This Ingredient is Considered the Safe Chocolate For Dogs

 

Looking for a chocolate substitute that is appropriate for dogs? Most of us are aware that chocolate is not safe for our dogs, but when Valentine’s Day or other festivity involving chocolate like Easter or Halloween is around the corner, countless veterinarian offices get loads of phone calls about dogs who have eaten chocolate. Sometimes, no matter how hard dog owners try, dogs somehow manage to get into that box of chocolates left unattended on the counter or steal that chocolate bar left in a purse. In some other unfortunate incidents, dog owners simply aren’t aware of the dangers chocolate may pose to their dogs. They may assume it’s fine if their dog gobbles up some chocolate, only to find out later their dog is sick. Many dog owners admit to regret the fact that they cannot share chocolate with their dogs, but recently many doggy bakeries have been using a chocolate substitute so dog owners can share their love with their pooches. So today’s trivia question is:

What ingredient is often used as a chocolate substitute for dogs?

A  Peanut butter

B Liver pate’

C Applesauce

D Carob

The answer is:

Answer:

If you answered A, peanut butter, your dog may sure like peanut butter, but it’s really not vaguely much similar to chocolate is it? To look like chocolate, it would need a makeover of some type to turn brown and chocolaty. While many people use peanut butter  as an ingredient when they bake their dog treats, consider that not all peanut butter is safe for dogs. In our article “is peanut butter bad for dogs?” we provide some details about some types of peanut butter to avoid. If you answered B, liver pate’, sure its color is getting closer to chocolate-like, but it’s still not there. While your dog will likely lick his chops and wolf it down given the opportunity, let’s face it, the flavor of liver pate’ is a far cry from chocolate. Even if you could afford giving your dog liver pate’ consider that it may have some added ingredients that might not really be healthy for dogs. If you answered C, applesauce, consider that many dog owners use applesauce to make dog treats, but comparing it to chocolate is sort of like comparing apples and oranges.

So the correct answer is D, carob!

carob
Carob chip cookies

Safe Chocolate Substitute for Dogs

Carob has been used as a chocolate substitute for humans for some time already, so it’s not surprising if it’s now being also used in dog treats. The carob tree, Ceratonia siliqua, produces special pods which are naturally sweet and somewhat resemble the taste of chocolate but without the harmful theobromine. The ASPCA Poison Control website lists carob as non-toxic to dogs, non-toxic to cats and non-toxic to horses. As a plus, carob is packed with bonus nutrients like vitamins and minerals.

While your refined palate may notice a difference between the flavor of carob and chocolate, most dogs will love carob treats which is why more and more dog bakeries are adding carob powder and carob chips in their cookies. If you ever felt sorry that your dog couldn’t enjoy a warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with you, you may be happy to bake your dog a batch of  yummy “carob chip cookies” instead! Christina Gerling, technician at Eagle Animal Hospital  in Chester Spring PA, suggests incorporating carob chips into homemade dog biscuits or melting the chips so the carob can be drizzled on the top of your pet’s favorite safe treats or even over banana slices. And if you are not too eager to bake, you can likely find some great dog cookies dipped in carob or some tasty carob sandwich cookies such as those made by Three Dog Bakery. Is your pup’s birthday coming up? You can even buy a “pup-tastic” carob-based birthday cake at your local dog bakery.

References:

ASPCA Poison Control: Carob

Photo credits:

Chocolate chip cookies with carob powder instead of cocoa powder, by Keith McDuffeeCC BY 2.0


I am Your Dog’s Heart

 

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we dedicated this Daily Dog Discovery to the dog’s heart. We often take this organ for granted, but this amazing powerhouse does a remarkable amount of work to keep your dog and his body in good working order. We are talking about one of most miraculous “machines” that’s capable of working non-stop, ticking relentlessly for many years of the dog’s life. While a dog’s heart is built in a similar fashion to the human heart, heart disease affects dogs differently than in people. Let’s take a look at what your dog’s heart has to say.

dog heart diseaseLet Me Introduce Myself!

Hello, it’s your dog’s heart talking! Just like the human heart, I am not very impressive looking. People like to imagine me as a Valentine’s day heart, but I am instead just an egg-shaped muscle of an unappealing red/brownish color that’s housed within the thorax.

More than criticizing my looks though, people should look at me for what I accomplish on a daily basis with no down times. What can I say? I am a workaholic “at heart.”  You think I am exaggerating? Here are some impressive dog heart facts about what I do every single day.

  • On an average day, I pump about 4,000 liters of your dog’s blood.
  • At rest, I beat between 70 to 120 times a minute. That’s more frequent than the human heart which beats an average of 70 to 80 times a minute.
  • I beat roughly 144,000 times per day.
  • I work all day and all night and only rest in those brief split second between beats.

