If Your Old Dog is Misbehaving This May Be Why

 

Your dog has always been quite remarkable in the behavior department for most of his life, but now that he is getting older he is suddenly misbehaving, why is that? Misbehaving in senior dogs isn’t at all unusual, even though it may be quite surprising for dog owners finding good ol’ Rover raiding the trash can or chewing on clothing when he hasn’t shown an interest in such behaviors as far back as early puppy hood. What is going on? The saying, “old age is like a second childhood” seems to sometimes apply to old dogs as well.

A Matter of Decreased Inhibitionslaundry dog

While your dog may have exhibited good restraint for a great part of his life, getting older may lead to a decrease in his ability to inhibit certain behaviors. This pattern is described as  “decreased inhibitions” and it may or may not be not be associated with other signs of cognitive dysfunction, explains Christopher Pachel, a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist working for Animal Behavior Clinic, LLC, in Portland Oregon. Affected dogs may start slacking off in their adherence to household manners and previously trained sequences. The old dog may be found counter-surfing, raiding the trash can or soliciting attention from his owners in ways he didn’t do before.

old dogsRuling Out Medical Problems

Any time there’s a change in behavior, it’s important to rule out any underlying medical problems, especially when it comes to senior dogs. For instance, an increase in foraging behaviors such as counter-surfing, raiding the trash can or stealing a sandwich off a dish may be linked to health problems that cause an increase in appetite. For example, hormone-related conditions such as Cushing’s disease or diabetes may cause an increase in appetite and so can conditions associated with malabsorption or maldigestion of food, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

If your old dog instead starts posing a “deaf ear” to your recalls, he might not be purposely disobeying you, but his hearing may be declining. Dogs may also become more clingy as they age; indeed, the onset of separation anxiety in older dogs is not all that uncommon. Vision and hearing loss in older dogs may cause them to feel more anxious, especially when they are separated from their owners. Neurological changes may also lower a dog’s ability to cope with changes in their routine.

Signs of Cognitive Decline
old dog

If your old dog is showing signs of canine cognitive dysfunction, such as confusion, pacing, staring into space, decreased attentiveness, loss of house training and changes in his sleeping patterns, these could be sign of canine cognitive dysfunction, a condition that according to Pfizer Pharmaceutical affects 62 percent of dogs aged 10 years and older. Caught early, the progression of this condition can be slowed down and alleviated with behavior modification, environmental enrichment, institution of a predictable routine and a medication known as Anipryl.

As seen, there may be many things going on. If you notice behavior changes in your older dog it’s therefore smart to stop by your vet before assuming he’s just misbehaving.

dog love
Share love and compassion with your older dog!

Addressing Behavior Changes

So your vet determines that there are no medical causes behind his change in behavior, how should you tackle the issue? Better management of your dog’s environment can help prevent your old dog from putting himself in undesirable situations. Keep the trash can out of the way if he has started tipping it over, store your clothes out of reach if he has started chewing on them and don’t keep your sandwich unattended unless you don’t mind sharing it with your pal. Management is far better than resorting to dozens of “nos” and “leave its” which can turn out stressful in the long run.  In addition, a reimplementation of foundation training and a stronger adherence to consistent reinforcement is the appropriate way to address these changes, further suggests Christopher Pachel.

So if your older dog has started misbehaving, stop by your vet to rule out any medical disorders. As our dogs age, they go through many changes both in the health and behavior department. During this time, it’s important to be mindful of our older dogs’ behavioral changes, so we can provide them with a comfortable and fulfilling life and supply them with as much love, compassion and patience as we can.

“As dogs live longer, the likelihood of age related behavior problems increases. With treatment of underlying medical problems and recognition and treatment of behavioral problems, the quality of life of our geriatric canine friends can be improved tremendously.”  ~Lisa Radosta DVM, DACVB

References:

  • Michigan Veterinary Medical Association, Age Behavior Changes of Dogs and Cats, by Christopher Pachel, DVM, DACVB
  • VCA Animal Hospitals:  Testing for Increased Appetite, based on material written by Kristiina Ruotsalo, DVM, DVSc, Dip ACVP & Margo S. Tant BSc, DVM, DVSc.
  • Pet Education: Senior Dogs: Common Behavior Changes,Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
  • Florida Veterinary Behavior Service, Treating Geriatric Behavior Changes by Lisa Radosta DVM, DACVB

Discovering How Dogs See Color

 

When we look at a rainbow, do our dogs see the same colors as we do? Understanding how dogs see colors can help us get a better grasp on how they perceive the world around them. Discovering how dogs perceive colors is not only a matter of satisfying our curiosity, but also a matter of becoming better informed owners. For instance, do dogs have a hard time finding toys of a certain color? Do colors affect a dog’s ability to fetch a toy or a dog’s performance in canine sports? By understanding better a dog’s color vision, we can gain a glimpse of what it must feel like to see the world through the eyes of a dog.

Dogs see better than this!
Dogs see better than this!

Dispelling the Myth

For many years, we thought that dogs could only see in black and white. The belief that dogs could only see in shades of grey, relying on different levels of brightness to identify the outlines of items, has been so widespread that still as of today we may stumble on people making remarks that it’s an unnecessary practice to pick a specific color of dog toy considering a dog’s monochromatic vision.

While there are several mammals that are monochromats (capable of seeing only one color) such as the seal, sea lion, walrus, dolphin and whale, turns out, dogs aren’t part of this classification. Research has found that, unlike what we have heard for many years, dogs can actually see colors, but quite differently than how we perceive them.

Dog Color-Vision Studydog color

A study conducted by Jay Neitz et al. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has revealed interesting findings on color perception in dogs. The dogs were basically exposed to the presentation of three light panels in a row–two of the panels were of the same color, while the third was different.

The goal for the dog was to discriminate the panel that was different. Every time the dog was successful, he was rewarded with a treat. The study found that dogs are capable of seeing colors, but they see fewer colors than we do. 

A Matter of Conesdo dogs see colors?

Cones are the photoreceptors responsible for  allowing us to perceive the details of colors. These photoreceptors send signals about color to the brain.

