Always Something To Be Thankful For – No Bones About It by guest blogger, Vi Shaffer

Yes, times are tough right now. But there is always something to be thankful for.
So, on this Thanksgiving, why not give thanks for everything you have – regardless
of how little – instead of dwelling on what you don’t have? If you are missing
someone or something, be thankful they, or it, are or have been a part of your
life. Among the things to be thankful for, many people include their dogs or other
pets. Nevertheless, some people don’t like dogs for whatever reason(s) they may
have. But an individual doesn’t have to be a “dog person” to be kind to them and
recognize and appreciate all the ways they contribute to human welfare. Just
think of the service animals, detection dogs, patrol dogs, cattle and sheep dogs,
search dogs, and those dogs who give comfort or alleviate the loneliness of
others.

Yes, dogs come with needs, as does every living thing. Along with food, shelter,
and affection, caring for your dog includes protecting them from harmful things.
That brings up the double usage of “no bones about it” in my column heading.
Not all bones, whether cooked or uncooked, are good for dogs – especially bones
from turkey, chicken, and other fowl. Those types can cause choking, indigestion,
or obstructions in their digestive system, or worse – splinter and perforate the
dog’s organs.

As difficult as it is for some to ignore those sweet pleading eyes of a pooch while a
Thanksgiving meal is being prepared or served – don’t give in to them. Giving in to
their wants of nibbles may be unhealthy, and counter-surfers can be sneaky and
grab things they shouldn’t have. So be wary. However, you can include your dog
in the festivities with a Thanksgiving dinner – only not one the same as yours.
Instead, give them a plate with small amounts of boneless white turkey meat,
unseasoned potatoes, and vegetables – but no onions or stuffing/dressing. For
those dog lovers who want to give them dessert too – a small amount of
unseasoned pumpkin is good for them – but not that spiced pie filling, and do not
give them chocolate, things that have a lot of sugar – or anything that contains the
artificial sweetener Xylitol. Xylitol can be deadly for your dog!
Afterward, it might be tempting to scrape the scraps off all the plates into your
dog’s food dish – don’t. That also pertains to adding dark meat, the skin of the

turkey or chicken, or rich gravy to their kibble. Although your dog will gobble it up
and enjoy every bite – too much fat can cause stomach pain and digestive issues –
possibly serious pancreatitis.

Remember to emphasize to your family members and guests, including children,
the dangers of giving your dog unsafe food.
It’s easy to be distracted by everything going on in your household, so if children
are present, for safety, it is wise to ask a specific person to keep an eye on them –
especially since kids tend to run in and out of the house playing. You don’t want
to spend your afternoon worried, walking or driving around looking for your pet
that escaped because someone left the door open – or got out of the yard
because it was frightened by all the commotion. It is also important that guests
who bring their dog make sure it is wearing a collar with contact information. If
possible, have them include your contact number if they are from out of town.
Too many dogs manage to get out and become lost when visiting at this time of
year.

In addition, children playing with your dog need watching so they don’t do
anything that will possibly hurt the dog or make the dog snap at them or worse.
And speaking of snapping – arguments have erupted between family members
and friends because of so many opinions in one place. From family matters to
football to politics – raised voices may put your dog in a protective mode,
believing you are being threatened. If that occurs, it’s wise to put your dog in
another room or his kennel where he is away from the ruckus and will feel safe.
That way, you can partake in the “discussions” or scream and cheer without
worry, and your dog will be relieved from the noise. Happy Thanksgiving.

Separation anxiety in dogs

Researchers have recently determined that separation anxiety is a symptom of various frustrations rather than a diagnosis. The key symptoms of separation anxiety are: destruction of household items, urinating or defecating indoors and excessive barking.

The team of scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK found that there are four main forms of distress when dogs are separated from their owners. These include when the dog wants to get away from something in the house, or they want to get to something outside. It can also be a reaction to external noises or events as well as simple boredom.   

A combination of factors such as the dog’s temperament and the type of relationship it has with the owner will determine whether or not a dog will develop separation anxiety.

