Goats can read human faces and prefer people who smile!

Although Dr Alan McElligott is currently based at the University of Roehampton, he led the study at Queen Mary University of London to determine if goats react to human facial expressions. He found that goats would rather interact with people who smile and are happy. The study further showed that goats use the left hemisphere of their brain to react to positive facial expressions.

ness bowling1

Anyone who works with goats recognizes that they are very attuned to human body language, but this study shows that goats recognize facial expressions and the emotions that they represent. Past studies have shown that dogs, birds and horses also have this ability.

Goats, horses, birds  and dogs  represent a wide spectrum of the animal kingdom. It stands to reason that many other animals, both domestic and wild have the same abilities to some degree. The challenge is to devise a way to test a wider range of animals and birds. It is exciting to be able to understand more about the animals that we love and anticipate what future studies will teach us.

Advertisements

Toxoplasma gondii in cats and humans

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii (TG) is widely spread, infecting about 30 – 50% of the world human population. The main host for TG is our beloved pet cats and cats in general. The parasite is transported to humans by eating insufficiently cooked meat or by contact with cat feces, putting the parasite in the stomach. From there it passes through the intestinal wall. Next our immune cells attack it but instead of killing it, they become “Trojan horses.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

People who have impaired immune systems and unborn fetuses that are infected with Toxoplasmosis have a high risk of death. However healthy people may show only mild symptoms.

Studies have shown that carriers of TG have more instances of mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. Other studies have illustrated that people who are infected with TG may be more prone to aggressive and risky behavior.  This is because TG will eventually get into a person’s brain.

The good news is that since the scientists at Stockholm University have unraveled the mystery of how TG works and is transported, they have found that when mice are infected with TG and given regular blood pressure medicine, it inhibits its spread.

Feline Epilepsy

Many people realize that dogs can have epileptic seizures, but do not realize the cats can suffer from epilepsy as well. There are two general types of epilepsy, intracranial epilepsy, which is caused by defects in the brain on a cellular level and is more common in dogs and humans, but seems to be rare in cats, and extracranial which are seizures due to injuries outside the skull.

IMG_0236

Seizures in cats are usually caused by brain tumors, infractions or even a stroke. Sometimes the cause of the seizures can be due to kidney disease, liver disease, hypoglycemia and exposure to toxins and poisons.

Some signs of an epileptic event are:

Blank stare

Shake one leg

Cry out in pain

Falling to one side

Uncontrollable Urinating or Defecating

Paddling their feet

Loss of consciousness

Jaw chomping

Become clingy to owner

Shake

Undue restlessness

Unusual salivation

Loss of vision temporally

If your cat shows any of the above signs an immediate visit to your veterinarian is warranted.

Idiopathic epilepsy usually shows up between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age. Seizures are most likely to occur when the cat is resting or asleep, in the morning or at night.

Seizures that are a result of an injury will show up after the injury. The treatment will depend on the cause of the seizure and may require a battery of tests since the seizures can result from various diseases.

If your cat suffers from seizures, keep a log of when the seizure starts and when it ends. It is also a good idea to take note of any environmental events that could have caused the seizure.

If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes get the cat to the veterinarian right away, this is an emergency. If your cat is diagnosed as being epileptic, do not panic. Be sure to have a plan for when the seizure occurs to keep the cat safe, in a place where the cat cannot get hurt. Cats will not swallow their tongue so there is no need to put anything in their mouth. Keep in mind that your cat may take a few hours to return to normal behavior.

By understanding the nature of your cat’s seizures, you can help your cat live a safe, long and normal life. While seizures are frightening to look at, with your veterinarian’s help, they can be controlled.

 

 

Dog ownership lessens risk of heart disease

In a unique Swedish study, researchers found that people who owned dogs had a lower mortality rate then those who did not. They also found that people who lived alone and owned a dog had less cardiovascular diseases then people who lived alone who did not own a dog.

36scan0036

The researchers studied 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 making this a comprehensive comparison. What the study did not show was why there was a difference between dog ownership and non-dog ownership.

One possibility considered was that people who own dogs are more active because they walk their dogs. There was also no indication as to whether or not there were other factors such as the type of people who own dogs vs those who do not.

However, the bottom line is that dog ownership, again, has proven to benefit the health of their owners. It would be interesting to study how growing up with a dog or pet affects the health of children as adults if they continue to own a pet vs those who get a dog or pet later in life. We know that children who own pets are less prone to developing allergies. It would be interesting to know what other physical and mental benefits pet ownership has on children.

Allergies in Pets

All types of pets, just like people, can suffer from allergies. Unfortunately, pets cannot tell us when they feel poorly. We must look for the symptoms.

There are a few common types of allergies in pets but not all are true allergies, some may be sensitivities which can be as bothersome as a full-blown allergy.

frame013

Skin Allergies are the most common type and are usually caused by flea bites, food and things in their environment.

Flea allergies are the easiest to find and stop. By keeping your pet free of fleas, you can prevent the allergic reactions. If fleas are the problem you may see red and inflamed skin, scabbing, and flea dirt which looks like small black dots.

Flea dirt or droppings are digested blood so if you put one in a drop of water it will turn red. To get rid of the fleas you need to consult with your veterinarian as well as an exterminator. The veterinarian will help make your pet more comfortable and control the fleas, however, if your pet has fleas, they will be in your home. You must use an exterminator, or the fleas will come back because at this point they have infested your house. The eggs are microscopic and will hatch periodically.

Sometimes various foods can cause sensitivities that are not full allergic reactions. Typically, food related allergies and sensitivities manifest themselves by causing the pet’s skin to itch. This usually happens around their paws and ears. Sometimes they can get an upset stomach as well. The usual culprits are beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy and milk.