Humans have three kinds of cones that identify red, blue, green and yellow wavelengths. It is through the combined activity of these cones that humans have a full range of color vision, explains Stanley Coren.

Dogs instead, like most other mammals, have only two cones, one cone which is sensitive to blue, while the other is sensitive to yellow. This means that, unlike humans, who are trichromats, dogs are dichromats, meaning they can see two colors.

What does this mean to us? It means that we should start re-considering the way dogs see colors so we can make necessary adjustments.

colorSeeing Like a Dog

If we want to put ourselves in our dog’s shoes, we can say that our dog’s color vision is roughly similar to that of a person who is red-green color blind (a deuteranope). 

 As seen in the picture featuring the green and red apple, we can see how it is difficult for the dog to discriminate between these two colors.

They have a much better time though with detecting blue and yellow. So what does this mean for dog owners? Based on these findings, it means that we should choose toys that are blue or yellow, which is sort of not easy considering that many dog toys are orange and most Kongs are bright red.

This seems to prove us that the dog toy industry is more interested in selling toys that are more appealing to us rather than our dogs! So yes, whether you are choosing a Frisbee or a ball to play fetch, your choice of color is important if you want it to stick out. Choosing a red toy that is hard to distinguish from the green grass of the dog park can make life difficult for Rover.

“Overall, if we want dogs to distinguish between colors, the best colors to use are blue and yellow.” Dr. Sophia Yin, D.V.M, M.S

dog agility equipment colorsColors and Dog Sports

And what about dog sports? In the obstacle jumping industry for horses, colors have been used wisely for quite some time, as horses, just like dogs, also have two-color, dichromatic vision. Therefore, to help horses judge the obstacles, jump rails are often painted a different color from the surrounding landscape.

Also, studies have found that there were less chances for horses to knock down a rail if it was painted in two or more contrasting colors. As dog agility shares many features with horse obstacle jumping, this explains why dog agility equipment colors are important. It’s therefore not a coincidence that those contact zones in dog agility are often painted yellow with contrasting shades of blue!

A Look Back

At this point, one may wonder, why do dogs see colors in less detail than humans? It likely must have something to do with our evolutionary past. There are various theories as to why we have full color vision, when many mammals do not.

One may assume that the dog’s ancestors must have relied more on movement than color to capture prey animals; whereas, primates relied more on color to attain food.

The Fruit Theory suggested that primates relied on the ability to see color for the detection of red and orange fruit against a mature leaf background, while the Young Leaf Theory suggested that it was a matter of seeing young leaves. This way primates would spend less time and energy picking unripe fruits.

Interestingly, neuroscientist Mark Changizi has  a totally different theory.”Our vision was never well optimized for that. My hypothesis was that it was about sensing emotions or health on the skin of others.” Looks like more research is needed in this interesting field!

rainbowHow Dogs See Rainbows

So how do dogs see rainbows? “Instead of seeing the rainbow as violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow, orange and red, dogs would see it as dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark gray.

In other words, dogs see the colors of the world as basically yellow, blue and gray” further claims Stanley Coren.

 

References:

Photo credits:

Simulation of the normal (above) and dichromatic (below) perception of red and green apples, by Limbicsystem, Author: Alex Wade CC BY 2.5 (changes made to add details as to how pertains to dogs)

Ten Fascinating Facts About Dog Paws

 

We often take a dog’s paws for granted, but those paws are quite fascinating body parts that are worthy of being discovered! For a lifetime of walking on rocks, snow and asphalt, those dog paws are sure a work of art on their own considering how many pairs of shoes us common mortal humans must go through throughout our lives. Whether you own a Labrador, great dane or a Chihuahua, those paws are certainly remarkable yet, often, ho-hum, so underestimated. So today is the day to give an all paws up as we celebrate dog paws. So here are some fresh, fascinating facts about your dog’s paws we just fetched and thought to share.

dog paws 101) Tough & Thick-Skinned 

Think you are thick-skinned? Well, a dog’s paws are far more thick skinned than you, literally… Indeed, turns out that the outer surface of a dog’s paw pads boast the toughest AND thickest skin in the body. The foundation of your dog’s paws is composed of thick layers of fat and connective tissue and it comprises five, (yes five!) layers of skin. For dog geeks, the layers include, the following: the deepest layer known as the stratum basale, next, comes the stratum spinosum, followed by the stratum granulosum, the stratum lucidum, and finally, the outermost layer, which is the stratum corneum.

2) Not What You Think

We often compare our dog’s paws to our hands and feet, but turns we often confuse some body parts for others. First off, an important clarification: humans are plantigrades, meaning that we walk on the soles of our feet; whereas, dogs are digitigrades, meaning that they walk on their toes. When we see things from this perspective, we notice that when it comes to anatomy it makes a whole lot of difference. So turns out that those paws don’t really correspond to our hands and feet  as we might think if we take a look at these illustrations.  At a closer look, we’ll notice how the bones that correspond to our wrists and ankles are set much higher than we would think.

dog corn chip feet3) That Frito Feet Smell

Did a whiff of your dog’s feet ever made you crave Fritos, popcorn or Doritos? Turns out, the Frito Feet Mystery in dogs has finally been solved! If you’re looking for the source of the smell, you should point your finger towards a strain of Gram negative bacteria known as proteus. Proteus is likely to be held responsible for causing your dog’s famous snack food smell, explains  Dr. Robert J. Silver, a Colorado-based veterinarian in an article for the Huffington Post.  Do your dog’s feet smell too much like Fritos? Here are some tips for dealing with a bad case of dog smelly feet: Dog Frito Feet Treatment.

newfoundland4) If it Looks Like A Duck…

If your dog’s feet look like a ducks’… he’s not a duck. Sure there are many dog breeds with webbed feet, but dogs don’t have completely webbed feet like ducks, swans or geese do. If dogs really had webbed feet in the same way as ducks, they would have a hard time walking on certain surfaces and would end up “waddling” like a duck. Sure, most dogs have some skin in between their toes, but this characteristic doesn’t make them officially “webbed” in the real sense of the term, just as we aren’t considered “webbed” just because we have skin found between the fingers. While all dogs have some degree of “webbing,” it’s true though that certain breeds with a history of  working in water have more webbing in their paws than others. Here is a list of them: dogs with webbed feet.

