Another beneficial job for dogs – detecting malaria

Because the malaria parasites cause people who are infected to have a distinctive odor, dogs have been trained to detect malaria from socks worn by the people infected. This study was conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Medical Research Council Unit the Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and experts from a charity, Medical Detection Dogs.

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While the use of dogs to detect malaria is not widespread, experts hope to be able to train more dogs and use them at ports of entry to detect people who are infected with malaria. It will also give health care professionals a fast and easy way to determine who has malaria in remote villages.

However, more tests need to be conducted to see if the dogs can detect different stages of malaria and also to see if the scent varies with malaria species in different parts of the world. I have no doubt that dogs will become the most useful tool to detect the early stages of malaria.

 

 

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K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery

K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery

By Vi Hummel Shaffer, ISBN:978-1-55059-762-2, Brush Education, 386 pgs.

$44.95

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This book was years in the making. Ms. Shaffer has compiled notes, interviews and her personal experience spanning over 26 years. Ms. Shaffer is a SAR/R dog trainer and handler specializing in forensic human remains detection. Her resume is too extensive to list here, trust me she has tons of experience.

The material in her book is well documented with notes, bibliography and additional sources. She also includes a list of suggested reading.

There are six major sections with multiple chapters in each section. All in all there are 38 sections.

The major headings are:

The Making of a TEAM: Building a Strong Foundation

Canine Abilities and Scent Detection

Instructors, Training and Certifications

Cadaver and Human Remains Detection

Disasters and Disaster Teams

Additional Issues

Ms. Shaffer has been part of a number of high-profile cases such as the Madalyn Murray O’Hair murder and the Pentagon bombing.

K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery is a must have for anyone who is interested in K9 SAR and forensic detective work using dogs.

K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search Dog Training Problems

I want to share with my loyal followers that my latest book, K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search Dog Problems, published by Brush Education, has won first place in the bi-annual National League of American Pen Women’s contest, in its category.

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Although this book is written primarily for SAR dogs, it can help owners and trainers of other working and sport dogs solve some of the training issues that they have. If you would like an autographed copy of my book please order it directly from my web site at http://www.sbulanda.com

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What’s in your dog’s treats?

Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy and other researchers analyzed 32 popular dog treats that could be purchased in pet shops and supermarkets. They examined 5 biscuit types, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five bovine skin rawhides, twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks.

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They analyzed the ingredients based on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines looking for the levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).

What they found were rather surprising and should be a caution to dog owners. Seventy-six percent of the treats contained 4 -9 ingredients that were not specifically listed on the label. For example, the classification “cereal” was listed but not what kind. Treats that were made of meat had “meat and animal derivatives” listed instead of which meat and what animal derivatives.

About half of the treats listed “sugars,” and all of them had various amounts of minerals. The researchers suggested that further studies be done on a wider variety of treats and most important, that dog owners who have dogs with sensitivities or diseases should exercise extreme caution when selecting and giving their dogs treats since the ingredients could cause medical issues for those dogs.

While on the topic of treats and chews, to test if the treat or chew is safe for your dog, put a piece of it in water and if it does not dissolve in five to ten minutes, there is a good chance that it will not dissolve in your dog’s intestines and can cause bowel blockage. High on the list of items that cause bowel blockage are rawhide, bones and other hard, chew items.

Hydrating Working Dogs

Dogs who work in hot weather such as border patrol dogs, search and rescue dogs as well as military dogs often become dehydrated when they work in hot environments.

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Handlers of these dogs do not agree about how to hydrate their dogs to prevent heat stroke and dehydration. There are three major ways that handlers hydrate their dogs.

  1. Free access to drinking water
  2. Subcutaneous hydration (a needle under the skin) of water and electrolytes
  3. Drinks containing electrolytes

Researchers studied all three methods and found that they all worked. However, they found that by using a chicken flavored electrolyte drink, even dogs who were reluctant to drink, would drink more liquid.

The researchers tested the dog’s urine and found that they passed the sodium and therefore did not have a buildup of sodium in their body which had been a concern about using electrolyte drinks. Thus, drinking a chicken flavored electrolyte drink did not have any negative effects on the dogs.

Dogs, wolves and some primates understand inequality

A new study by comparative psychologists at the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has illustrated that both dogs and wolves understand what it means to be treated unequally.

Previously, the studies that illustrated that dogs understood and reacted negatively to inequality, assumed that this reaction was due to domestication. The current study illustrates that this is not true because wolves  reacted the same way as dogs.