Environmental allergens are often the same ones that bother people. Things like dust, mold, and pollen are often seasonal, so you may not see the allergic reaction year-round. The typical areas that are affected are: paws, ears, wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and between the toes.

Although it is more rare, acute allergic reactions can be a result of bee stings or shots. For this reason keep a close eye on your pet after being vaccinated. Signs can be facial, throat, lips, eyelids or earflap swelling. Any of these signs should be an immediate visit to your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Always have the phone number and address of your nearest emergency clinic handy.

Overall, the general signs of allergies or sensitivities are:

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking

It is critical that you take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any sign of an allergy or sensitivity. If your pet continues to scratch, rub or bite an area of his body, it can lead to other types of infections, not to mention that your pet may feel miserable. Keep in mind that allergies and sensitivities can develop at any time in a pet’s life, therefore you must be vigilant and watch for any signs that they have developed.

Allergies and sensitivities will often affect your pet’s behavior which you may be the first thing you notice. If your pet seems a bit withdrawn, sullen, irritable, not as interested in playing, it would be a good idea to pay close attention and look for signs of allergies or other illnesses. It is always wise to err on the side of caution and schedule a visit to your veterinarian rather than wait until your pet becomes more uncomfortable. Because of the potential seriousness of allergies, it is not in your pet’s best interest to try and treat them yourself.

Like people, pets can lead a happy normal life with allergies if they are treated and if possible, prevented.

 

 

Delayed weaning makes cats better companions

According to a study conducted by Professor Hannes Lohi’s research group at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Faculty of Medicine as well as at the Folkhälsan Research Centre, cats have less behavior problems if they are allowed to stay with their mother until 14 weeks of age.

Professor Lohi’s group studied about 6000 cats and learned that behavior problems are more widespread than expected. They found that 80+% of the cats surveyed had mild behavior problems while 25% had serious behavior problems. The problems included shyness, wool sucking, excessive grooming and aggression.

IMG_0231

The study found that cats weaned under the age of 8 weeks had more aggression issues and other behavior problems. Those weaned at 14 weeks had fewer behavior problems.

Early weaning seemed to manifest itself in aggression which according to the study, suggests changes in the neurotransmitters of the basal ganglia. What this means to the person who owns a cat who exhibits aggressive behavior as a result of early weaning, is that the behavior is not a result of the cat’s experience but is rather “hard wired.” Behavior modification in this case will not produce the same results as it will with a cat who is aggressive because of trauma or experiences.

This should be taken into consideration when adopting kittens who are very young and/or who were feral or barn cats. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they may have been forced to be weaned prior to 14 weeks.

Allowing kittens to stay with their mother and litter for two more weeks is an inexpensive, easy way to help cats and cat owners have a long happy relationship.

Can humans identify the emotions of all air-breathing animals?

A study by researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Ruhr-Universität Bochum, in collaboration with colleagues from Alberta, Canada, and Vienna, Austria, say yes!

Humans are capable of identifying the emotions of all air-breathing beings via the sounds that they make.

frame011

The research team headed by Dr Piera Filippi, currently at the University of Aix-Marseille and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, included, among others, three academics from Bochum: philosophy scholar Prof. Dr. Albert Newen, biopsychologist Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Onur Güntürkün and assistant professor Dr Sebastian Ocklenburg.

To test their theory, they used 75 people whose native language was English, German or Mandarin. The participants listened to audio recordings of nine different species of land-living vertebrates to include, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, and birds.

The participants were able to identify both high and low levels of arousal in all species. This suggests that there is a universal ability to communicate emotions. If humans can identify the emotions of other animals, it stands to reason that this ability is not unique to humans and that all animals have the ability.

Of course, pet owners have seen this to be true with their pets. They always seem to know how we feel and we know how they feel.

Indoor dogs and cats have a higher rate of certain diseases

Keeping a dog mostly indoors and cats exclusively indoors typically benefits the pet by reducing their exposure to communicable diseases that can be caught from other animals and insects. Yet researchers have found that dogs and cats kept indoors suffer from a higher rate of diabetes, kidney disease and hypothyroidism compared with pets that are kept outdoors.

DSCN1407

The researchers tested 58 varieties of dog and cat food as well as 60 urine samples from dogs and cats and found certain parabens, which are a preservative, in the food and urine samples. They discovered that the highest level of parabens were methyl paraben and the metabolite called 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (4-HB). Parabens are used as preservatives both in human and pet food as well as cosmetics. The use of them is regulated by the FDA.

The researchers found that there were higher levels in dry dog food and less in wet food. Cat food had the highest levels. The researchers also determined that dogs are exposed to parabens through non-food sources as well as food, whereas a cat’s exposure was only from food.

This is the first study to consider the affects of paraben on diseases in dogs and cats. More research is needed to further examine the initial findings.

Female cats react differently to unrelated distressed kittens than male cats

Wiebke Konerding the lead researcher at the Hannover Medical School and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany studied the reaction of male vs female cats to distress calls of unrelated kittens.

1pluskat

Interestingly, the more distressed the kittens were, the more the female cats reacted, even if they had not raised kittens themselves. The researchers found that there was no difference between the response of male or female cats to low arousal calls from kittens. But there was a difference to high arousal calls. Only female cats reacted differently.

The study implies that the ability of adult cats to react differently to emotional cues from kittens is ingrained and not due to experience. The kittens used in the experiment were not related to either the male or female cats.

Further research is needed to determine if adult cats react differently to their own kittens then they do to unrelated kittens.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160812073702.htm