dog sweaty paws5) Clammy Paw Pads

If you have ever noticed your dog leaving humid paw prints on the vet’s examination table, you weren’t seeing things. Just like humans get clammy hands, dogs may sweat from their paws, especially when they are stressed or nervous. It’s a common myth that dogs don’t sweat. Unlike humans though, who tend to sweat profusely from sweat glands distributed over a large percentage of the body, dogs sweat discreetly from a few sweat glands located on their noses and paw pads. These sweat glands though have a minor role in cooling dogs down, which is why dogs must rely on vaporizing water from their respiratory passages as their primary method to dissipate heat, according to Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology.

carpal pad6) A Braking Device

If you take a close look as your dog’s front legs, you may notice a mysterious pad hanging around the wrist area. Often referred to as “carpal pads” or “stopper pads, ” these foot pads on the back of the dog’s front legs are not there for decoration. Turns out, they actually have several functions. One of them, as the name implies, has to do with the dog’s ability to stop. When a dog canters, there’s a moment when the carpal pad of the front leg touches the ground. During this time, should the dog turn or stop suddenly, the carpal pad along with the dewclaw provides extra traction, and should the dog stop, they’ll work as a braking device, explains veterinarian Chris Zink. Additionally, those stopper pads keep dogs from sliding when walking on steep, slippery slopes and provide an extra cushioning effect when the dog lands after a jump the moment the dog’s leg touches the ground.

7) Getting Cold Feet

Ever wondered how your dog manages to romp happily on the snow without getting cold feet? Well, we must once again thank again those remarkable paws. There are several good reasons why dog feet won’t freeze when running on the snow. One of them is the structure of the dog’s feet themselves, the thick skin, along with the thick layers of fat protect them from the cold, but there’s more. Dogs have a higher temperature than us (101.5 Fahrenheit), and therefore, their paws are significantly warmer, explain D. Caroline Coile and Margaret H. Bohman in the book “Why do Dogs Like Balls.” Last but not least, several Northern dog breeds have hair between their toes that’s snow and ice resistant. The oils in the hairs repel snow, as water and oil don’t mix, so they help protect the pads of these pooches’ feet. However, consider that paws, albeit tough, are still vulnerable. Dog paws  get frostbite too, not to mention damage and cracks from walking on rock salt.

dewclaw dog8) No Thumb Twiddling

You won’t find Rover twiddling his thumbs or sending text messages, but dogs have a structure that is similar to our thumbs. These are called dewclaws and they’re found high up the dog’s leg. However, depending on the breed of dog, he may or may not have them. Some breeders remove them when the puppies are very young. While these dewclaws are far from being effective as our opposable thumbs, they do have several functions. Consider that each dewclaw is attached to five tendons, which are each attached to a muscle. The dewclaws provide support to Rover’s lower legs, so when he makes those tight, swift turns as seen in the sport of agility, his legs are prevented from getting twisted or injured, further explains Christine Zink. As a bonus, those dewclaws help him grasp objects such as toys, bones and sticks so he can chew on them and may come handy when he has to scratch a sudden itch, climb up or remove some foreign item stuck in his teeth!

9) Pooches with Unique Paws

The six toes of the lundenhund
The six toes of the lundehund

Not all dogs paws are created equal. Other than some dog breeds having webbed feet, there are several dogs with unique feet that are worth mentioning. Perhaps the most amazing of all, are the paws of the Lundehund dog breed which sports six toes. Other remarkable paws are seen in the great Pyrenees dog boasting double dewclaws on the same paw (which by the way are considered part of the breed standard.) The Akita instead is known for having what are known as “cat feet.” According to the American Kennel Club, these feet are neat and round, with high-arched toes closely held together. What’s so special about them? These feet require less energy to lift off the ground. Hare feet instead are found in greyhounds. The two centered toes, which are longer than the others, allow them to attain faster speeds.

imprint dog paw10) A Paw is Forever

Dog paws hold a special place in our hearts. We watch our puppies prance on those paws, we hold them in our hands, and when our dogs are no longer with us, we want to remember those precious paws. Dog paws are so cherished, that many dog owners decide to make imprints of their dog’s paws before saying farewell transforming them into a precious, one-of-a kind keepsake. Several companies now offer keepsakes made of clay or metal so dog owners can immortalize those paws.

Dog paws are amazing, aren’t they? Despite being tough, don’t forget about them so protect them from being punctured from sharp objects, burnt by hot asphalt and irritated by ice or road salt. Remember to regularly inspect those paws, keep those nails nicely trimmed and keep the feet moisturized when they become cracked and dry. Your dog and his precious paws will thank you!

References:

  • Clinical Anatomy and Physiology for Veterinary Technicians, by Joanna M. Bassert and Thomas P. Colville,  Mosby; 2 edition (December 21, 2007)
  • Peak Performance EBook: Coaching the Canine Athlete, Canine Sports Productions, 2011
  • Why Do Dogs Like Balls?: By D. Caroline Coile, Margaret H. Bonham, 2008, Sterling Publishing Co. Inc, NY

Photo Credits:

Wikipedia,Paw (dog) showing pads, A: Claw, B: Digital Pads, C: Metacarpal Pad, D: Dew Claw, E: Carpal Pad by Amos T FairchildGNU Free Documentation License,

Wikipedia, Foot of a Norwegian Lundehund. Picture taken by myself, User:ZorroIII, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Intelligent Disobedience in Dogs

 

Today is Talent Thursday and today we would like to brag about a dog’s ability to make important “judgement calls” something guide dogs must be able to do when they apply what is known as”intelligent disobedience.” While the word “disobedience” gives the negative idea of a dog who ignores what he’s asked to do and just does as he pleases, when we add the word intelligent in front of it, it brings disobedience to a whole different level! From something considered negative, disobedience becomes something remarkable, a quality that is sought in guide dogs working as a team with their owners for their protection and safety.  So today let’s learn more about intelligent disobedience in dogs, how it’s trained and let’s see some examples of how it’s applied.

A blind man with his guide dog in Montreal, 1941.
A blind man with his guide dog in Montreal, 1941.

What is Intelligent Disobedience?