I Transport Bloodheart anatomy

As you may know, I am responsible for moving blood through your dog’s blood vessels. To do so, I am equipped with four chambers, two upper ones known as the left and right atria and two lower ones, known as the right and left ventricles. Here’s a quick review of what I do. When my right atrium receives blood that’s low in oxygen but high in carbon dioxide (a waste product)  from the body, it’s pumped into the right ventricle and then into the pulmonary artery so that the lungs can replenish the blood with oxygen. This oxygen-rich blood then travels through the pulmonary vein and goes back to the heart by entering the left atrium. Here the blood is then pumped into the left ventricle which forcibly pumps the blood through the entire body through the aorta. This cycle keeps repeating over and over for the rest of your dog’s life.

stethWhen Things Go Wrong

You may be familiar with clogged arteries which are a common cause of heart attacks in humans, but when it comes to dogs, arteriosclerosis and heart attacks are actually quite rare. That doesn’t mean that dogs are free from heart disease though. A common form of heart disease seen in dogs is heart failure. This happens when my valves or muscles give out and no longer work as they should. When this happens, one side of me may be overloaded with work and I cannot keep up, so I might have to give up and eventually fail. I don’t fail out of the blue though, it’s usually a process taking months or years. I may give signs of trouble by making affected dogs cough when they’re exercised or excited or right after sleeping.  Affected dogs may appear to get tired more easily and may even faint. These symptoms are proof that I am no longer providing adequate circulation (oxygen for the tissues) to meet the needs of the dog’s body.

Luckily, most vets will notice problems especially if I let out a “murmur” that they’ll hear with the stethoscope. Next, x-rays will show if I am getting too worked out. If I appear enlarged, that’s a sign that I am doing too much. Medications can help me pump more efficiently and help dogs remove excess fluid from the lungs. The vet may recommend a diet low in sodium so to decrease the buildup of fluids. Hopefully, your dog won’t ever go through all of this, but it’s good to keep this in mind so to recognize early signs of trouble especially as your dog ages. Two conditions in particular are known for making me fail, degenerative valvular disease (DVD) when my valves fail to seal properly (a condition common in small dog breeds) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), when my heart muscles weaken, (a condition common in large and giant breeds).

About 10 percent of all dogs seen in primary care veterinary practices have some form of heart disease. This percentage continues to grow as dogs get older. Up to 75 percent of senior dogs experience some form of heart disease. ~Drake Center for Veterinary Care

puppy murmursA Word About Murmurs

I  am known to make a typical “lub-dub, lub-dub” sound that your vet is familiar with. The “lub” sound means that the valves controlling the flow of blood from the upper chambers to the lower chambers close, while the “dub” sound means that the valves controlling blood going out of the heart close.  However, at times, when your vet listens to me with a stethoscope, he may hear an extra noise that sort of sounds like water flowing through a hose. What’s that? It’s a murmur. Not always this is a bad thing. It just means that the blood makes a whooshing noise as it flows through me.  Heart murmurs are quite common in puppies. According to VCA Animal Hospital, they’re often found in young, large breed puppies as early as 6 to 8 weeks of age, but they usually go away by time these pups reach 4-5 months of age. These murmurs are usually benign. Only in some cases they’re a sign of a structural problem.

References:

  • Healthy Hearts for Dogs, Heart Facts, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Merck Veterinary Manual: Resting Heart Rates, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Pet Education: Heart Failure (Mitral Valve Insufficiency) in the Dog, by Race Foster, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Heartworm Society: Prevention, Diagnosis, and Management of Heartworm  Infection in Dogs, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Veterinary Team DVM360: How periodontal disease can affect pets’ organs, by Mary L. Berg, BS, RVT, RLATG, VTS (dentistry), retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Your Dog’s Heart: Heart Health Tips, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016

Photo credits:

Diagram of the human heart, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Reasons Why Your Dog May Be Hiding His Chronic Pain

 

Chronic pain, as the term implies, is pain that persists for a long time. What differentiates chronic pain from acute pain is usually the interval of time occurring since its onset. In dogs with acute pain, the onset is sudden, and generally doesn’t last too long as long as the underlying cause is addressed and healing is allowed to take place. In dogs with chronic pain though, the pain generally has been going on for quite some time and it tends to last beyond the time frame one would expect for healing to occur. When it comes to pain, dogs are often perceived as quite stoic beings, but they may be suffering from chronic pain in silence. It’s up to us owners recognizing the most subtle signs of pain and intervening in a timely matter. Dr. Michael Petty offers many tips on managing pain in dogs in his recent book.

chronic pain dogVague Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Acute pain in dogs is often readily recognized by dog owners. Affected dogs will often acutely yelp or whimper, they’ll hold up a leg, keep their body hunched or they may they hide in a corner, tucked away from other pets and household members. These abrupt changes in body postures, vocalizations and behavior changes are often enough for dog owners to take notice and take their dog to vet. Chronic pain, on the other hand, presents itself more vaguely as the dog often learns to adjusts to it.

The affected dog is less likely to vocalize, the dog becomes gradually withdrawn, perhaps showing less interest in walks and other forms of social interactions. These subtle, gradual changes make recognizing signs of chronic pain in dogs more challenging for both caregivers and vets, explains veterinarian and pain management specialist Dr. Michael Petty, in the book “Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs: The Complete Medical and Integrative Guide to Treating Pain.”

A Survival Mechanismstray dog

Why are the signs of chronic pain so vague in dogs? There are several theories. Despite the fact that dogs are fed in shiny bowls, sleep on plush pillows and wear collars studded with rhinestones, they still retain instincts that date back to the times when they lived in the wild. In our previous article, “Can dogs sniff out cancer? we discussed how dogs may be naturally drawn to smells that indicate disease, as in their evolutionary past as hunters or scavengers, they may have associated it with an easy meal.

