Canine genetics and behavior

Dog owners and breeders know that certain behaviors dominate certain breeds. For example herding dogs have the instinct to herd. Hounds have the instinct to hunt with their nose, some breeds are better guard dogs and the list goes on. This is what makes breed traits what they are. But it has been somewhat of a mystery about how this happens genetically because not all dogs in a particular breed have the same strength of the trait for that breed and some lack it entirely.

scout full body

In a new study, James A Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues Evan L. MacLean of the University of Arizona, Noah Snyder-Mackler of the University of Washington, and Bridgett M. vonHoldt of Princeton University conducted a study to try to unravel how genetics affect breed trait behavior.

Their study concluded that genes do play a large part in breed behavior, and those gene most affect the brain rather than other bodily tissues. However, they stressed that there is a large margin to allow for the differences between individual animals.

What this means to the dog owner, and especially the potential dog owner, is that getting a dog from a reliable, ethical and trusted breeder is critical to your dog’s behavior. The genetic tendencies can and do vary from line to line. It also means that if you adopt a mixed breed or purebred dog, you will have no idea what it’s genetically controlled behavior will be.

This is important to understand because if behavior issues arise, you will have to allow for the possibility that it is genetically influenced. The method that you use to alter any unwanted behavior that is genetically influence will be different than simple training methods. Always consult a certified behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org.

Also keep in mind that genetically influenced behavior is not limited to dogs but is a part of the makeup of all living beings. Yes, environment and learning also comes into play.

Parasite from cats killing sea otters

For decades scientists have been studying why some California sea otters are dying. Recently researchers led by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have linked feral and domestic cats as the source of Toxoplasma that is killing sea otters.

download (11)

photo from pixabay

The parasite forms egglike stages referred to as oocysts. Feral cats eat rodents and birds that have the oocysts in their bodies. From there the oocysts live in the cats until they are passed through the cat feces. The feces are washed into the sea and live in the kelp. Then snails eat the oocysts and the sea otters eat the snails.

People who own cats can help by keeping their cats indoors. Cat feces should not be flushed into septic or public wastewater systems since they will cycle back into the ground.

The oocysts are also washed into the waterways by rainwater, therefore preserving wetlands, forests and grasslands will help keep the parasite and other pollutants out of the oceans. Managing storm water runoff and replacing pavement with permeable surfaces will help.

If all cat owners in California, especially those who live near the ocean, do what they can to help, we can reduce the death rate of sea otters.

Cats do bond to humans

A recent study by Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University showed that cats’ bond to their human caretakers the same as dogs and human infants (attachment security). In this study cats were put in a novel room with their caretakers for two minutes, then they were left there for two minutes alone. After that the caretaker returned and the cat’s reaction was observed.

puff suitcase

The findings show that a cat’s attachments to humans are stable, and present in adulthood. As a result of this finding, the researchers are currently looking into how this impacts the many cats and kittens that are in shelters. They want to see how socialization and fostering influence a cat’s ability to have attachment security.

I am personally glad to see that researchers are finally exploring this aspect of a cat’s personality. Those of us who own cats know how attached they can be to us. For years people have misunderstood cats, labeling them as aloof because they show their affection differently than dogs.

Pet safety tips from House Method

Hi Loyal Followers,

Every once in a while, someone sends me interesting articles to post on my blog or web site. Dylan Farrow, the Editor for pet care and pet safety at House Method sent me four articles that I thought I would share with you. All the information is good.

DSCN1778 Rolly 2

I have only one exception to the recommendation in one of the articles. It says that you must bathe your dog once a month. This is not always a good idea because it can dry your dog’s coat causing your dog’s skin to flake. Dog coats are not meant to be washed that often. Some breeds that have oilier coats can tolerate it, but please check with your veterinarian or groomer to see how often your dog needs a bath.

Sue

Pet Safety Guide

Are Your Plants Safe for your Pets?

Best Vacuum For Pet Hair

Keeping Your Home Less Hairy

 

 

Weight gain in cats

In a first of its kind study by researchers at the University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), Dr. Adam Campigotto, along with Bernardo and colleague Dr. Zvonimir Poljak tracked the weights of 19 million cats to see if there was a pattern of weight gain or loss.

IMG_0236 email sz

This information is important because weight gain or loss can indicate health issues in cats. Also the study offers a baseline for the weight of cats. What is interesting is that the research showed that cats continue to gain weight until they are about eight years of age.

It is interesting to note that the researchers found that male cats tended to reach higher weight peaks than females. Also spayed or neutered cats tended to be heavier. What was also interesting is that they found that the average weight of neutered eight-year-old cats increased between 1995 and 2005 but was steady after that.

The researchers want to focus on ways to reduce obesity in cats as well as on keeping cats healthy. They recommend that cat owners buy a scale and regularly weigh their cats to help maintain a healthy weight for their cat.

Homemade cat food

In an attempt to give cats a healthier lifestyle many cat owners have opted to make their own cat food. A search on the internet will turn up many recipes. But is homemade cat food good for your cat?

1pluskat

A first of its kind study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, have determined that most homemade diets do not provide cats all of their essential nutrients. Not surprising, some recipes may contain ingredients that are potentially toxic to cats.

Even recipes that were written by veterinarians lacked nutrients and/or were deficient in meeting the nutritional needs of cats. For example, some recipes lacked up to 19 essential nutrients.