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The tests also showed that higher ranking wolves and dogs became frustrated more quickly when they perceived favoritism. Scientists assumed this is because they are not used to receiving lower quality rewards.

What makes this interesting is that the study illustrates that the animals being tested understand and recognize what a lower quality reward consists of. This means that they observed the differences in the rewards, were able to value the reward and determine that they were not getting as much.

The most exciting information from this experiment is how it illustrates an animal’s ability to think, reason and make decisions and judgements. For pet owners, it shows us that when we train our animals, the reward needs to be something valued by the animal. After all don’t people feel the same way too?

It is important to control how much weight your young dog retrieves

A study by the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna showed that young hunting dogs who are trained using  the same weight as adult dogs, can cause damage to the joints and tendons, especially of the front legs.

This is because the extra weight that young dogs carry causes them to tilt forward in much the same manner that a person would who was carrying a heavy load. The researchers felt that adult dogs are suited for carrying loads but young dogs that are growing should use adjusted weight instead of the same weight as adult dogs.

They suggested that young dogs in training be checked regularly by a specialist to be sure that there is no damage to joints, tendons and muscles.

It stands to reason that if a dog associates pain with an activity, he will not enjoy the job or game and may not perform to his best ability, especially if he is being trained for competition.

Although this study was conducted primarily on hunting retrievers, many breeds of dogs enjoy the game of fetch. This means that all dog owners who play fetch with their dogs should be aware of how much weight the object is and not allow young dogs to carry heavy objects.

I personally had a Border Collie who as an adult, loved to play with a bowling ball and would successfully put his canines in the holes and pick it up and carry it for a short distance. You never know what a dog will fancy and play with!

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Dogs Can Understand Vocabulary and the Intonation of Human Speech

The world was amazed by the accomplishments of Chaser the Border Collie. Chaser can identify 1022 toys by their name and retrieve them by category.

She also knows common nouns such as house, ball, and tree. What is more amazing is that she can learn new words by inferential reasoning by exclusion.

This means she can pick out an object that she has not been taught the name of by eliminating all the objects she knows.  She also understands sentences with multiple elements and has learned by imitation.

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Scientists have shown that Chaser is not unique in her ability to do these things. They have discovered that dogs understand both vocabulary and intonation of human speech using their left brain the same as people do. Prior to this research, it was thought that understanding words and intonations was something only humans could do, but that is not the case. The study also showed that dogs, like people, process words separately from intonation.

This is exciting because it shows us that our dogs (and possibly other animals) are far better able to understand what we say than many people realize. It also expands the horizon as far as how and what we can train our dogs to do.

However, does this mean that if we want to hide something from our dogs that we are talking about we will have to spell out the word? I can only imagine the conversation, “You know I made a v-e-t appointment for R-o-v-e-r for tomorrow.”

Noise sensitivity could be related to pain in dogs

Perhaps this is one of the more important discoveries in recent years. Researchers found that dogs who show noise fear and/or anxiety may be suffering from pain.

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Dogs who had underlying pain showed greater aversion to areas and a stronger reaction to noise. The researchers concluded that when the dog tenses or trembles from fear, the already underlying pain is made worse by the stress and pressure on the painful muscles and/or joints.

Often when this happens the dog associates the pain with the area or circumstances that he was in when the noise and pain occurred. They found that dogs who have pain associated with noise, associated the noise with a wider range of their environment. For example, if the dog associated pain with a piece of furniture in a room they may tend to avoid the entire room. They also tended to avoid other dogs.

What is very important to be aware of is that dogs who start to show noise fear or aversion later in life are more likely to also be suffering from underlying pain.

This study gives pet owners and veterinarians another tool to use to help diagnose pain that might otherwise be difficult to detect. Therefore, if you have an older dog who suddenly starts to react to noise, it is time for an in-depth examination by your veterinarian.

Dogs anticipate what they will find at the end of a scent trail

A new test conducted by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the Department for General Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (Institute of Psychology) at Friedrich Schiller University of Jena illustrated that dogs have a mental picture or an expectation of what they will find at the end of a scent trail based on the scent of the object.

The test was conducted on dogs (police and search and rescue dogs) trained to follow a scent as well as pets not trained to follow a scent. Both groups showed surprise when the object that they found was not the one used to lay the scent trail.

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Although this test was not intended to illustrate the mind of the dog, this is further evidence of the mental abilities of dogs showing that they anticipate what will happen in the future based on their surroundings. Many dog owners have seen this behavior in relation to other events. An example is the dog who can anticipate the arrival of a family member when that person comes home at about the same time every day.

It is exciting to anticipate what future studies will show us about the mind of animals.