Despite the fact that a dog’s ancestors depended on hunting prey animals, they certainly didn’t want to become a meal themselves to other animals much bigger than them. So when they felt pain or were debilitated by disease, they tried their best to keep carrying on and even hide it the best they could as they became aware of their vulnerability. Our domesticated dogs still carry these self-preservation instincts so they don’t end up being an easy target, and these instincts become stronger in the presence of strangers, and ironically, that often includes the family vet, the very person who’s trying to help them out, remarks Dr. Petty.

A Matter of Adrenalinedog pain goes away at the vet

When working for the vet, we often encountered dogs who acted as if they weren’t in any pain at all. The owners were often puzzled. They would say:” That’s odd, at home he acts totally different, maybe he’s starting to get better already.” Even for euthanasia appointments, cat and dog owners sometimes got second thoughts as their pets suddenly appeared more lively than they were in their past days. We were trained by our vets to give these owners a possible answer for their dogs’ and cats’ sudden remarkable “recoveries,” we would therefore tell them it was likely a matter of “the adrenaline rush associated with going to the vet.”

“Your pet may still be in a good amount of pain but the adrenaline rush of going ‘for a ride in the car’ or the fear of ‘seeing the doctor’ tend to overwhelm the pain sensation. Once he gets home Toby is likely going to revert to being a ‘tripod’ again.”Patapsco Valley Veterinary Hospital

No Pain Scaledog limping no pain

Things are quite easy in the pain department when it comes to humans. “Ouch, ahhhhh.. that hurts!” We can easily communicate not only where it hurts, but even how much. Doctors often rely on pain scales to grasp the idea of our levels of pain. Veterinarians may try to evaluate pain via pain scales by asking owners questions, but determining how well an individual dog is coping with it may be a challenge. One phrase we used to hear a lot at the vet when we were recording the dog’s symptoms on the chart was: “My dog is just limping, but I am sure it doesn’t hurt him because I never heard him crying.” This is a common anthropomorphic view that has caused many delayed vet appointment and unnecessary suffering to the dog. Dogs don’t limp on a whim or just because it’s fun to do so. If a dog is limping it means it hurts to move the leg a certain way or bear weight on it. It warrants a vet examination because dog unlike humans, don’t manifest pain vocally like we do.

No dog likes to be left behind...
No dog likes to be left behind…

Special Social Needs

Something else to consider are dogs’ strong social needs which makes them particularly eager to be with us. Ever wondered why achy dogs are still eager to follow us on a walk or car ride? This stems from a dog’s strong social attachment with us that again may come from their evolutionary past. In the old days, our dog’s ancestors lived in packs and depended on each other. If one member became sick or injured, it negatively affected the rest of the pack, possibly by slowing things down or attracting predators. Sadly, it wasn’t unusual for these sick and injured members to be left behind.

Still as of today, while dogs may not view their family as pack, we can’t deny that our dogs have a strong desire to follow us and be with us. They depend on us for food, shelter, protection and guidance and one of their biggest fear is rejection and isolation. Even old and sick dogs are very social creatures who want to be with their families, explains Dr. Petty. Their social needs may therefore override any pain they feel. A willingness to go on walks or car rides, shouldn’t therefore be interpreted as a possible indicator that a dog isn’t suffering from pain.

“Wild dogs depended on the abilities of the whole canine family to help with hunting and pack defense – a disabled member was a liability to all.” ~Pat Miller

Course of Action

It’s important for dog owners to recognize subtle signs of pain in their dogs so that they can provide their dogs with appropriate veterinary care. There are sadly still several misconceptions out there suggesting that dogs or certain types of dogs do not feel pain in the same way we do. “All dogs, regardless of breed label, experience pain. How each dog responds to that pain will vary, but the response cannot be predicted by physical appearance or breed'” warns the Animal Farm Foundation website.

As humans, we are used to seeing pain from “our perspective” relying on our anthropomorphic models of pain such as vocalizations. Dr. Petty lists some signs of pain in dogs on the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management website. The list can be found here: 15 signs of pain  If you notice any of these signs or other evident or more subtle signs of pain in dog, see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

References:

  • Dr. Michael Petty, “Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs: The Complete Medical and Integrative Guide to Treating Pain.” Countryman Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2016)
  • Animal Farm Foundation Inc., For the Dogs It’s All Pain, No Gain, retrieved from the Web on February 7th, 2016.
  • International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management,  Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs. A Complete Medical and Integrative Approach, retrieved from the Web on February 7th, 2016.
  • Psychology Today, Do Dogs Feel Pain the Same Way that Humans Do? by Stanley Coren, retrieved from the Web on February 7th, 2016.
  • Dog Cancer Blog, How to Know If Your Dog Is In Pain, by Dog Cancer Vet Team, retrieved from the Web on February 7th, 2016.

Can Mother Dog’s Stress Affect Her Puppies?

 

Can a stressed pregnant dog pass down her stress to her unborn puppies? We may assume not, considering that likely puppies aren’t fully conscious yet, and thus, have little or no memory. And on top of that, isn’t the womb a place where babies and puppies are protected by any internal and external pressures? Wouldn’t the puppies be somehow shielded from the stress mother dog experiences? We often imagine the womb as a safe, protected environment that’s well-insulated and designed to shield from harm, but turns out a pregnant dog’s stress reactions may have an impact on her unborn puppies and there’s likely a survival reason as to why.

stress in pregnant dogMother Dog Stress

Mother dogs won’t likely suffer from financial or relationship troubles, but they are vulnerable to other types of stress triggers. Let’s imagine for a second the level of stress a pregnant dog raised in a puppy mill may be exposed to. Housed in a cage with little space, exposed to loud noises, surrounded by a large number of dogs and provided with zero enrichment or positive human social interaction, these puppy mill breeding dogs are exposed to sources of psychological distress that can induce stress-induced psychopathology, explains board-certified veterinarian Franklin D. McMillan. 

