeder or the log feeder. The log feeder pictured here is one I made.

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If possible, place your bird feeders where the birds have shelter. This will keep them safe from predators such as hawks. Hanging a bird feeder from a tree, or near bushes will help you attract a wide variety of birds. In the winter I also add a peanut feeder with split peanuts to my collection of feeders. I also use shepherd’s hooks to hang feeders near trees and bushes. This makes it easy to maintain your feeders.

It is important to wash your feeders at least once a week to help prevent the spread of disease and make the seeds visible. There is always dust and dirt that can collect in some tube feeders that will clog the drain holes in the bottom. So maintenance is important.

Watching the local birds from my office window during the winter is a real treat for me. I have found that by watching their habits, I can often tell what the weather is going to be the next day. It is amazing how the birds know when a storm is coming and will eat extra food. Many birds also hide food in trees and other areas to eat during bad weather.

Bird watching is also an educational experience for children. They can use a bird book and try to identify the various birds that come to your feeders.

Happy bird watching!

Munchausen by Proxy for pets

Although it is rare, veterinarians should be aware of Munchausen by Proxy since it can involve pets.  To understand Munchausen by Proxy it is necessary to understand the Munchausen disorder.

Munchausen is a mental illness that involves faking, producing or prolonging an illness. People who have this disorder will go to great lengths to hide it. It is important to note that this disorder does not include faking illnesses to get out of going to work, winning a lawsuit, and it is not the same as hypochondria where the person actually believes that he is sick.

Munchausen by Proxy is when the mentally ill person fakes illnesses in a child, elderly person or pet to gain sympathy. There is not much data on Munchausen by Proxy in pets, but by understanding how it manifests itself in humans; a veterinarian may be able to detect it when it involves pets.

Here are some of the characteristics of this disorder:

The illness does not fit the classical picture

The Illnesses do not fit well together or do not relate

The caregiver is too helpful

The caregiver is often involved in the medical field

Complications can arise from the injuries

There are dramatic stories about the medical problems

Frequent visits to the doctor/veterinarian

Vague symptoms

Inconsistent symptoms

Conditions that worsen with no apparent reason

Eagerness for testing and surgeries

Extensive knowledge of medical terms and conditions

Frequenting many different medical professionals

Made-up histories

Faking symptoms

Self-harm or inflicting harm

Preventing healing

The persons most likely to have Munchausen disorder are those who:

Experienced a childhood trauma including sexual, emotional or physical abuse

Had a serious illness in childhood

A relative with a serious illness

Poor self-esteem or identity

Loss of a loved one early in life

Unfulfilled desire to be in the medical profession

Work in the health care field

According to the statistics, more males and young or middle-aged people are most likely to have Munchausen disorder.

What should you do if you suspect that your client has this disorder? First try to diagnose the illness in the pet with tests to be certain that it is real. Go for a cure rather than treat symptoms.

Talk to your pet’s owners and being aware of the symptoms listed above.  Listen to your gut feelings if they tell you that something isn’t right.  Most people try to second guess themselves when their first reaction was correct. If you suspect that a client may have Munchausen by Proxy you can alert your local animal cruelty organization. Munchausen by Proxy is a form of cruelty. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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Beech trees are dying, and nobody’s sure why

I do not often write about plants since my expertise is mainly dogs and cats, but as a tree lover, I felt it important to pass along this information.

“In a study published in the journal Forest Pathology, researchers and naturalists from The Ohio State University and metroparks in northeastern Ohio report on the emerging “beech leaf disease” epidemic, calling for speedy work to find a culprit so that work can begin to stop its spread.”

The disease has been found in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Canada. If a tree is infected it will have dark green bands between the veins of the leaves. As the disease progresses the leaves get very dark, shrink and get leathery. Then the limbs that have the disease do not produce buds. From there the tree dies. According to the report young trees are usually hit harder than older trees.

Trees of all kinds are important to wildlife and people. We have already had an infestation in parts of the country that have killed Oak trees and Hemlocks. Elm trees never recovered from the Dutch Elm disease. I would hate to see another species of tree die.

If you suspect that any of your trees are affected, I would suggest that you contact your local agricultural agency or DCNR office. Let’s hope that we can stop the Beech tree disease.

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Beech leaf disease symptoms include dark banding between the veins in early stages, followed by crinkling leaves.

Credit: Forest Pathology, Ohio State

A little brag from me!

I wanted to let my followers know that my latest book, K9 Troubleshooting won first place in the National League of American Pen Woman’s contest and has now been nominated in the Dog Writers Association of American contest. I will not know for a month or so if it wins. Being nominated is an honor in and of itself. There are a lot of books entered. 9781550597363

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dwaa cert

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