Intelligent disobedience, also known as “selective disobedience” is observed when a service animal willingly disobeys the owner’s instructions because it isn’t safe to do so. Service dogs are taught this quality so they can make better decisions for their owners when the need arises. This entails important “judgement calls” on the part of the dog in critical situation. Need an example on how a dog would apply intelligent disobedience? Here are a few examples:

~At a crosswalk, a blind person listens for traffic and tells his guide dog to move forward, when a car that was not there a second ago, suddenly appears. The dog notices the car and refuses to move, thus disobeying the owner’s request to forward.

~A blind person is walking in the park, and at a certain point, the guide dog refuses to walk because there are low tree branches in the path. While the dog can easily walk underneath the branches, the low branches may actually injure the blind person as he walks through them. The blind person tells the dog to move forward, but the service dog disobeys.

 

How is it Trained?dog blind

As the service dog training progresses, the dogs are exposed to situations that become gradually more and more complex requiring increased problem solving skills. The dog must learn not only to stop at intersections and  navigate around crowds, but also must learn to avoid obstacles such as lampposts, mailboxes, strollers and shopping carts that are in the way. Dogs must also learn to avoid pot holes, narrow passages, construction sites, objects lying in the path and uneven surfaces. When guide dogs encounter such obstacles, they must guide their owner around it or stop in front of it. While this entails lots of training, a dog’s natural skills and perceptions also play a role.

“Through consistency, repetition, and praise a guide dog can learn to work effectively around overhangs and branches.” Guide Dogs of America

How is intelligent disobedience trained? According to Service Dog Central in the case of the low hanging branch, the trainer walks with the guide dog towards a low hanging branch. When the cane hits the tree branch it makes a noise that is a cue for the dog to understand that something has happened. The trainer may say “ouch!” The team repeats the scene several times until the dog learns to consistently walk around the branch. To help the dog generalize, the same scene is repeated in several different locations and situations so the dog learns to apply the same walk around behavior. Watching for low hanging branches entails lots of training especially considering that looking up is not a natural behavior for a dog. To the dog must become fully aware of the person he’s guiding and always keep him in consideration, despite the fact that the dog can easily walk under or jump over obstacles.

While loads of training and repetition help train these dogs and many training schools have simulated street-like scenarios on their training sites, it’s impossible to cover all real-life situations, so it must be said that a lot “on the job learning” occurs throughout a guide dog’s life. A great amount of teamwork is required in safely crossing a street, and as the team gets to know each other better, a strong partnership forms that’s built on mutual respect and trust.

“In the case of guide dogs for the blind, the dog is not a substitute for vision but rather helps the person with inadequate vision when he or she faced with the problem of safely moving through the world, an activity that normally sighted individuals rely upon their eyes to do.” ~ Stanley Coren

Did you know? Guide dogs do not “read” traffic lights as dogs don’t see colors the same way we do. Instead, the blind person listens for the sound of traffic, and then, with the help of the dog, decides whether it’s safe to move across the intersection.

References:

Guide Dogs of America, An International Guiding Eyes Program

Psychology Today, What Assistance Dogs Can and Can’t Do

Photo credits:

A blind man with his guide dog in Montreal, 1941, Wikipedia, public domain

A blind woman learns to use her guide dog in a test environment, by BrailleligaCC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Dog Word of the Day: Babbler

 

It’s Wednesday Word Day! Today we opened our encyclopedia and ended on the letter “B” and the page had the word “babble” which is a term we often use to depict somebody who talks rapidly and continuously in a foolish, excited way, uttering words imperfectly. So we thought to make “babbler” our dog word of the day. What does babbling have to do with dogs? Last time we checked, dogs weren’t able to talk, let alone babble, so what does it mean? Turns out, this word is part of hunting terminology and the term is sometimes used by hunters to depict certain “vocal dogs.” What are these dogs babbling about? Interestingly, they have something to say, but as the term implies, their excessive “talking” is considered disruptive both by their hunting pals and huntsmen.

fox hunting“That Hound is a Babbler!”

So what do hounds have to babble about? According to the book by David Hancock, Hounds: Hunting by Scent, a babbler is described as a “noisy hound; one giving tongue when not on the line.” What does that mean exactly? Well, if we take a look at how hounds hunt, we will notice that they tend to “talk” when they’re hunting, especially when they are on the trail of the fox scent (line).  Hunters remark the “hounds are giving great tongue” when they give out cries when on a hot trail. Well, turns out a “blabber” is a hound who “talks” inappropriately and freely when exposed to all sorts of scents, when there’s no need to. Many hunters talk about these dogs in a derogatory manner, sometimes describing them as “liars” or as “having a lying tongue.”

Other Hound’s Reactionsbabbler hound

With dogs who hunt in groups like hounds, it’s interesting observing how the other members react to “blabbers.” Frank Sherman Peer in the book “Cross Country with Horse and Hound” says that the other hounds may initially rush to the babbler’s side, but then fail to confirm him. He claims that their disgusted expression after discovering the false alarm is “something almost human.” The hounds may be fooled once or twice, but soon learn though how to deal with such babblers. Indeed, J. Otho Paget in the book “Beagling and Beagles” mentions that the other hounds soon “find out so that when they hear his voice they will utterly ignore him!”

“Whereas a distinctive voice is an important asset, it is linked with the wisdom of knowing when and where to use it. ” ~Stuart A. Marks,  Southern Hunting in Black and White

hound cry
“Hounds at full cry” by Alfred Wheeler

A Word of Caution

Before labeling a hound as a “babbler,” it’s important to rule out other possible phenomena going on. For example, a hound who is blessed with a more acute sense of smell than other hounds may be confused for a “babbler.” The scent of a hare that walked through overnight may linger for several hours and may be picked up by a hound with a sensitive nose while the other hounds may not sense it, cautions J. Otho Paget. Other times, some hounds are accused of babbling when they’re turned loose from their kennels. In reality though, these dogs aren’t “loose mouthed,” they are just showing their joy and delight in going out for a hunt!” ‘And what’s more marvelous than dogs doing what they love best?