When  mother dog is stressed, stress hormones are released into the bloodstream. Normally, puppies are shielded from the effect of stress hormones courtesy of a special enzyme that inactivates them at the level of the placenta. However, when the levels of mother dog’s cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, are consistently high, some manages to seep through the placenta with the end result of reaching the developing fetuses. What does this mean to the puppies? It means that the puppies “learn” that the world is a scary place to be and their bodies develop an appropriately tuned stress system and metabolism, explains veterinarian  Jessica Hekman.

Effects on Puppies 

puppiessss

As mother dog’s body deals with stress hormones, extra energy is pulled away from digestion and storage. This may affect the proper growth of the puppies, leading to the birth of puppies that are smaller in size. On top of that, prenatal stress in mother dogs may lead to long-lasting alterations in the brain structures of the developing puppies leading to behavioral deficits that are similar to those observed in schizophrenic humans, explains McMillan. Once born, the puppies are predisposed to anxiety and are particularly vulnerable to effects of stress as they have an impaired ability to cope and adapt to the challenges, threats, and adversity they may encounter throughout their lives.

Scientific research suggests puppies born to dams who have experienced acute or chronic stress during their pregnancy are more likely to show retarded motor & learning development and abnormal exploratory, play, social, sexual and maternal behavior. ~Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

stray dogA Survival Purpose

Let’s imagine how stressful life may be for a pregnant stray dog. She may be wandering in search of food and endure daily stresses such as being attacked by other dogs, risking getting ran over and being constantly scared off by people. A highly reactive stress response in this case is important and can make the difference between life and death, explains Hekman. The release of stress hormones through the placenta in this case may offer an important survival tactic so that the puppies are better primed to face a harsh environment full of threats. While this can be an advantage if the pups lived on the streets, it would not be appropriate for puppies living as pets in the comfort of a home. In such a case, a hyper reactive stress system would turn out being unnecessary and maladaptive. This is why it’s so important that pregnant dogs are kept in a low-stress environment.

In our previous article on when puppies develop their sense of smell, we saw how chemosensory prenatal learning shaped the dietary preferences of puppies when weaning time was around the corner. With smells passing through the amniotic fluid, and then flavors passing in the milk, we learned how puppies rely on their mother’s knowledge to learn about which foods are safe to eat. Today instead, we can see how prenatal stress affects the future behavior of the puppies. Discovering how mother dogs pass down these vital pieces of information to their puppies, so they can receive “a taste” of what life will be like even before they are born, is quite remarkable and fascinating.

newbornJust a Puzzle Piece

Prenatal stress is only one of the many possible factors that may be behind the presentation of puppies with a skittish behavior. There are several other things to factor in when it comes to the abnormal behavior development of puppies, some factors being present even prior to life in utero. One big factor is genes. Puppies may inherit behavior traits from their parents, therefore along with health testing, responsible breeders will screen their prospective dams and studs for sound temperament. The environment where puppies are raised also plays a big role in how the puppy develops. Knowledgeable breeders are aware of the deleterious effects of removing the puppies from the litter too early, inadequately socializing them and failing to provide adequate levels of enrichment and exposure to stimuli likely to be encountered in their future homes.

As seen, the intra-uterine environment plays a role in the development of skittish behaviors in puppies, but there are also many other factors. Many say that behavior is the result of nature (genetics) or nurture (the environment), but as researcher/science writer Robert Sapolsky states definitively goes a long way: “No heredity. No environment. Only the interaction between the two.”

References:

  • The Harmful Effects of Puppy Mills on Breeding Dogs and Their Puppies, by Franklin D. McMillan, DVM, DACVIM Best Friends Animal Society 5001 Angel Canyon Road Kanab, UT 84741
  • Association of Pet Behaviour Cousellors, Rearing Puppies, by Elaine Henley
  • Whole Dog Journal, How a Mother’s Stress Can Influence Unborn Puppies, by Jessica Hekman, DVM, MS
  • Henry, C., Kabbaj, M., Simon, H., Le Moal, M., Maccari, S., 1994. Prenatal stress increases the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response in young and adult rats. J. Neuroendocrinol. 6, 341–345.
  • Dickerson, P.A., Lally, B.E., Gunnel, E., Birkle, D.L., Salm, A.K., 2005. Early emergence of increased fearful behaviour in prenatally stressed rats. Physiol. Behav. 86, 586–593
  • Robert Salposky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, W. H. Freeman; 2nd edition (April 15, 1998)

Do Dogs Shed Tears From Emotions?

 

There have been several videos that have gone viral about dogs “crying,” shedding what viewers perceive as “emotional tears.” The crying dogs in question are often described as crying because they grieving, depressed or feeling rather strong emotions such as joy and gratitude after being rescued or after mother dog has been re-united with her puppies, but can dogs really shed tears from emotions just like we do? Read on before passing Rover that box of Kleenex.

