Artificial intelligence can now analyze animal behavior

Researchers at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich have developed an automated way to analyze the recordings of animal behavior. The program uses computer vision and machine learning that can distinguish individual animals. The AI program can identify specific behaviors such as curiosity, fear, stress, anxiety and discomfort and harmonious social interactions.

Google free images

The advantage is that this technique can be used by many scientists which will allow them to compare results. It saves the researchers hours of viewing recordings of animals.

The application will be especially useful for the animals kept in zoos to determine their behavior and detect any problems that might go unnoticed by zoo keepers.

Author’s Note: Perhaps this will lead the way for veterinarians to better able to detect pain in pets.

Exploring a vegan diet for dogs

Many people are vegan’s and would prefer to feed their dogs an all-vegan diet. However, the traditional belief was that dogs were carnivores and need to eat meat. However, in reality dogs are omnivores and need a balanced diet. A recent study of 2500 dogs to determine the difference between a conventional diet, raw meat diet and vegan diet had some interesting results.

Dogs on a raw meat diet were healthier than those on a vegan diet and those on conventional diet were the least healthy. However, it should be noted that the researchers felt that the data was not conclusive because the dogs on raw meat diets were younger and less likely to be taken to a veterinarian. The researchers felt that people who had dogs on raw meat diets were less likely to seek veterinarian advice.      

The researchers felt that more studies need to be conducted. They agreed that feeding a raw meat diet has been linked to an increased risk of pathogens and nutritional deficiencies. They also considered that a nutritionally sound vegan diet may be the healthiest and least hazardous diet for dogs.  

Authors Note: Sifting through the dog food maze can be daunting. No pet food survey agrees which foods are the best. I have seen brands come and go, some start as top quality then change their formula to a very low quality. I have always believed that supplementing a high-quality commercial diet (which provides the balanced nutrients a dog needs) with table scraps (the highest quality food you can give a dog) with raw fruit and vegetables gives a dog all that they need. The brands of dog food that my research has shown to be the best are Wysong and Annamaet.

Adverse reactions to anesthetics in dogs

Some dogs have adverse reactions to the drugs used in anesthetics. This is due to a rare genetic mutation that originally was associated with Greyhounds, but further research shows that other breeds as well as mixed breeds have the mutation. These dogs also have difficulty breaking down other drugs as well as those used in anesthesia.

The mutation was also found in dogs related to Greyhounds such as the Borzoi, Scottish Deerhound, Italian Greyhound, and the Whippet. It was also discovered in Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and a few other breeds. These dogs have difficulty breaking down commonly used anesthetics midazolam, ketamine and propofol.    

Fortunately, the scientists and veterinarians at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are developing a cheek swab to identify dogs who have the genetic mutation.  

Knee injuries in dogs

Dogs who compete in agility and flyball and lack core strength have a higher rate of cranial cruciate ligament rupture which is similar to ACL in people.

According to Dr. Deb Sellon, a Washington State University veterinarian, some types of exercises and the size and shape of the dog increase the risk of knee damage. The exercises that increased the risk were short walks, runs over hilly or flat terrain, even if done on a weekly basis. The exercises that seem to help build core strength are balance exercises, and wobble boards. Dogs that competed frequently in agility at a higher level (more technically rigorous courses) built more core strength.

good core strength for SAR training

Regular exercise such as swimming, playing fetch or frisbee, walking or running didn’t increase or decrease the risk of injury.

It seems that Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers and Australian Cattle dogs were high risk breeds. The researchers also felt that having or not having a tail could be a factor.

Prostate cancer, dogs and humans

There is a new development that could lead to better treatment and even a cure for prostate cancer in men, thanks to dogs.

Dog share similar biological conditions as humans with prostate cancer. Older dogs suffer from this cancer the same as men. Scientists at the University of Tokyo have discovered that dogs are more similar to humans than mice. This has enabled them to develop an antibody drug that is cloned from other white blood cells that blocks the CCR4 receptor. Pre-clinical studies have shown this therapy to be successful, thus helping dogs and potentially men too. Dogs are again man’s best friend.

