I am Your Dog’s Sinuses

Five Interesting Facts About a Dog’s Sense of Thirst

 

The sensation of thirst is what makes dogs crave water, and just as it happens with us, it’s natural for a dog to feel thirsty after being out in hot weather or after exercising. Thirst is what tells dogs that it’s time to replenish his liquid supply. It’s sort of like that “check fluids” light that starts blinking when it’s time to bring your car in for service. Whether your dog drinks from a fresh mountain spring or a bowl of water, the sensation of quenching that thirst certainly makes him feel better. Keep an eye on that water bowl though, at times, excessive thirst can be a sign of a medical problem.

dog-increased-drinkingDogs Have a Thirst Center…

What causes dogs to be thirsty? A dog’s thirst center is activated when the body detects a need for more fluids. Thirst can be caused by a loss of blood volume, known as hypovolemia or by a change in the normal levels of sodium and water in the blood. The dog’s thirst center is located in the brain, and the hypothalamus is ultimately the responsible party for triggering thirst. The hypothalamus is equipped with special sensors that are constantly monitoring the blood’s concentration of sodium and the blood’s overall volume and pressure. When the sensors detect low blood volume as seen from excessive bleeding or when it detects high blood concentrations of sodium, that’s when the dog’s hypothalamus springs into action and sends out a strong message: “Hey Rover, go drink something now!”

“The thirst center is stimulated by an increase in plasma osmolality (sodium concentration) and/or a decrease in blood volume (hypovolemia) resulting in an increase in water consumption.”~David S. Bruyette, DVM, DACVIM

And it Can Take a Conservatory Approach

When the dog’s body recognizes lowered fluid levels, it not only increases thirst, but also takes important measures to protect the dog from fast dehydration. The hypothalamus will therefore take a further step to prevent this by soliciting the posterior pituitary gland to secrete an antidiuretic hormone (ADH) also known as arginine vasopressin, which travels to the dog’s kidneys telling them to concentrate the urine and reduce urine volume. The goal is therefore conserving water, at least until the fluids are replenished. How’s that for a lesson on water conservation?

idea tipDid you know? The urine specific gravity test is meant to evaluate how concentrated a dog’s urine is and can help the vet determine how well a dog’s kidneys are working.

dog thirstSome Dogs Have too Little

When a dog isn’t hydrated well, he’s known for being dehydrated. Dehydration in dogs can occur in two specific circumstances: reduced water intake or increased loss of fluids as seen from excessive vomiting and diarrhea. There are several ways you can tell whether a dog is dehydrated. A dehydrated dog will act lethargic, lose appetite, have sunken eyes and a dry mouth. A dehydrated dog’s skin will also lose elasticity and therefore if you pull the skin over the back or neck, it will fail to spring back into position quickly, or worse, it may stay lifted. Capillary refill time will also increase in dehydrated dogs.

idea tipCurious fact: Interestingly, yet rare, some dogs may have a malfunction in their thirst center of his brain. According to Prospect Park Animal Clinic, this means that, in plain English, the affected dogs’  “I’m thirsty trigger” doesn’t work as it should and therefore these dogs don’t feel the urge to drink.

And Some Dogs Have Too Muchdog-thirsty

On the other end of the spectrum are dogs who drink too much. The medical term for excessive drinking is “polydipsia.” According to Dr. David Bruyette,  a board-certified veterinarian specializing in internal medicine, water consumption exceeding 100 ml/kg is considered abnormal. There are several conditions that can cause increased drinking in dogs, and along with that, increase urination (what comes in, must go out after all!).

According to the late and dearly missed veterinarian Dr. Sophia Yin, some of these diseases could range from a brain tumor that affects the dog’s thirst center of the brain to more common issues such as kidney or liver disease, adrenal gland disease or diabetes.

dog-guarding-waterAnd a Few Dogs May Even Guard it!

Most people are accustomed to dogs who guard their toys, food, bones and resting spots, but not many people are familiar with dogs who feel compelled to guarding the water bowl. There’s a good reason though why they do so, explains veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall, in the book “Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats.”Water is one of those things a dog may struggle with a human or other dog over access to it. Add on top of that, the fact that some dogs who had a hard start in life may have had limited access to water and experienced pronounced thirst, and there you go,  you have the perfect recipe for a dog who compelled to guard the water bowl.

 

References:

  • Functional Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals, By William O. Reece, Wiley-Blackwell; 4 edition (March 4, 2009)
  • DVM360, Diagnostic approach to polyuria and polydipsia (Proceedings) retrieved from the web on September 18th, 2016
  • Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, By Karen Overall, Mosby; 1 Pap/DVD edition (July 9, 2013)


Does Your Dog Hate Changes With a Passion?