 Crying in Humans

Do dogs cry tears like humans do? First, we must take a look at the role of crying in humans. Crying, the shedding of tears from the eyes in a response to emotions, is something quite common in the human world. Whether crying from sorrow, joy, sadness or happiness, the ability to shed tears makes us quite unique beings in the animal world.  “In the sense of producing emotional tears, we are the only species,” explains Dutch scholar Ad Vingerhoets in the book “Why Only Humans Weep: Unraveling the Mysteries of Tears.”  We essentially start crying from birth, and retain the ability to cry until death.

Crying in humans likely had some evolutionary purpose and there are several theories as to why this behavior persisted so far. In babies, it’s an aid to survival. Crying is a baby’s most effective means of communication which aims to solicit attention and comfort from the mother or carer, a behavior that must have had an important role back in time when our ancestors lived in a dangerous environment, further explains Ad Vingerhoets. The big question though is why do humans continue to cry into adulthood? Another equally important question is why do we shed tears when we cry? The scientific debate has been going on for quite some time with several theories. Charles Darwin considered human crying pretty much useless. In 1872 claimed:

“We must look at weeping as an incidental result, as purposeless as the secretion of tears from a blow outside the eye.” ~Charles Darwin

A Few Theoriescrying

Many experts disagree with Darwin’s consideration that crying is purposeless. One theory proposed by biochemist William Frey (1985) is that when we cry we remove toxic substances from our blood which accumulate when we’re under stress. This makes sense considering how much better we often feel after weeping! Another valid theory, keeping evolution in mind, comes from Dutch ethologist Frans Roes, (1989). He theorizes that the facial expressions of an adult crying mimic the expressions of a helpless child. Crying therefore may have worked as a way to gain protection from others, something that may have been favored by natural selection as crying triggers empathy.

Another great theory comes from Israeli evolutionary biologist Oren Hassen. Crying blurs our vision which interferes with our ability to demonstrate aggression. Tears are therefore a honest signal that tells others that we mean no harm, therefore fulfilling an appeasing function that facilitates social bonding and trust. Finally, Ad Vingerhoets also points out how crying may have attracted predators whereas the visual impact of seeing tears may have been an effective way to attract the attention of others without attracting predators.

“Compared to most other animals, humans also have very sophisticated developed facial musculature that we can use to express nearly all emotions.” ~Ad Vingerhoets

dog joy
Joyful expression in dog

Crying in Dogs 

Do dogs cry? Do they shed tears like humans? The answer is yes and no depending on how we define crying. If we think of crying as the shedding of tears as a reaction to emotions, no, dogs do not cry that way. Sure, dogs have the necessary hardware to make tears happen, but they don’t get teary eyed as a response to emotions like humans do. Crying remains a human trait and despite reports of non-human animals crying, several interviews with veterinarians, animal trainers, zoologists and zoo directors reveal that evidence of emotional crying in non-human animals is weak at best and likely something extremely uncommon, explains Ad Vingerhoets. The fact that dogs don’t cry in the same way as humans do though doesn’t mean that dogs aren’t capable of feeling emotions. Dogs have the ability to manifest most basic emotions such as joy, fear, anger, disgust and even love, explains Stanley Coren, author and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia.

“Science can’t prove it, but there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that dogs and cats have real feelings, just as powerful as our own. It’s just that I have never heard of a case of a dog or cat getting upset or depressed, and then crying real tears as a response.”  ~ Nicholas Dodman.

Dog Versions of Crying

puppies

While most scientists seem to agree that humans are the only animals to shed emotional tears, dogs have their own versions of “crying”  that are closely related to the human version of crying. When puppies are born, as an altricial species, they are helpless beings who heavily rely on their mothers. Just like human babies, they need a way to attract their mothers in times of need. Instead of crying by shedding tears, they will make distinct vocalizations (whining) to get attention from their mother if they’re sick, hungry or cold. Once the puppies grow up they may still whine when they find themselves in situations that require attention. Several dog trainers describe the distressed whining of dogs suffering from separation anxiety quite similar to the whining of puppies in search of their mothers.

Yelping, the acute vocalization often heard when a dog gets hurt, is another version of “crying” that may have an evolutionary, survival advantage in dogs too. We really don’t know if dogs may feel empathy among each other in the same way as humans do, but when puppies play rough, a “yelp” will often do in getting the rough pup to learn to play more gently. In adult dogs, whining and yelping continues to be used to manifest various emotions and/or physical pain.

crying
Dog with weepy eyes

Dogs With Crying Eyes

As mentioned, dogs have the necessary hardware to make tears happen. Indeed, the production of tears is necessary for healthy eyes. Dog eyes indeed produce tears for the purpose of lubricating the eye and washing away the irritants. In the videos of dogs crying that went viral, there may be chances that the videos are fake and artificially created (perhaps  for the purpose of gaining traffic) or that the dogs had an underlying eye disorder that caused an abnormal, excessive tearing of the eyes.

There are several eye disorders that can cause excessive tearing of the eyes in dogs. The medical term for excessive tearing in dogs is “epiphora” and it can stem from an obstruction of the dog’s tear duct or an overproduction of tears with a drainage system that cannot keep up, explains veterinarian Dr. Noelle McNabb. So before passing your dog a Kleenex, a better option may be to see the vet.

“If your dog has fluid coming out of its eyes, you might assume that the animal is crying. However, it’s important for pet owners to note that dogs cannot cry in the way that humans do. If a dog’s eyes are discharging liquid, it is because something is wrong, not because the animal is overcome with emotion.” VCA Animal Hospitals

Video of dog crying tears. Hoax or True Tears? You judge!

