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.

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.

scan0018

Animals can tell time!

Almost all pet owners have noticed that their pet seems to know what time it is. The dog or cat that waits for a family member to arrive home from school or work. Or they let you know exactly the time they normally get fed. They also let you know when it is time for any other daily routine. In the past it was assumed that they saw signals in the behavior of their human house mates. Or the theory was that they recognized the sound of your vehicle and knew that you were near. All of this can be part of the explanation for some events. But then there were those events that did not fit with the theories. Events that had no logical explanation, except that somehow, animals knew what time it was. Over the years, I have seen all of my pets, dogs, cats and birds indicate that they knew when things were supposed to happen. Not only the time of the day, but the day of the week.

dscn1701

Researchers have discovered strong evidence that animals can tell time. A study led by Daniel Dombeck, an associate professor of neurobiology in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience explains the discovery.

According to Dombeck “As the animals run along the track and get to the invisible door, we see the cells firing that control spatial encoding, then, when the animal stops at the door, we see those cells turned off and a new set of cells turn on. This was a big surprise and a new discovery.”

What I can share with you from personal experience and supports this discovery is this: I am profoundly deaf, and cannot hear an alarm clock, (I can barely hear without hearing aids). If I need to get up at a certain time in the morning, I only have to decide what time I want to get up and I will wake up at the exact minute, no matter how tired I may be. As far as I am concerned, Dombeck’s discovery is the only explanation about how I can do this.

According to Dombeck, “So this could lead to new early-detection tests for Alzheimer’s, we could start asking people to judge how much time has elapsed or ask them to navigate a virtual reality environment — essentially having a human do a ‘door stop’ task.” Again, animal research has the potential of helping people. Because many people suffer from Alzheimer’s, it could help a vast number of people.

 

Asthma – Children – Pets

A recent study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital to determine if second-hand smoke and living with a pet had a role in controlling severe asthma in children, found interesting results.

In the past if a child had asthma and the family had a pet, the family was often encouraged to get rid of the pet. This is a heartbreaking situation. If the child is old enough to realize that it is because of them that the pet was re-homed, it could cause the child to feel as though they are the blame. This feeling of guilt on top of the grief of losing the pet can be very difficult for a child to deal with.

Scout & Tom

However, the most recent study has shown that if the child’s asthma is managed per NAEPP (EPR-3) guidelines that second-hand smoke and pets do not cause the asthma to get worse or prevent it from improving.

This is very good news for families where a child, or even a family member, suffers from asthma. It also means that a child who has asthma does not have to be denied the joy of owning a pet.

Pet Health Insurance

I received an interesting email from Nate Matherson about his PetsQuote, a pet insurance and general pet advice web site https://petsquote.com/

I think the concept is a good one because I know how difficult it was for me to decide which pet insurance to get for my dog. What caught my attention is that Nate has a very interesting article about bird insurance. I know from personal experience that avian veterinarian visits can be as costly as veterinarian visits for dogs and cats.

Veterinarian care for birds is critical since they often do not show illnesses until they are very sick. Regular yearly checkups for birds are just as important as it is for other pets.

Many people do not realize that some of the large bird species are very expensive to purchase, so bird lovers have a significant investment in their pet birds. Not to mention that they love their birds as much as dog and cat owners.

Currently my home consists of two dogs, one cat and five birds. Quite a mix! And yes, they all get along.

I hope Nate’s site will help some of you find the right insurance to help keep your pets healthy.

https://petsquote.com/pet-insurance-for-birds/

scan0021

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.

Animals can identify both time and space

Edward Wasserman, Professor of Experimental Psychology in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa has determined that pigeons use a common area of the brain to judge space and time. This suggests that these abstract concepts are not processed separately.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Parrotlet “Sweet Pea”

To determine this, the pigeons were put through the “common magnitude” test. This is where the birds were shown (on a computer) a horizontal line either 6 cm or 24 cm long for either 2 seconds or 8 seconds. When they correctly pecked one of four visual symbols, the length or the duration of the line, they received food.

This compares with a person’s ability to determine space and time without the use of a watch or ruler. Other animals that have been tested have also shown this ability.

One common example that almost all pet owners have witnessed is when their pet knows that they are coming home each day. The dog or cat who waits for their owner to come home from work at the same time each day exhibits what the researchers have tested in pigeons.

There is so much about animals that we are still learning. If only they could talk and tell is what is on their minds!

A new species of parrot discovered in Mexico

Dr. Miguel A. Gómez Garza found a new species of parrot in 2014. This parrot has a distinctive shape, color, call and behavior. Dr. Garza found the parrot in a remote part of Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. It is referred to as the “blue winged” parrot.

Its call is a loud, sharp, short, repetitive and monotonous one. It lives in small flocks of a dozen or less and the offspring tend to stay together in groups.

Like other parrots, its diet consists of fruits, flowers, seeds and leaves, the same as other parrots. It is exciting to find a new species and that there are new species of animals and plants that we have yet to discover.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170627073607.htm

Play laugh in Kea’s, a New Zealand parrot

Dogs do it, rats do it and chimps do it, why not birds? A new study has determined that the Kea, a New Zealand parrot has a “play laugh” that will get other Kea’s to play with them.

Researchers felt that the play laugh was infectious making other birds play with each other. If a bird heard the play laugh and had no one to play with, they would play by themselves. The researchers plan to study more about this aspect of the Kea’s behavior. What is interesting is that this is the first time a researcher has discovered play laughter in a bird. All other research showed it in mammals.

However, this should not be surprising, anyone who has owned multiple birds has seen them play together or at the same time but this is the first time a call or sound has been connected with the behavior

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170320122838.htm