Sue’s Note: Dog owners often create separation anxiety in dogs by making dramatic arrivals and departures from their home. It helps to prevent this problem by making arrivals and departures as calm and non-specific as possible. If a dog owner notices any of the behaviors listed above, do not wait to engage the help of a certified canine behavior consultant. The longer the behavior is allowed to continue the harder it will be to cure. Cats can also suffer from separation anxiety. To find a qualified behavior consultant go to iaabc.org

Because of the unique combination of issues that contribute or cause separation anxiety, diagnosing the problem is difficult therefore a dog owner should not try to solve the problem themselves or go to a dog trainer since this is not a training issue.

Hearing loss in dogs

People often think that if a dog is not born deaf, the dog will be OK. Certain breeds of dogs, those with the merle, piebald and harlequin coat colors, such as Dalmatians, Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Cattle Dogs and Great Danes for example, have a high instance being born deaf. The Baer test on puppies born in these breeds can determine if a dog is deaf or not. However, dogs can suffer from hearing loss, much the same as people.

A dog can lose its hearing if the hair cells in the cochlea or if the eardrum and the small bones are damaged. Dr. Kari Foss, a veterinarian neurologist/professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studied a gun dog, sniffer dog and a police dog and found that they had a hearing loss.

My deaf collie and I many years ago

Hearing loss can result from being exposed to loud noises, illness and old age. In some cases, the hearing loss can be cured, such as those due to infections or illness.

Dr. Foss stresses that many people miss the signs that their dog is suffering from hearing loss. Dog owners should take note if their dog fails to respond when called, sleeping through sounds that they would normally respond to, being startled at loud noise that did not bother them before, barking excessively or making unusual vocal sounds. If a dog is deaf in one ear, they may have trouble locating the source of sounds.

If you suspect that your dog has a hearing loss, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinarian. There is a chance that the problem can be corrected. However, if the loss is permanent, you can ensure that your dog stays safe by taking precautions. Dogs can live a safe and happy life even if they are deaf, or partially deaf.

Canine coat color, surprising genetics

If a purebred dog is born with a coat color that it is not supposed to have, it may be due to hidden genes. Kari Ekenstedt, DVM, Ph.D. who is the assistant professor of anatomy and genetics, along with Dayna Dreger, Ph.D., lead researchers in Ekenstedt’s canine genetics research laboratory studied 212 different dog breeds and found that gene variants caused breeds to have traits that the breed standard did not allow. These included coat color, and other traits. For example, they found that 48 different breeds had the tailless gene variant, such as the Dachshund. Although the variant was low, it is possible that a Dachshund could be born tailless.  

One of the “fault” alleles allows the brown color. This allele produces the chocolate Labrador Retriever, yet the researchers found the same allele in breeds that do not allow the brown color, such as the German Shepherd and Rottweiler.

The lesson learned from this study is that if a puppy is born that is not what the breed standard calls for, it is not necessarily due to “bad” breeding, but the expression of a trait that was hidden and has surfaced.

Hearing loss in dogs

A number of breeds of dogs, mostly those breeds that have the merle, piebald or white coats, are prone to deafness. However, dogs that are subjected to frequent loud noise can suffer from hearing loss the same as people. This is referred to as noise-induced hearing loss.

A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by Dr. Kari Foss, found that working dogs such as police, sniffer and gun dogs are a strong candidate to suffer from hearing loss. According to Foss,

“Most commonly, noise-induced hearing loss results from damage to the hair cells in the cochlea that vibrate in response to sound waves,” Foss said. “However, extreme noise may also damage the eardrum and the small bones within the inner ear, called the ossicles.”

         The most common signs that a dog is losing his ability to hear are when the dog fails to respond to commands, or they sleep through noise that would normally wake them up. They may bark excessively or make unusual sounds. Sometimes a dog may have a hearing loss in one ear only. If that is the situation, the dog may hear sounds but not be able to tell where it came from.  

         The researchers recommended that dogs who must work around loud noise wear hearing protection that is designed for dogs. It is also possible that dogs can lose hearing from ear infections and illnesses and as they age.

         If a potential dog owner is going to purchase a breed where deafness is a problem, they must be sure that the breeder has done a BAER test to determine if the puppy is deaf or not.