 

References:

  • Vingerhoets, A. (2013). Why Only Humans Weep: Unravelling the mysteries of the tears. Oxford University Press.
  • Psychology Today: Why We (and Only We) Cry, by Mark van Vugt Ph.D, Retrieved from the Web on February 5, 2016
  • Walter, Chip (December 2006). “Why do we cry?”. Scientific American Mind 17 (6): 44.
  • Psychology Today: Which Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience?, by Stanley Coren, retrieved from the Web on February 5, 2016
  • New York Times: Biological Role of Human Tears Emerges Through Recent Studies, Dr. William H. Frey
  • Sun Sentinel, Do Dogs Cry Real Tears? Retrieved from the Web on February 5, 2016
  • VCA Animal Hospitals: Can Dogs Cry? Retrieved from the Web on February 5, 2016

Training Dog Commands in Different Languages

 

Interesting in training your Rottweiler German commands? Well, yes, talented dogs are able to learn a new language if you know how to teach them. Whether you want to train your dog to follow new commands in German or any other language, it’s all possible thanks to the plasticity of the dog’s brain and its ability in making associations. To succeed in teaching your dog commands in a different language though you must make sure to follow an exact procedure carefully. The process is not arduous after all and it can actually turn out being an enriching experience. All it takes is some repetition and your dog will be soon on his way to assimilating the new command and responding to it as if he always knew it!

Training Dog German Commands in 3 Easy Steps

When you want to train your dog a new command, you can’t just pronounce it and expect your dog to magically respond to it. The new command obviously has no meaning! So if your dog knows the command “down” but you want your dog to learn the German command “platz”(pronounced “plats”),  you need to help him out by informing him that platz has the same meaning as down. Of course, we can’t just literally tell our dog:”Hey, Rover, ya know? Platz is the German word for down, so when I say it, you must lie down.” So since people and dogs speak a different language, how can we inform them? Here’s a brief guide.

train dog German commandsStep 1) Present the New Command

Your first step is to pick a new command and then it’s your dog’s turn to learn what it means. The procedure to train a dog a new command is quite simple. You simply say the new command and immediately follow it with the familiar one. So in the case you want to introduce the new German command platz, say “platz!” and then, immediately follow it with the familiar command “down.” Upon hearing “platz!” you dog will of course first wonder what you’re asking him to do, but soon, his puzzled face will fade once he’ll recognizes the familiar command “down.” When your dog lies down, praise and reward.

Step 2) Repeat, repeat and repeat the above sequence at least a dozen times and in different places to help your dog generalize. After several repetitions, your dog will start understanding that the word “platz” predicts the old command “down.”

Step 3) Remove the Old Command 

platzzzzzz

After repeating several times, it’s testing time! Say “platz” by itself. Odds are, that if you practiced enough, your dog will lie down. When your dog lies down, make sure you praise lavishly and reward. If your dog doesn’t lie down, you may need to practice a little more and then re-try.

You can try saying “platz” and then wait a second or two before saying “down” hoping that in that second your dog understands and lies down.

Some dogs benefit from a more gradual fading process by progressively minimizing the old command. For example, you can say “platz” and afterward just whisper the word down, or make the word down shorter by saying only “dow” and then both whispering and making the word down shorter. Then, try removing the word down completely. Make sure to throw a party with praise and treats when your dog lies down!

whistleIntroducing Other Commands

The process remains the same if you are training commands of any other language or if you just want to introduce a new command as in the case wanting your dog to respond to “speak” instead of  “bark.” Make sure though that your dog responds reliably to the old command before introducing a new one!

You can also follow the same procedure if you want to introduce new whistle  training commands, by simply introducing  a specific whistle tone followed by the old, familiar voice command. Generally, the more different the cues, the longer it takes for the dog to associate the new cue with the older cue. The hound in the picture had a quite solid recall after lots of training, but we thought to introduce whistle training so the owners could use it when the dog was at a distance without needing to call him at the top of their lungs. He overall learned fairly quickly, after several reps and lots of high-value treats!

Why Train Dogs a Foreign Language?german

Why are many people interested in training dogs commands in a different language? Some people may simply like the sound of foreign commands, but there’s likely more to it.

For instance, professionals may choose dog training commands in German for the simple fact that they’re unlikely to be used in their everyday conversations which can be confusing to dogs. Others may do so because they find it easier to just stick to an imported dog’s native language once the dog is abroad.

When it comes to police dogs, many may assume that they’re trained commands in German or Dutch so nobody else can give them, but turns out this is a myth. Police dogs go through extensive training where they are trained to ignore commands from anyone except  from their handler! So suspects can shout them as much as they want and the dog will turn a deaf ear.

“There is a widespread myth that foreign language training is intended to prevent suspects from contradicting the commands of the handler.  In fact, the dog is trained to ignore commands from anyone except its handler.” Source Slate.com

Here are Some German Dog Training Commands:

  • “Sitz” is the German command for sit.
  • “Platz” (pronounced “plats”) is the German command for down.
  • “Bleib”(pronounced “bly’b”) is the German command for stay.
  • “Hier,” (pronounced “hee er”) is the German command for here.
  • “Fuss” (pronounced “fooss”) is the German command for  heel
  • “Hopp” (pronounced hup) is the German word for jump
  • “Gib-laut” (pronounced gib-laout) is the German word for speak/bark.
  • “Holen” is the German word for fetch.