The study suggests that if you want to make your own cat food that you should consult a board certified veterinarian nutritionist to design a diet that will meet your individual cat’s needs. Keep in mind that age and health issues will change a cat’s nutritional needs.

It is a good idea to check with some online sites that evaluate cat and dog food. http://catfooddb.com/blog/cat-food-advisor

Money-Saving Tips for Traveling With a Dog – by guest blogger Nick Burton

As dog owners, our canine companions enrich our lives in many ways, and it can be heart-wrenching to set out on a trip without them. Luckily, we don’t have to say “bye” if we make the right preparations. If you’re a dog owner who is planning to travel, these money-saving tips will help ensure that you and your pup have the best experience possible.

traveling

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Reserve a Pet Sitter

Traveling with your dog provides a great opportunity to spend quality time together in a new and exciting place. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to join you for every single activity during the trip. For the times when you must leave your pup behind for a bit, it’s important that they’re not alone, as it can cause them severe anxiety. That’s where a pet sitter comes in. Research area pet sitters that fits within your budget and can keep your dog company. Just make sure the person is reputable and trustworthy.

Pack All the Things

 The more stuff you pack for your dog, the more comfortable they will be and the less you will have to buy when you arrive at your destination. Be sure to bring along the essentials:

You can find many of these items for a good price from online retailers like Amazon. When you place your order, use a promo code for Amazon.com to knock the price down even more.

Strategize the Destination

Choosing a destination for you and your pup may take a little more work than if it was just you. Not only do you have to make sure it’s a place where you can have fun and relax, but you also have to consider your dog’s needs as well. Wherever you decide to go, make sure there are dog-friendly activities within a reasonable distance. For instance, if you plan on dining out quite a bit, you’ll want to make sure there are dog-friendly restaurants around. You also may want to look for open spaces where they can safely run and play. Dog parks and beaches that offer pet-friendly areas can be great options at no cost to you.

Strategize the Lodging

 Along with your destination, you’ll want to consider your dog’s needs as you choose the lodging during your trip. One of the easiest ways to do this is by searching online for pet-friendly hotels. However, if you already have lodging in mind (e.g., a hotel, bed and breakfast, vacation home, campground, etc.), you can contact the facility and ask about their pet policy. You can typically find pet-friendly places to stay wherever you go; you’ll just need to make sure you understand the rules. Once you’ve gone over the pet policy, be sure to abide by the guidelines so that you, your dog, and the other occupants can all enjoy your time.

Warm Your Pup Up to Traveling

Another budget-friendly way to plan your trip with your dog is to warm them up to whatever mode of transit you’ve chosen. For example, if you’re driving and your pup is not used to riding in a vehicle, take them for some short trips in your vehicle to break them in. If you’re flying or taking a train or bus, take them to the airport or station and let them see and smell the surroundings. Also, if you’re using a travel carrier, having them spend time in the carrier and lining it with some of their bedding before you leave can help them get comfortable with it.

Traveling with your pup can provide a lot of quality time together. Just be sure to hire a pet sitter if you have to leave your dog behind for an activity, and pack all of the necessary supplies. Keep your dog’s needs in mind when you choose your destination and lodging, and try to ease them into the traveling process. The extra time and effort it takes to plan a trip with your dog will prove well worth it when you’re enjoying a new place together.

NOTE From Sue: These tips can apply to any pet that goes traveling with you.

Asthma and Pets

In a new study conducted by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, if parents and children follow the NAEPP (EPR-3) guidelines for asthma control in children, pets and secondhand smoke does not increase their symptoms. This is important to those people who love pets because it means that a family does not have to get rid of a pet if a family member develops asthma.

scan0023

This is also important because if a child suffers from asthma, a pet can be a big comfort to them if the asthma interferes with other activities.

However, it is important to work with your health care provider and follow the NAEPP (EPR-3) guidelines. The study shows that asthma treatment is more important than exposure to elements in the environment.

Homemade cat food

In the first of its kind study by researchers at the University of California, Davis they found that the recipes found on-line, even those written by veterinarians, did not meet the nutritional needs of cats. Some lacked proper instructions, did not clearly identify the ingredients and some even contained products that are toxic to cats.

 

cat under sheets kitten

According to the article, about a decade ago toxic substances were found in cat food that was imported from China. This caused cat owners to stop using commercial cat food and switch to homemade food. (The same happened with dog food.)

The researchers point out that it is OK to feed your cat commercial foods. I suggest that you google sites that evaluate all brands of cat (or dog) foods to see which the best is. Avoid any food that is not made in the US and especially food that comes from China and possibly other countries. Since there has been contamination of produce for humans that originates from Mexico, I would be concerned if any pet food ingredients originate in Mexico as well. This is just my opinion. Keep in mind that the smaller the pet, the less toxic substances it will take to make the pet sick or cause death.

A possible cause of endocrine disorders in older cats

Dr. Miaomiao Wang, of the California Environmental Protection Agency has published a study of older cats in Northern California that suggested a link between higher levels of per and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances in cats with hyperthyroidism.

IMG_0507

PFAS is found in chemicals that are used in industrial processes and consumer products. These chemicals are found in many household products such protective coatings for carpets, furniture and apparel, paper coatings, and  insecticide formulations, just to name a few products.

More research is needed but it is a good idea to keep this in mind. If there are health issues from this chemical in cats, we have to suspect dogs as well. Dogs are more likely to chew these products than cats are.