How old is your dog, really?

The old standard that one year of a dog’s age equals seven years in human age, is not true. Consider that some dogs live to be 20 and others are very short-lived. Dogs also share many of the medical issues associated with aging that people have. To further understand the aging process in dogs, a team of scientists are studying “normal” aging in dogs to unravel the aging process. They want to understand what makes one dog live longer than another.

The Dog Aging Project, (DAP) will conduct their studies for at a minimum of ten years to unravel the mysteries of canine aging. So far, they have studied more than 32,000 dogs, all pets privately owned.

They are especially interested in studying 300 of the oldest dogs. Pet owners can join the project by going to: https://dogagingproject.org

Very shortly the research team plans to open their huge data base which will be completely anonymized, to scientists around the world. As usual, new information about aging and health issues in dogs will help with medical research in people, and perhaps other animals as well.

How did small dogs become small?

The popular belief is that people domesticated dogs and then decided to breed them smaller, working down from the larger dogs. But the latest research has shown that this may not be true. The gene for small dogs existed long before dogs were domesticated.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have identified a mutation in a gene related to the growth hormone that causes small body sizes in the DNA of a 54,000-year-old wolf which existed before domestication.

Today’s dogs only have 25 known genes that regulate body size, making it easier for researchers to further investigate how they work. Future studies may help breeders produce better dogs with less defects.

This study is important because it shows that the common belief that purebred dogs have more defects than mixed breed dogs is not always true. This study illustrates those defects such as size, existed pre-breed creation. Also, by identifying and understanding the gene that causes size defects such as dwarfism, which exists in humans and dogs, then there may be a future way to identify and possibly prevent these defects.

Dogs can suffer from ADHD and OCD

Dogs share many things with humans, both in their physical and mental health. It is important to understand that your dog’s behavior may not be deliberate on the dog’s part, or a result of his environment, but a result of a type of mental illness.

A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Helsinki, found that dogs suffer from hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention similar to the behavior of humans who have ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The researchers found that a dog’s age and gender combined with the owner’s experience made a difference in the 11,000 dogs studied. Hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention were more common in young dogs and male dogs, the same as young children and males in humans.   

The researchers also found that dogs suffer from an Obsessive/Compulsive type behavior that mirrors the same disorder in humans. OCD often shows up in people who suffer from ADHD as well. In dogs it can manifest itself as such behavior as: continuous tail chasing, licking objects or themselves and staring at things.

The researchers also noted that certain breeds of dog are more likely to exhibit ADHD and OCD behaviors than others.

It is important to understand that if a dog exhibits these behaviors, that they cannot help themselves and should not be punished or otherwise subjected to aversive training methods to try and change the behavior(s). If a dog exhibits ADHD or OCD related behaviors, contact a certified canine behavior consultant for help. However, it would be diligent to the prospective dog owner to carefully research different breeds and breeders. Also avoid designer breeds, they are typically not well bred and are often a mix of puppy mill stock. If anyone would like my free brochure about how to find the right breed and breeder, please feel free to contact me.

Help for overweight dogs

Many people tend to overfeed their dogs. This is especially a risk when there are children in the household. Dogs are very willing to eat all dropped food and older children tend to sneak their dog treats or share what they are eating with them. Guess what, adults do the same thing as well.

If the dog is a large dog, they can often handle the extra food. But small dogs cannot and quickly become overweight. Because owners do not weight their dogs at home, the weight can slowly accumulate until one day the owner notices that the dog has gotten fat.

The other contributing factor to overweight in dogs is that owners often do not exercise the dog as much as they need. Bigger dogs need longer exercise sessions since their stride covers more ground than a small dog. Many people do not have the stamina or space to properly exercise a large dog.