Did you know? The baying noises hounds make when excitedly running is known as “giving tongue” or “throwing tongue”.  Hounds who fail to “give tongue” are known as “mute hounds.” These will take off on their own, running mute without “speaking.”

References:

  • J. Otho Paget, “Beagling and Beagles” Read Country Book, April 16, 2013
  • Frank Sherman Peer, “Cross Country with Horse and Hound” New York,C. Scribner’s sons, 1902

Photo credits:

  • Painting of the Royal Rock Beagles by John Dalby in 1845, public domain
  • Detail of painting Releasing the Hounds by John Wootton, circa 1745, public domain
  • Painting Hounds at full cry” by Alfred Wheeler, public domain
 

Guess This Dog Breed

 

Can you guess this dog breed? Are you ready to test your canine capabilities? Today, we are going to show you a picture of a quite rare dog breed. Hint: you won’t likely stumble on this dog unless you live in or visit Spain. And even if you live there or decide to visit this country one day, the chances of seeing one of these pooches are quite unlikely considering that this dog breed is in danger of extinction. As you may notice, this dog breed has a distinct feature, a quite unusual nose that has a split appearance. So what dog breed is this?

pachon navarro dog

A Pachon Navarro

B Perro de presa canaria

C Alano espanol

D Carea Castellano Manchego

The correct answer is:

Answer:

If you answered B, Perro de presa canaria, a large molosser-type of dog originating from the Canary Islands, this answer is incorrect. If you answered C, the Alano Español, another large, molosser-type dog originating from Spain, the answer is also incorrect. If you answered D, Carea Castellano Manchego, a dog breed originating in Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, sorry, but this answer is also incorrect. So the correct answer is A, the picture of the dog breed with a split nose is the Pachón Navarro!

dog with split noseIf you never heard about the Pachon Navarro, don’t feel bad, as mentioned, this is not a popular breed. That’s why today we thought to learn more about this breed and feature it as our Tuesday’s Daily Dog Discovery! Also known as Navarra pointer, this breed is a Spanish hunting dog who boasts the peculiar feature of having a “split” or “double nose.” Some time ago, the shape of the nose was thought to give this dog a superior sense of smell, but turns out, there are really no scientific studies to back up this theory.

These dogs are used to hunt small game by pointing. They are used to work on any type of terrain by trotting vigorously and in close proximity to the hunter. According to the Real Sociedad Canina de Espana breed standard, this dog has a sturdy body, slightly short limbs and a big head. The nose is big and wide with open nostrils that can be “splitted” or double in some dogs.  From a temperament standpoint, the Pachon Navarro is an intelligent, docile and quiet dog who tends to get along with humans and other dogs.

Dog Breeds with Split Noses

Today, there are a few other dogs known to have a distinctive split nose: the rare Catalburun of Turkey and the double-nosed Andean tiger hound, which isn’t really considered a breed, but most likely descends from the Pachon Navarro. The double nose though isn’t really what it sounds like, more than two noses, it’s simply a nose with nostrils that are split by a band of skin.

Photo credits:

Picture 1,  Wikipedia, Nafar Eper Txakurra or Pachón Navarro, by Vvven,  CC BY-SA 4.0

Picture 2: Wikipedia, Pachón Navarro, by VvvenCC BY-SA 4.0

I am Your Dog’s Blood Brain Barrier

 

Today is Monday’s Marvels and what’s more marvelous than a special barrier that protects the dog’s brain from potentially harmful substances? Owners of a sub-population of collies and several other herding breeds, in particular may be well aware of the risks their dogs may be susceptible to due to the way their blood brain barrier is structured, but this is something that certainly may interest owners of any other types of dogs as well. As we marvel at this structure, we can gain more insights on how the blood brain barrier works and gain more information about possible problems. So let’s see what our dog’s blood brain barrier has to say so we can get more acquainted with this structure. So let’s welcome today the dog’s blood brain barrier!

Let Me Introduce Myself!

Hello, you may not know me well, but you sure need to thank me for protecting something as important as your dog’s brain! I might not be popular as the brain, but I sure need a place of honor for ensuring your dog’s brain is shielded from potential dangers. I take no offense if you have never heard about me before, but my job today is just this, introducing myself and letting others become aware of my noble duties. While time ago, it was suggested that I was present only in an immature form in young animals, today studies have instead indicated that my sophisticated structure is actually already somewhat operative at birth! I am just quite permeable in neonate puppies according to veterinarian Kit Kampschmidt. This means that neonates are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of certain drugs, which is why most vets are cautious in medicated those youngsters unless strictly necessary!

Warning, Restricted Area

What’s my day like as a blood brain barrier? My main role is allowing the entry of essential nutrients such as glucose and several amino acids while blocking certain substances from reaching the brain. To be more precise, I have a network of blood vessels lined with tightly wedged endothelial cells that form a nearly impermeable boundary responsible for restricting the passage of certain substances from the bloodstream to your dog’s brain. Hey, if you rarely hear about brain infections, it is thanks to me! Indeed, I effectively protect the brain from harmful substances such as toxins and bacteria. At the same though, as mentioned, I must grant access to important sugar and amino acids. These latter successfully gain access courtesy of special transport systems that move them across the barrier and into brain tissue as needed.

When Things go Wrong

As effective as I am in restricting access to the brain, I must admit, I am not invincible. Sometimes cancers or bacteria break me down which allows small compounds that normally wouldn’t come through to gain access. When this happens, this can be bad news. Since my barrier is effective at preventing the passage of foreign substances, I may prevent certain life-saving drugs from reaching the brain. Antibodies meant to the fight the bacteria are also too large to make it through my barrier, so really only a few selected antibiotics are able to pass. Administering them directly into the cerebrospinal fluid may seem like a good option, but it’s quite a tortuous trip to reach all those tight interstitial passages to the brain. One good thing though is that when I am inflamed, I become more permeable, which increases absorption of certain antibiotics, but you must be careful too as this also means that the brain becomes more vulnerable to the infiltration of bacteria and viruses.