 

Changes can be exciting for people as they hop on novel adventures, but ask your dog and he’ll likely tell you that he hates changes with a passion. Unfortunately, changes are often inevitable in a dog’s life. A move, a new owner, a baby, a new pet, a vacation, a new veterinarian, a previously housebound owner starting a new job, these are all things dogs are often subjected to throughout their lives. Heraclitus of Ephesus said “the only thing that is constant is change ” and while some dogs don’t seem to mind changes much, some dogs have quite a hard time adapting to them.

dog fearLife is Not Easy for Fido

We stumbled on a blog depicting dogs as not having a hard time coping with changes and that dog owners are often the ones having a harder time. While this can be the case when we start worrying about a future trip coming up in the next few weeks (while dogs live in oblivious bliss at least until those dreaded suitcases come out!), we find that several dogs “hate” change with a passion, especially if it means not coming along with the owner but being boarded in a kennel instead, while the owners are thousands of miles away enjoying a cruise to the Bahamas.

Change is often not easy on dogs, and while they are often spared from the “pre-change anxiety” we experience several weeks prior to the changing event, dogs are often as stressed, if not more, than their owners the moment the change occurs and the stress may linger even for a certain period of time afterward. Some dogs are very sensitive to changes in their routine, and we know of some dogs who even get upset if their owners happens to re-arrange furniture!

An Insight into Homeostasis dog panting tongue

Homeostasis derives from the Greek word “standing still” and is used to depict the body’s effort to maintain everything balanced and stable. The term was coined by famous American physiologist Dr. Walter Cannon where in his book “The Wisdom of the Body”, describes homeostasis as the ability for the body to maintain steady levels of things like water, salt, glucose, fat, calcium, oxygen, blood pressure and body temperature. When something goes out of balance, the body quickly does everything it can to bring things back to normal. So if say a dog is hot, his body will do what it takes to cool his body down, if too high concentrations of glucose are detected in the blood, insulin is released and the dog’s thirst center will be triggered causing him to drink more, if the dog’s body temperature lowers, homeostasis is often attained by evoking the muscles to generate heat by shivering.

“A thermostat exhibits the quality of homeostasis—when the room temperature rises above a set point, the thermostat activates the air conditioner; when the temperature falls below the set point, it activates the heater.”~Planned Success Institute

scared dog fight or flightMechanisms for Changes 

In the same way as homeostatic reactions occur to make adjustments when things need to be stabilized, the mind undergoes something similar too. Homeostasis in this case works on bringing back the dog’s body and mind to an optimal state after it has been disturbed by some stressful change. Fortunately, people and animals are equipped with several mechanisms to help them adapt to changes. When exposed to a change, several physiological and behavioral processes take place before a psychological adjustment is made that helps the dog accept a stressful stimulus or situation and consider it nonthreatening.

“The concept of homeostasis can be applied not only to stressors associated with internal changes, such as changes in blood sugar, but also external changes such as unpleasant and dangerous environments or situations that are confusing to the animal: thus, if something scares the animal it may run away in order to restore the preferred state of relaxation in a safe and secure environment.”~Daniel Mills et al.

Working to Restore Balancedog blanket sleep sick

Gaining that cherished balance back and returning to a state of normalcy can sometimes be quite difficult and people often misinterpret the dog’s efforts.For instance, when a dog is placed in a kennel or crate, many people assume that their dog’s whining and barking is due to boredom, but often it’s actually the dog’s frustration from not being able to restore homeostasis, suggests  Daniel Mills professor of veterinary behavioural medicine at the University of Lincoln along with other authors in the book “Stress and Pheromonatherapy in Small Animal Clinical Behaviour.”

In a similar fashion, a dog who finds himself in a new place with new noises or with a new pet, may crave going back to a state of normalcy, but when this is not possible, he must learn to cope and adapt, hopefully with the help of the owner and possibly with some calming aids such as DAP sprays. According to the book Animal Behavior for Shelter Veterinarians and Staff  “As a consequence of the stressor, the animal will then undergo behavioral and physiological adjustments to avoid or adapt to the stressor and return to homeostasis.” Restoring balance and a state of normalcy therefore feels good, and all living beings cherish that comforting feeling associated with reaching  that neurophysiological stability associated with “emotional homeostasis.”

“Every individual strives to achieve and maintain emotional homeostasis., i.e. a positive emotional state. The function of emotional homeostasis is to allow an individual to deal with and adjust to the many changes that are part of everyday life.”~The APBC Book of Companion Animal Behaviour

Did you know? A dog’s capacity to remain in emotional homeostasis develops through the puppy’s sensitive period for behavioral organisation. According to The APBC Book of Companion Animal Behaviour, in early life “a picture of the world” is formed where everything that is considered within the norm is retained. Any changes in the environment that deviates from this “standard” can cause emotional upset.

References:

  • Scientific American, What is homeostasis? retrieved from the web on Sept 17th, 2016
  • Stress and Pheromonatherapy in Small Animal Clinical Behaviour, by  Daniel Mills, Helen Zulch, and Maya Braem Dube, John Wiley & Sons; 2nd ed. edition (21 Dec. 2012)
  • Animal Behavior for Shelter Veterinarians and Staff 1st Edition, by Emily Weiss (Editor), Heather Mohan-Gibbons (Editor), Stephen Zawistowski (Editor), Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (July 7, 2015)
  • SENSITIVE PERIODS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF BEHAVIOURAL ORGANIZATION IN THE DOG AND THE ROLE OF EMOTIONAL HOMEOSTASIS J. Pluijmakers1 D.L. Appleby2 * J.W.S. Bradshaw1 1 Anthrozoology Institute, Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, BS40 5DU, UK 2 Pet Behaviour Centre, Defford, Worcs WR8 9AB, UK
  • The APBC Book of Companion Animal Behaviour, By Sarah Heath, Rosie Barclay, Julie Bedford

