Sleepovers for shelter dogs

A team of researchers from the Canine Science Collaboratory have determined that if volunteers take shelter dogs home for a few days, it reduces their stress level. The benefits of this mini-vacation last for a while after they are brought back to the shelter.

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The researchers found that the sleepovers provided a break for the dogs from the stress of the shelter. The team found that dogs in a shelter cannot get the sleep that they need because of how busy and noisy it is in a typical shelter.

The team is also looking into other programs that allow dogs to leave shelters, such as field trips and long-term foster care. With a grant from Maddie’s Fund, they are enrolling 100 animal shelters across the country in a study to understand how foster care impacts the dogs in shelters.

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Non-invasive test for liver disease in dogs

Veterinarians at the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies have worked with medical doctors to develop a blood test that can detect early liver disease in dogs. They based their studies on the molecule miR-122 which is found in humans who have liver disease.

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Their studies showed that dogs have the same molecule as humans and the team has developed a blood test that can be used on dogs.

Professor Richard Mellanby, who is the Head of Companion Animal Sciences at The Hospital for Small Animals at the University of Edinburgh has stated that the blood test provides a safe, non-invasive way to detect liver damage in dogs. Research in dogs has helped human illnesses many times, it is exciting that human tests can now help dogs.

What is important is that the blood test is safer to use than biopsies which can cause complications and can be expensive. I hope they continue the research to develop a blood test for cats and other pets.

Canine Leishmania infantum can be transmitted to humans

Dogs contract Leishmania infantum from sand flies. Once the dog has it, the parasite can be transmitted to humans, especially young children. Currently Leishmania is found in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. However, as other diseases have spread, in the future this may also be a risk in other countries.

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Leishmania is a multi-systemic disease that is difficult to treat. However, the good news is that Laura Willen, of Charles University, Czech Republic, and colleagues prepared an immunochromatographic test (ICT) to rapidly screen dogs for the presence of P. perniciosus, a sand fly saliva protein.

According to a report, “The typical history reported by owners of dogs with clinical disease due to L infantum includes the appearance of skin lesions, ocular abnormalities, or epistaxis. These are frequently accompanied by weight loss, exercise intolerance, and lethargy. The main physical examination findings are dermal lesions in 80%–90% of the dogs, lymphadenomegaly in 62%–90%, ocular disease in 16%–81%, splenomegaly in 10%–53%, and abnormal nail growth (onychogryphosis) in 20%–31%. Other clinical findings may include polyuria and polydipsia due to kidney disease, vomiting, colitis, melena, and lameness due to joint, muscle, or bone lesions. The sole presenting signs of disease could be epistaxis, ocular abnormalities, or manifestations of kidney disease without dermal abnormalities.”

Aromatherapy calms horses

In a recent experiment by Isabelle Chea, a then-undergraduate honors student at the UA, and Ann Baldwin, UA professor of physiology and psychology, found that sniffing lavender calmed horses. However, the calming affect only lasted while they were sniffing the vapor.

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Google free image

This is a good thing because the traditional method of calming a nervous horse is to use tranquilizers which remain in the horse after it is needed. However, sniffing the lavender can be used only when needed with no side or prolonged affects.

Professor Baldwin plans to try other scents and doses to see if they calm horses as well. I would love to see experiments on dogs and cats using various types of aromatherapy to calm them, especially for veterinarian visits.

Therapy dogs help children with ADHD

Many people have accepted the use of therapy dogs to help people in various ways. However, a study was done on children ages 7 -9 who were diagnosed with ADHD and had never taken medication to control it.

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Sabrina E. B. Schuck, PhD, MA, executive director of the UCI Child Development Center and assistant professor in residence in the Department of Pediatrics at UCI School of Medicine found that children with ADHD who received canine assisted intervention (CAI) experienced a reduction in inattention and an improvement in social skills.

They also found that the children who were in the CAI group had significantly fewer behavior problems over time than those treated without therapy dogs. This gives parents of children who do not want to use mediation an alternative treatment.

Male fertility drops in humans and dogs

According to research by the scientists at the University of Nottingham, there has been a 50% reduction in male fertility globally, for both humans and dogs. The study shows that there are two causes. One is DEHP a common plasticizer which is found in carpets, flooring, upholstery, clothes, wires and toys as well as the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB). Although it has been banned world-wide, it is still found in the environment, including in food.

Another study shows that most of PCB 153 (90%) is ingested through food. The foods likely to have it are, fish and fish products, including fish oils which have the highest amount. Next are milk, eggs and dairy products and meat and meat products.

Another report has shown that foxes and deer also have the PCB’s and DEHP in their bodies. How did they get them? If wildlife has been exposed to PCB’s what about other animals such as cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, etc.?

At the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollution (POP), PCBs were classified as POP’s and precipitating countries agreed to ban all production of PCB’s and to eliminate them by 2025. But that does not help us today or those exposed previously.

What comes to mind for me are the “editable” products that are sold as a way to clean your dog’s teeth. Most do not advertise that they are 100% digestible. What are the non-digestible ingredients? Are they plastic or some similar product?

Many dog toys are made of plastic. How does this fit into the picture? What about other chew toys made for dogs? Do they contain PCB’s and other harmful ingredients?  These are all things to consider.

This is important information for the dog breeder who may experience a problem with the male dogs in their breeding program. It could be the answer as to why.

The good news is that scientists are working on a solution to solve the drop in male fertility rate and both dogs and humans will benefit from it.

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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.

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.

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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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.

Lifelong learning is important for old dogs and cats

We know that it is critical for humans to learn new things and keep their mind active as they age. It goes a long way to help our minds from deteriorating and creates positive emotions helping to stave off depression.

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The same is true for our dogs and cats as they age. Unfortunately physical limitations may keep an older dog or cat from participating in physical activities or even being physically unable to learn new tricks. However, Cognitive biologists from the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni Vienna have developed a form of K9  “sudoku” to help old dogs stay mentally active.

Using a computer touch screen, they have developed a reward-based brain teaser. Once the dogs learn to use the touch screen the ones tested became avid computer gamers. The success of the project in the laboratory has led researchers to hope that industry will be motivated to develop the touch screen games for home use.

In the meantime, dog owners and cat owners (cats have the same mental needs as dogs) can set up treat puzzles or interactive games for their pets. There are some on the market that work well. You can google “treat puzzles for dogs or cats” to find them.

The main thing is to keep your aging pets mentally active. It will enrich their lives and keep their normal skills sharp.