The Issue with Collies

Owners of collies/collie mixes and other herding dogs are likely aware of the problems associated with giving these dogs the heartworm drug ivermectin. The issue with ivermectin toxicity observed in collies was first noticed in the 1980s. What’s the problem in these dogs? You see, ivermectin is toxic to pesky parasites, but it is thanks to me that most breeds aren’t affected. As a barrier, I prevent this drug from reaching your dog’s brain, but since parasites do not have a blood brain barrier, this drug affects them without poisoning your dog. You must therefore thank me for allowing this form of “selective toxicity.”

However, it was discovered that a sub-population of collies (along with several other herding breeds, see quote below) had a tendency to accumulate high concentrations of ivermectin in brain tissue which caused them severe neurological symptoms. Why? Turns out, such dogs lack a functional blood-brain barrier, explains Katrina L. Mealey a board certified veterinarian specializing in internal medicine and clinical pharmacology. The issue is the result of an altered multi-drug-resistance gene (MDR-1) which makes their blood brain barrier more permeable. It’s estimated that about 3 out of every 4 collies in the United States have the mutant MDR 1 gene, explains Dr. Joey, a board-certified veterinarian.

Affected breeds include Australian Shepherds, Collies, McNabs, Longhaired Whippets, Silken Windhounds, English Shepherds, German Shepherd Dogs, Old English Sheepdogs and Shetland Sheepdogs. ~Dr. Marty Becker

Ivermectin at high doses isn’t the only drug these dogs are sensitive to, according to Washington State University, other problem drugs include loperamide (Imodium), acepromazine and several chemotherapy and antiparasitic agents agents. Fortunately, today there are tests that can screen for multidrug sensitivity. One of them is offered by Washington State University.  The old adage of “white feet, don’t treat” which refers to not treating scotch collies due to the risks associated with their “leaky blood brain barrier”, has now transformed into “white feet, test to see if you can treat” says Patricia Dowling in an article published on CanVet Brand Animal Health Products. So if you own a collie or other affected breed and are wondering about risks associated with giving certain medications, consult with your vet and ask about getting your dog tested.

Drugs to watch for: The tranquilizer acepromazine; the pain medication butorphanol; the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin, vinblastine and vincristine; the antibiotics erythromycin and rifampin;  the anti-parasitic drugs ivermectin (in high doses), milbemycin, moxidectin and selamectin; and the anti-diarrhea drug loperamide (Imodium).~Dr. Marty Becker

I hope this article may have helped you understand me better! You know, not many people are aware of me and I thought I deserved to at least be acknowledged. The best part is that I am not exclusive to dogs, so today you have also learned something about yourself as well! Thank you for listening and enjoy the rest of your day!

Yours truly,

The Blood Brain Barrier

Did you know? According to the University of Washington website, the blood brain barrier was discovered more than 100 years ago when a blue dye was injected into the blood stream of an animal. Curiously, all the structures of the animal’s body turned blue except for the brain and spinal cord.

Disclaimer: The article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If your dog is sick, please see your vet.

References:

  • Clinical Anatomy & Physiology for Veterinary Technicians, Thomas Colville DVM, Joanna M. Bassert VMD, Mosby Inc.  St Louis, MO, 2002
  • Newborn rabbit blood-brain barrier is selectively permeable and differs substantially from the adult, Braun LD, Cornford EM, Oldendorf WH, J Neurochem. 1980 Jan;34(1):147-52.
  • Pharmacogenetics: It’s not just about ivermectin in collies, Patricia Dowling, Can Vet J. 2006 Dec; 47(12): 1165–1168.
  • Brain Facts.org, Society for Neuroscience, The Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Vet Street: Multidrug Sensitivity: What You Need to Know

How Rock Salt Affects Dog Paws

 

Did you know that rock salt and ice melts can cause dry, cracked paws in dogs? It’s January, and with winter in full swing, many towns and cities are now coated with a blanket of snow. For many dogs this means romping around in winter wonderland, surely a fun activity, until those poor paws start developing unsightly and painful cracks. Why is that? Today we went on a journey to discover the effect ice melt has on dog paws and how it plays a role in causing dry, cracked paws along with other adverse effects in dogs.

ice meltThe Use of Rock Salt

Rock salt is a type of salt, to be more precise, it’s sodium chloride. Also known as halite, rock salt is often employed for the purpose of melting ice. Fresh water normally freezes at 32 degrees, but if you put rock salt on ice, it lowers its freezing point, causing the ice to melt. This is why according to New England Acquarium, the ocean, which is made of salted water, is unlikely to freeze other than in very cold places, whereas ponds and lakes freeze more readily.

The process of lowering the freezing point by adding a solute (salt) to a solvent (ice) is known as freezing point depression. While rock salt is effective in melting ice, it might not work too well when it’s very cold. In some cases, magnesium chloride pellets and calcium chloride pellets are further added to rock salt or brine to make the salt more effective in melting ice at lower temperatures. Often, these products are generically called “ice melts.”

Major Corrosive Effects

“It’s estimated that more than 22 million tons of salt are scattered on the roads of the U.S. annually—that’s about 137 pounds of salt for every American” claims Joseph Stromberg, a science reporter in an article for Smithsonian.com. After the salt though does its job of melting the ice, it doesn’t just disappear from the face of earth, and this can be a big problem. While salt is ultimately a natural ingredient, what’s not natural is its concentration, remarks Richard Hanneman, President of the Salt Institute, based in Alexandria, Va. Salt is corrosive, it can easily cause vehicle parts to rust, and the metal in steel bridges, bridge decks, parking garages, lampposts and statues in proximity to roads and highways are also at risk, according to Corrosion Doctors.  Not to mention, its deleterious effects to certain types of aquatic life.

pawsBack to Rover’s Paws

If rock salt is so corrosive as to damage metal parts, it’s not difficult to imagine the effect it can have on a dog’s paws. Repeated exposure with rock salt will dry the dog’s skin and cause local irritation and cracked paws, according to Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital. To protect your dog’s paws from drying and cracking due to exposure to ice melts, the ASPCA suggests some winter tips:

  • Avoid walking your dog over salted areas.
  • Carefully inspect the paws after walking the dog.
  • Wash paws with warm water after outdoor play and walks.
  • After washing, apply a layer of Vaseline to soothe irritated feet.
  • Vaseline can be applied as well on dog paws prior to walking and playing as a protective measure, suggests veterinarian Dr. Andrew Jones.
  • Trim the hair growing between the dog’s toes (you may want to ask a groomer to do this as it requires your dog to stay very still).
  • Look for safer de-icing products.
  • Invest in some dog boots.
  • Don’t let your dog lick his paws and discourage the ingestion of snow or ice treated with ice melt. Also, prevent lapping up water from puddles of melted snow. Rock salt can be harmful when ingested (as explained below)!