References:

Slate.com: So Help You Dog, retrieved on February 4th, 2016

Dog Word of the Day: Treeing

 

It’s Wednesday Word Day! So we casually opened our encyclopedia and landed on a page featuring a tree, so we decided that today’s dog word of the day will be treeing! What do trees have to do with dogs? Well a whole lot when we discover what treeing dogs precisely do and their roles as working partners. Turns out, not all dogs are born for the task and it takes a certain talent to excel in the art of treeing. Indeed, there are several dog breeds that were selectively bred with the task of treeing in mind, so let’s discover more about the art of “treeing” and what it exactly entails.

A dog treeing
A dog treeing

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Treeing dogs, as the name implies, involves  both dogs and trees. Treeing is a hunting method where the dog’s main task is chasing animals up a tree so that they can be easily spotted by hunters. The task doesn’t end here though. In order to make good treeing dogs, the dogs must be willing to bark, bark and continue to bark after the animal has escaped up the tree. This barking is what allowed the hunters on foot to successfully locate the dogs so that they could shoot the treed animal. However, not always the animals hunted in this matter had such a dire ending, treeing can also be used so that the animal is radio-tagged for tracking purposes. If you ever wondered where the famous saying “barking up the wrong tree” came from, well, here you have it,  the famous idiom stems from this practice!

The Elite Team 

A redbone coonhound
A redbone coonhound

As mentioned, there are certain dogs specifically bred to bark up trees. While foxhounds excelled as hunters when it came to tracking quarry, they were found to be inadequate in hunting animals that climbed up trees such as raccoon, opossums, bobcats and large prey such as bears and cougars. The foxhounds ended up feeling confused when they were unable to hold scent while these animals took for the treetops. So a special type of scent hound was needed for the task and the first treeing dogs were born. These dogs had a keen sense of smell, strong tracking skills and an independent streak which allowed them to hunt at a distance from their hunters without specific guidance or directions. What dogs excelled in these tasks?

Introducing The Coonhounds

Many coonhounds were employed as these fellows had a good ability to alert the hunters of the whereabouts of treed animals with their distinctive baying until the hunters arrived. Bloodhound blood was sometimes added to their lines so to increase their ability to track. A breed specifically bred for the purpose is the Treeing Walker Coonhound, which was responsible for tracking and treeing wild raccoons. Other breeds commonly used for treeing include the black and tan Coonhound, the bluetick coonhound, the American English Coonhound, the redbone coonhound and the plott hound.

Feist treeing
An example of a Buckley Mountain Feist

Introducing The Feists

Another type of hunting dog used for treeing animals is the feist, a small low-maintenance hunting dog used in the rural southern United States for the purpose of locating, chasing and treeing squirrels. The term “feist” refers to small, noisy dogs. As coonhounds, they’ll circle the tree and bark loudly once the squirrel is treed. Unlike coonhounds though they are rather quiet hunters when they track, limiting their barking to only once the animal is treed. Despite their furious chasing, which often involves wading through streams, leaping over logs, and running across roads and fields, these dogs rarely get to the squirrels. Feists, which are often misidentified as Jack Russells, are mixes of various hunting breeds. According to the United Kennel Club, treeing feists are the result of generations of crosses between hunting hounds and terriers.

Introducing the Curs

Curs are several types of mixed dog breeds which are generally known for being closely related to several North American treeing hounds. They are similar to feists, but the term feist refers to small dogs, while curs are large. Curs have a history of being versatile multipurpose farm dogs capable of herding, hunting and treeing small and large game. The treeing cur is currently recognized by the United Kennel Club and is know for its ability to tree squirrels, raccoon, opossum, wild boar, bears, mountain lions and bob cats.

References:

  • Wikipedia: Treeing, retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 3rd, 2016.
  • Wikipedia: Coonhound, retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 3rd, 2016.
  • Wikipedia: Feist, retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 3rd, 2016.
  • Wikipedia: Curs, retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 3rd, 2016.
  • United Kennel Club: Treeing Feist,  retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 3rd, 2016.
  • United Kennel Club: Treeing Cur,  retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 3rd, 2016.

Photo Credits:

What Are Dogs with Different Colored Eyes Called?

 

husky eyesIt’s Tuesday Trivia, time to test your canine capabilities! Today is dedicated to dogs with two different eye colors.  For example, a dog may have one blue eye and one brown eye. Whether you encountered these dogs in real life, saw them only in pictures or actually owned one, there’s a specific term used to describe the condition of having two eyes with distinctly different colored irises. So today’s question is: What’s the term used to depict the characteristic of having two different eye colors?

 

A: Horner’s Syndrome

B: Anisocoria

C: Complete heterochromia

D: Ocular melanosis

 

The correct answer is:

Answer:

If you picked A, you likely have heard the term Horner’s syndrome pronounced around dogs, but Horner’s syndrome is actually a disorder where the dog develops several symptoms such as drooping eyelids, constricted pupils and sunken eyes. If you picked B, anisocoria, you are looking at another term that, yes, has to do with eyes, but in this case, it’s the condition of having  pupils of an unequal size. If you picked D, ocular melanosis, you are a bit close, considering that ocular refers to eyes and melanosis comes from the term melanin which means color, but in this case the suffix “osis” gives it a negative connotation as it means an “abnormal state”. Ocular melanosis indeed is a congenital eye disorder in dogs caused by an increase of melanocytes, ( the melanin-forming cells) in the eye.