Unwanted behavior in dogs – surprising findings

In a study of 14,000 dogs, fully 73% of the dogs studied had unwanted behavior. One-third of the dogs studied had noise sensitivity. The other behaviors included fearfulness of people, other dogs and unfamiliar locations, fear of surfaces and heights, inattention and impulsivity, compulsive behavior, aggressiveness and separation anxiety. The most common were noise sensitivity, fear of surfaces and heights and general fearfulness.  

Professor Hannes Lohi’s research group from the University of Helsinki conducted the study and found that fearfulness and aggressive behavior were linked to each other as well as impulsivity, compulsive behavior and separation anxiety. The researchers also discovered that many unwanted behaviors are inherited. Their hope is that better breeding may help eliminate these behaviors.

Author’s Note: The article states, “The problems appear to be quite breed-specific. For example, in Border Collies we observed more compulsive staring and light/shadow chasing, behaviours that occurred more rarely in all other breeds.” Studies such as this are interesting, however, it should be considered what the breed traits are, the excessive staring could actually be the Border Collie “eye.” Since Border Collies herd livestock, they may have a tendency to chase light and shadows if their instinctive herding needs are not met.

Cat food formula surprise

Different groups of researchers are interested in learning how much wildlife cats kill for food. With this in mind researcher Roland Kays from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences decided to study how much wildlife domestic cats kill and eat to supplement the food they are fed by their owners. What they found was very surprising as well as important for cat owners.

The researchers found that they could not determine the amount of wildlife that cats eat because they were studying elements in cat food as a comparison. The reason why this study failed is because cat food manufacturers do not use consistent types and amounts of ingredients in their food. Even foods that were the same flavor and brand were inconsistent. The researchers found that the less expensive brands had more corn products and that the cat food produced in the United Kingdom had a lower amount of corn products.

Author’s Note: This information accounts for why some cats who like a certain brand and flavor of food will suddenly refuse to eat that food. Cats have a very acute sense of smell and they can detect the change in their food. Dog food is no better and dogs can suddenly reject a food that they liked previously. Changing the formula of dog or cat food can also induce loose stools and weight changes in a dog or cat.

Managing aggressive behavior in dogs

Dr. Emma Williams, from the School of Psychological Science at the University of Bristol has conducted a study about managing aggressive dog behavior. According to her research, aggression in dogs is a worldwide problem.

She found that animal behaviorists need to focus on helping dog owners feel confident that the rehabilitation program prescribed will work. Behaviorists must also ensure that the dog owner is capable of initiating and following through with the program. Behaviorists should not only focus on the behavior of the dogs, but also the behavior of the owner when developing a rehabilitation program. They found that when a dog acts badly toward a person or another dog, the dog’s owner may react with extreme negative feelings.

What they also found was that positive reinforcement-based behavior modification techniques were very effective in rehabilitating aggressive dogs while punishment-based methods were detrimental for the dog and led to increased aggression.       

Sue’s note: At the first sign of aggression, even in a puppy, the dog owner must consult with a certified canine behavior consultant. Too often dog owners feel that the dog will out-grow the aggression when in reality it always gets worse if not addressed immediately.

Human breast cancer drug helps dogs with lung cancer

The HER2 gene which is found in women with breast cancer, has been linked with canine pulmonary adenocarcinoma (CPAC) in dogs. Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) which is an affiliate of the City of Hope and Ohio State University found that a drug, neratinib, can help the over 40,000 dogs who develop CPAC each year.

CPAC is an aggressive cancer that is similar to the type of human lung cancer that non-smokers develop. This study has given researchers more information about the genetics of this disease and treatment options that can help both dogs and humans.

Raw meat diet in dogs associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria

No matter what age the dog is, eating a raw meat diet causes them to pass antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli (E.coli) in their feces which can be transmitted to humans.

Researchers from the University of Bristol conducted an in-depth study of 823 dogs of all ages.

They found that dogs who lived in the country had a strong risk factor in passing antibiotic resistant E.coli but dogs who live in the city had more complicated risk factors that may be linked to the variety of lifestyles and exposure to other dogs.

E. coli is found in the intestines of both humans and animals and is a common cause of various diseases including urinary tract infection and can cause sepsis in other parts of the body.

The bottom line is that feeding raw meat to dogs is not safe for both the dog and humans. If a dog owner insists on feeding raw meat to their dog, they must be very careful of infection.