More Than Just Paw Damage!

Prevent the snow ball effect!
Avoid the snow ball effect!

Think that rock salt may only damage your dog’s paws? Think again. The effects of rock salt and ice melts on dogs can be far more worrisome than thought. Many dogs tend to lick their paws after playing in the snow. Some dogs like to clean their feet this way or they may lick them as a response to feeling their paws irritated. Many dogs like the taste of salt, so they’ll lick them even more. Many dogs indirectly ingest rock salt from eating snow or licking puddles of melted snow. The ingestion of rock salt though can cause considerable harm.

Mild ingestion of sodium chloride may cause a dog some vomiting and diarrhea, but larger doses may trigger central nervous system signs, dehydration, increased heart rate, increased breathing , increased body temperature and even death, explains Caley Chambers, a Veterinary Candidate with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and extern at Pet Poison Helpline. Potassium chloride can cause gastrointestinal irritation even with hemorrhagic vomiting or diarrhea, magnesium chloride can cause gastrointestinal upset, while calcium salts can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Even urea based ice melts, which are often considered the safest around pets, aren’t harmless. These can lead to salivation and mild gastrointestinal irritation, but ingestion of large amounts can cause weakness, tremors, and higher than normal level of methemoglobin in the blood.

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If you suspect your dog ingested ice melts, contact your veterinarian immediately or you can reach the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (a $49 per incident fee applies).

When Puppies Develop Their Sense of Smell

 

When do puppies develop their sense of smell? Today is Surprising Saturday, and we thought it was quite surprising learning that puppies are capable of using their sense of smell even before they are born! What’s even more interesting though is that there seems to be an evolutionary advantage as to why a pup’s sense of smell is present so soon. And this isn’t exclusive to puppies, it’s something that apparently occurs in human infants too. Read on to learn more.

aniseed study puppiesThe Aniseed Study

In a study conducted by Peter G. Hepper and Deborah L. Wells and published on Oxford Journal, 16 pregnant dogs were divided into four groups composed by four dogs. The first four pregnant dogs were fed a diet flavored with aniseed, a spice known for its aromatic scent and for being safe to use in dogs. The pregnant dogs were fed this diet during the last 20 days of gestation. The second group of four dogs were fed the aniseed flavored food the day after giving birth for the duration of 20 days. The puppies were expected to be indirectly exposed to the aniseed scent/flavor when suckling for the first 3-4 weeks. The third group of pregnant dogs were fed the aniseed flavored food both before the birth of their puppies and afterward. Finally, the fourth group of pregnant dogs were fed a normal diet with no aniseed flavor added.

The Intriguing Results

During the study, the puppies stayed in their owner’s home and none of them were exposed to aniseed other than indirectly from the mother’s diet. All puppies were weaned from milk to solid food at around 4 to 5 weeks of age, and at 10 weeks, when the puppies were tested, all of them were eating solid food. In the test, the puppies were tested by offering them a choice between some minced chicken with a drop of aniseed and some minced chicken with distilled water. These foods were offered over the course of several days. The strongest preference for the aniseed flavored chicken was observed in the puppies who were exposed to aniseed both prenatally (in the womb through amniotic fluids) and postnatally (from the mother’s milk). Little interest for the aniseed flavored chicken was shown in both the puppies exposed to aniseed exclusively when in the womb or exclusively when nursing.

Practicing Breathing Muscles

Further proof of puppies using their sense of smell when still in the womb comes from taking a peek at them via ultrasound. Through an ultrasound, scientists were capable of gaining an “inner view” of what goes on in the womb two weeks prior to the puppies being born. The scientists found that the puppies were “exercising” their breathing muscles during this time. It’s likely that this “breathing time” provides puppies the opportunity to learn more about their mother’s distinct odor and the odor of the food she has been eating, suggests animal behaviorist John Bradshaw in the book “Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend.”

An Evolutionary Rolepuppy weaning

Why would puppies rely on their sense of smell when they are still in the womb? Interestingly, there may be an evolutionary advantage. This form of chemosensory prenatal learning may aid the puppy in learning what foods are safe to eat when weaning time is around the corner. With smells passing through the amniotic fluid, and then flavors passing in the milk, puppies may rely on their mother’s knowledge to learn about which foods are safe to eat and this can influence the puppy’s future dietary preferences. These two types of prenatal and postnatal exposure, provide the puppies with a longer period of experience on what’s safe to eat, important factors that aid in promoting their survival, further explain Peter G. Hepper and Deborah L. Wells in the study.

References:

Perinatal Olfactory Learning in the Domestic Dog, Peter G. Hepper, Deborah L. Wells, Oxford Journal, Chem. Senses (March 2006) 31(3): 207-212.

Dogs With a History of Working as a Team

 

team workIt’s fascinating Friday, and today we’ll be tackling the fascinating history of dogs cooperating with each other. Cooperation, which is the process of working together to the same end, may have offered advantages to humans and dogs back in time when dogs were employed to carry out specific tasks, but do dogs really understand the concept of cooperation? We looked at some studies and found some interesting findings and conducted some research on dogs with a history of “cooperating” with each other.

Do Dogs Really Cooperate Among Each Other? teamwork

Well, the answer to this is that it depends. For instance, according to Brian Hare professor of evolutionary anthropology with Duke University, among wolves, cooperation is often seen when the mating pair works together in raising wolf pups. It’s also not unusual to see yearlings, young wolves that are one year old but haven’t reached their second year, stick around their parents to help out too. In domesticated dogs, things instead are quite different. When female dogs give birth, they don’t like having other dogs near their litter and the cooperation as seen in wolves is non-existent. Dogs are therefore not cooperative breeders.