So the correct answer is C, complete heterochromia.

“Heterochromia is  used to describe a multi-colored iris within the same eye, or two eyes with distinctly different colored irises.” Race Foster DVM

You can read more about dogs with different eye colors and breeds that are prone to complete heterochromia here:  why do dogs have eyes of different colors?

I am Your Dog’s Trachea

 

Also known as the windpipe, your dog’s trachea plays a vital role in the passage of air. You might not be aware much of this structure until it gives signs of problems such as when it triggers episodes of coughing and exercise intolerance. As with many other body parts, taking good care of your dog’s trachea goes a long way in preventing problems, especially if you own a small dog. So today we’ll be introducing the dog’s trachea and learn more about this structure which, as many other dog body parts, certainly deserves some attention. Let’s see what the dog’s trachea has to say.

tracheaIntroducing Your Dog’s Trachea

Hello, it’s your dog’s trachea talking! You likely already know about me, I am that short, fairly rigid tube that extends from your dog’s larynx, right down the neck area and then ends right by the thorax where I divide into two primary bronchi that enter the lungs. I am basically shaped like an upside down letter Y. Structurally, I am just a tube made of  fibrous tissue and smooth muscle kept open by several C-shaped cartilage rings. If it wasn’t for these rings, your dog’s trachea would collapse each time your dog took a breath because of the vacuum created by inhalation. My main function, as mentioned, is to carry air to the bronchi, which in turn supply your dog’s lungs.

I’m a Self-Cleaning Structurepoodle

While my main role is to transport air into and out your dog’s lungs, I am also responsible for protecting your dog’s airway from irritating substances. You see, my surface is lined up with motile cilia, several hair-like structures, which, as it happens in the nasal passages, are responsible for trapping any dirt and debris out of the lungs.

For example, if your dog was exposed to lots of dust and contaminants as you were sweeping the floor, I would produce an increased amount of mucus to help trap all those the foreign particles preventing them from reaching the lungs. The mucus is then moved up towards the larynx so that when it reaches the pharynx, your either dog swallows it into the stomach or it’s coughed up as phlegm to clear the passageway.

dog collapsed trachea
The white arrows indicate a normal-sized trachea, whereas, the black arrows mark the collapsed trachea.

When Things go Wrong

While I am a fairly rigid in structure, unfortunately sometimes things go wrong. See, in a dog with a healthy trachea, the airways remain nicely open. Imagine me as an agility tunnel. However, when things go wrong, I might weaken overtime, become misshapen and then, I might eventually collapse.

When I collapse, for sake of an example, you can imagine me as an agility chute, also known as a “collapsed tunnel.” When I cave in or collapse, the air has difficulty passing through so I cause the poor dog to develop a goose-like honking cough as a response. This cough can be noticed more when the dog is exercising, coughing, eating or acting excited. Pressure from the collar on me when the dog is being walked can also trigger coughing. And to keep me in good shape, you must also watch what training tools you use. According to the Pet Professional Guild, tracheal and esophageal damage along with neurological problems and many other issues may result from the use of choke or prong collars.

Sometimes, other than coughing, I may also cause trouble breathing, panting, exercise  intolerance and bluish gums which can be very scary symptoms! Some dogs are more predisposed than others in getting a collapsed trachea. Keep in mind that Yorkies, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, pugs and poodles are some dogs that are particularly vulnerable, especially when they age.

Some Preventive Measures

A harness is better than a collar.
A harness is better than a collar.

Preventing me from collapsing would sound like a good idea as there is really no 100 percent effective treatment once I collapse. Some surgeons have had some luck in using stents for keeping me open, but according to veterinarian Dr. Eric Barchas these are prone to failing over time. There are several things that can be done though to slow things down. Even though there’s likely a hereditary component at play in collapsed trachea of dogs, genetics are just one piece of the puzzle. Most dogs with collapsed trachea do not show symptoms until a secondary problem arises and contributes in complicating matters, explains Robert Prosek a board certified veterinarian specializing in internal medicine. So here are a few things that can be done to prevent further complicating matters.

  • Keep your dog in good shape as obesity predisposes to problems.
  • Keep your dog away from cigarette smoke.
  • Keep your dog’s heart healthy as an enlarged heart can push against me and the bronchi.
  • Prevent your dog from getting too stressed or overexcited
  • Use HEPA air filters to minimize exposure to irritants
  • Protect me from respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis
  • Protect me by using a harness instead of a collar
  • Holistic veterinarians may suggest maintaining my integrity by using cartilage builders. Examples are glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, eggshell membrane, and cetyl myristoleate (CMO), explains veterinarian Karen Becker. Consult with your vet.

Did you know? Dog’s have an Adam’s apple too! It’s basically the larynx which sits in the front of the neck just below the dog’s chin, explains Dr. Forsythe, a veterinarian working for Broadway Veterinary Hospital & Wellness Center in Sonoma, California.

References:

  • Clinical Anatomy & Physiology for Veterinary Technicians, Thomas Colville DVM, Joanna M. Bassert VMD, Mosby Inc.  St Louis, MO, 2002
  • Marck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, Home Edition, Merck and Co. INC. Whitehouse Station, NJ, 2007

Photo credits:

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