Just like people, dogs suffer health issues from being overweight. It can be hard for an owner to put their dog on a diet. Those begging eyes are hard to resist when you know that your dog is hungry because you have put them on a diet.

The good news is that a study conducted at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus has found that by putting a dog on a reduced calorie – high protein and fiber diet for 24 weeks reduced weight in dogs. It also showed that dogs body composition and inflammatory markers changed for the better and they did not lose muscle mass.

Keep a close watch on your dog, especially if family members tend to share their food with the dog to make sure that they are not gaining too much weight. If they do, consult with your veterinarian to determine which dietary food your dog should be on. With extra care, you can help your dog live a long, healthy life.

Budget-Friendly Tips for Keeping Pets Healthy During Cold Weather by guest blogger Brandon Butler

The weather is cooling, and although most four-legged creatures enjoy a break from summer’s heat just as much as us two-legged creatures do, fall and winter can also pose certain dangers to our furry friends. Not all animals are equally equipped for cool temperatures, and your pet might need a little extra help to stay healthy and comfortable.

While a great fitting jacket or cozy pjs can be a great start on cold weather comfort, there is often more to it than that. With that in mind, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant Susan Bulanda presents some tips for giving them what they need without breaking the bank:

Stock Up on Basics

One important step towards keeping your furry friends safe in the cooler season is to stock up on basic supplies like food and any medications your pet needs. If you wind up stuck in inclimate weather, having a stockpile set aside can keep your pet happy and your stress levels low. Moreover, buying in bulk might cost more up front, but it can save you money in the long run.

Look for discounts online like a Chewy promo code to build a budget-friendly pet supply stockpile. Keep extra food somewhere cool and dry so it stays fresh for your pal. If your pet takes any medications, talk to your vet about getting extra before the cold season hits.

Stay On Top of Grooming

Many animals go through a cool-season shed. This allows them to grow out their thick winter coats. Although this is a vital tool for keeping them warm and cozy, it can be tough on them without proper grooming. Long-hair pets in particular can develop mats and hairballs, both of which are uncomfortable and have the potential to cause serious problems.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Some animals will need professional grooming once a season to remove blown-out coats. Look for affordable groomers in your area to find a good fit for your budget. If your buddy gets anxious at the groomers, try a natural relaxation technique like massage or essential oils to help them calm down for their big salon day.

Dress Your Pet for the Weather

Dogs in sweaters aren’t just extremely adorable – they’re also well-prepped for harsh temps. If your dog isn’t a cool-weather breed, it’s important to make sure they’re properly dressed for cold weather when you take them out for walks. This means doggy jackets and well-fitting boots. The dog-lovers over at Cuteness remind us that dogs can easily get frostbite on their paws if they’re not properly protected – after all, you wouldn’t want to walk barefoot in the snow, would you?

If you have a very young or senior pet, it’s especially important to get them something cozy when it’s cold. According to Dogster, these animals don’t have the ability to regulate body temperature their counterparts have, so their body temperature can drop dangerously in chilly conditions. If you have the skills, a great way to save money on pet clothes is to DIY your own designs. There are a ton of knitting, crocheting, and sewing patterns out there for the interested crafter.

If you want to give your pet a little extra coziness this winter, an indoor dog house may do just the trick. Just make sure you read up on the different available products to ensure you’re getting one suited to your dog’s size and temperament. The last thing you want is to spend money on something your pet will destroy in a matter of days.

Get a Checkup

Finally, consider scheduling your pet’s yearly check up for the start of fall. This will give you the chance to make sure they’re in good shape for the winter, as well as an opportunity to ask your vet if there are any other steps you can take to keep them healthy over the cooler months. Regular checkups keep your pet (and your wallet) safe by catching issues before they’re too serious, and more expensive to treat.

Keeping your furry friend healthy during winter is just one way to show them how much you love them. Think ahead before the weather gets rough so you have a plan for any possibility. You and your pet deserve to have a wonderful winter together!