However, this doesn’t mean dogs aren’t cooperative. According to a recent study from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine of Vienna, dogs have shown pro-social behaviors towards other dogs as long as they knew the other dog. In this study, dogs were offered the possibility to pull an empty tray that would bring a treat to the other dog. It was found that dogs were more likely to pull the tray with the treat for the other dog if the other dog was familiar. It is possible that this tendency to favor familiar dogs may stem from the dog’s ancestry. Back to wolf society, considering the cooperative pup raising, cooperative hunting and territorial defense, it could be possible that dogs may have retained some of these cooperative traits reserved towards familiar dogs  from their early ancestors.

Dogs with a History of Cooperating

OK, these dogs may not be consciously cooperating in the exact same way as we humans do, but we found it interesting to learn more about how throughout history dogs have worked together whether the cooperation was intently or not. Some of these dog may have learned to cooperate this way through experience or instinct, while others may have been paired by humans so their work could offer an advantage. Regardless, it’s quite interesting how these dogs collaborated together (and some continue to collaborate) to get the task done. These are just a few examples of the many dogs with a history of having cooperated as a team to attain a final goal.

Lhasa apsos worked as deputies.
Lhasa apsos worked as deputies.

Sheriff & Deputy Sheriff

Tibetan Mastiff and Lhasa Apso: these two breeds may seem to make an odd team, but match them up and you can see how they paired well as wine and cheese. The Tibetan mastiff, a large ancient breed, has a history of guarding families, livestock and property in the Himalayan foothills for many centuries. Courtesy of this breed’s sheer size and guardian nature, it wasn’t unusual to see him pull guard duty in many mansions and monasteries. He was usually unleashed as night when properties were most vulnerable. 

Along with these large dogs, you would often also stumble on the smaller lhasa apso. As  a good “sheriff’s deputy” these fellows would work along with the mastiffs helping them out in their guard duties. Blessed with keen hearing and sharp barks, their main job was to act as alert dogs, barking for the purpose of informing the mastiff about anything out of the ordinary. Upon hearing the alarm barks,  the mastiff would rush to investigate, and if need be, dispatch the intruders.

Shift Work for Sheep great pryneese

Another impressive type of cooperation is seen in the great Pyrenees. These ancient dogs have a history as livestock guardians making them the protectors par excellence when it came to defending sheep and goats from predators. When they work together, these dogs take their guardian roles very seriously. “It’s a wonderful sight to watch our Great Pyrenees livestock dogs with the sheep and goat herds, doing what God made them to do.  They’re outstanding guardians, working well in teams of two to three, each “taking their shift” around the clock through the day and night,” explains Bountiful Blessings Farm., a family run farm and breeder of great Pyrenees dogs. The Carolina Great Pyrenees Rescue warns that even though Pyrs work well as a team, it’s best to get one pup first and get it acquainted with livestock, and then, later on add another so that it can be coached by the more experienced one.

sledsSled Racing Team

Sled dogs aren’t simply hitched to a sled and off they go; rather, their long distance hauling is the product of teamwork and each dog has its own important role to play.  First in line are the lead dogs who must set the pace, follow the musher’s commands and make important decisions. Like service dogs, they must have what’s called “intelligent disobedience”, the cognitive ability to disobey their musher’s command if following it would be counterproductive. An example? These dogs must be confident enough to disobey the musher’s directions if they find that it would cause them to run over bad ice or too close to a cliff, explains Jennifer Raffaeli, manager of Denali’s kennels in an article for National Geographic.

Second in line, are the swing dogs who follow the turns of the lead dogs ensuring those left or right turns go smoothly. Third in line are several team dogs who are responsible for maintaining speed. These dogs are the “muscles” pulling the sleds until ordered  to stop. Last, but not least, are the wheel dogs. These dogs provide steering power. The best wheel dogs are careful to go wide on turns so to help guide the sled around trees and other obstacles, explains Howard Thompson, a former racer and now breeder of sled dogs nearby Mondovi, Wisconsin.

The Carriage Dogsdalmatian

Back in time, carriage travel came with some risks. One big risk was being robbed by the highwayman, a thief who attacked coach travelers by horse. For protection, carriage dogs or coach dogs were employed. These dogs were trained to trot alongside the carriage protecting them from thieves. Should the highwayman try to attack, these dogs would attack their horses giving the travelers enough time to respond. While any breed of dog with long legs could have made a good carriage dog, Dalmatians soon became the breed of choice in the 18th century. Often more than one dog was used, especially by the most wealthy. It therefore wasn’t unusual to see some coaches accompanied by six to eight carriage dogs working as a team.

houndBay and Catch Dogs

In the old days, boar and other animals were often hunted down and different types of dogs were sometimes employed to help the hunters locate them. The bay dogs (which were often hounds, curs or different crosses trained to find) would chase and circle the boar from a safe distance while baying. Their loud baying and howls alerted the hunter signaling that it was time to send out the “catch dogs,” which were dogs trained to catch and hold down the boar until the hunters arrived. An example of this teamwork can be found in the book  “The Mammals That Moved Mankind: A History of Beasts of Burden” by R.C.Sturgis. According to the book, when wolves were hunted down, the scent hounds worked together to track down the wolf, and when the wolf was finally sighted, borzoi were then unleashed to hold down the wolves until the hunters arrived.

Guarders and Herdersfully corded

When it comes to teamwork, two Hungarian breeds sure know how to pull things together. The puli is used to herd and guard livestock during the day, while the Komondor takes over and guards livestock during the night. Both dog breeds are known for having a unique corded coat that resembles dreadlocks. Their rastafarain looks are not there just to get heads turning, rather, their cords serve two distinct purposes: protecting their coats from the elements, and at the same time, protecting them from the potential bites of wolves. Indeed, should a wolf try to bite these dogs, it would take quite some effort to go through all those dreadlocks to reach their skin!

 

References:

Familiarity affects other-regarding preferences in pet dogs, Mylene Quervel-Chaumette et al, Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 18102 (2015)

R.C. Sturgis, The Mammals That Moved Mankind: A History of Beasts of BurdenAuthorHouse, 2015

Photo credits:

  • A fully corded coat. The coat is long, thick and strikingly corded Wiki.awalOwn work, Komondor dog breed CC BY-SA 3.0

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