 

Different Dog-to-Dog Tolerance Levels

 

Just like people, dogs have their own personalities and they may react differently when it comes to interactions with other dogs. On one hand you have social butterflies, dogs who love mingling with other dogs, then, on the opposite side of the spectrum, you have dogs who don’t want to have anything to do with other dogs and the last thing they want is to meet them. There are then several other types of dogs falling somewhere in between. Of course, these are just generalized profiles as every dog’s personality may vary and have different facets, but different personality types and dog-to-dog tolerance levels should be kept into consideration especially when it comes to deciding whether to make dogs interact.

Some Factors to Consider 

Most dogs are eager to play and interact with other dogs when they are puppies and youngsters, but several have a change of heart as they become socially mature. Generally, starting at the age of 12 to 18 months, several dogs may start to be less and less interested in interacting with other dogs and their tolerance levels may lower. Just like children grow up and stop going to the playground, certain dogs may no longer enjoy trips at the doggy park perhaps often preferring play dates with a handful of dogs they know.

On top of dogs becoming a bit more aloof as they mature, there are several other factors that may play a role in how dogs react to other dogs and their tolerance levels. Handler influence, an over-protective attitude related to their owner, overall socialization levels, past experiences, and even genetics may play a role as to how dogs may tolerate other dogs. However, no rules are written in stone and dog behavior is prone to changing therefore, social butterflies may decide that they no longer enjoy mingling with other dogs, while dogs who have a hard time tolerating dogs may start enjoying being around dogs with  proper guidance.

“Many, starting between ages one and three on average, become more selective about their dog friends, less playful in general and less willing to tolerate crude social behavior from other dogs.”Jean Donaldson

tarzan-dogThe Canine Tarzan

The Tarzans of the doggy world are party goers but tend to lack social skills. Their motto is “let’s get together and paaaaarty!” These easy going fellows are very forgiving and don’t seem to mind even the rudest doggy manners. A dog rushes up and paws at their face? No biggie, it’s all part of the fun. After all, these are the same direct behaviors they engage in whether meeting long-time friends or fresher acquaintances (who might not appreciate their coming-on-too-strong greeting style.)

Many youngsters are this way, but some dogs remain perpetual party dogs for the rest of their lives. These dogs love spending time at the dog park, just as party goers love spending time at the disco or local bar partying and mingling with the crowds. On walks, these fellows may pull in their eagerness to mug other dogs in excitement.

 

The Social Butterflyplay

These dogs do fine seeing other dogs on walks and are pretty much social beings, but they have more polite manners. Upon meeting new dogs, they may act indifferent or friendly, allowing the other dog to sniff them without complaint. Rude behaviors are generally tolerated as these dogs are quite tolerant and forgiving.

These dogs enjoy the company of other dogs and thrive on social contact even though they may lack the excessive “let’s party” obnoxious behaviors of the Tarzans. The play style of social butterflies are within the norm, and because they don’t tend to break many social rules they aren’t as much in trouble as Tarzan dogs are.

 

maverick-dogThe Canine Maverick

Just like some people would rather enjoy a cup of coffee in front of a fireplace rather than dancing the night away at the night club, some dogs would rather have a good time in other, less chaotic ways. These dogs are not anti-social, they just have their own preferences of what they like to do best.

When placed in a play group, these dogs may be fine with other dogs, but they would rather engage in certain activities than mingle with the crowds. You’ll therefore see them interact a bit with the other dogs, but then they’ll just stray away and go on a sniffing adventure or engage in a game with their owners. These dogs may do best at the dog park during off-peaks hours. On walks, Maverick dogs tend to ignore other dogs, going on with their business as usual.

 

playingThe Party Pooper

Some dogs are selective of who to befriend and they may have low tolerance for unknown dogs who get in their faces and don’t follow certain rules when they interact. These dogs may do fine seeing other dogs on walks, but if a Tarzan pulls to greet them and manages to get in their face or place a paw on they’ll shoulder, they’ll get all upset about it. Same goes during play. Obnoxious behaviors are not well tolerated by these guys. A growl though often works in setting rude dogs straight. These dogs aren’t really trying to be party poopers, they just want other dogs to adhere to proper social etiquette.

After all, how would you feel if a total stranger you have never met, rushes to you and gives you a hug? These dogs feel the same way, but they are often frowned upon at the dog park, when owners of Tarzan dogs blame them for not being nice to their dogs who “just wanna have fun.”

 

dog playThe Wallflower

Just as some people stick to the walls in parties, some dogs will linger by the edges of the dog park. These shy, timid dogs are not too fond of rowdy dog behaviors and often find them intimidating. Well-meaning owners often try to encourage them to join in, but their tails go down as soon as any dog tries to entice them in a game. These dogs aren’t really having fun, and if they happen to be cornered, they may even engage in defensive behaviors. The dog park is not suitable for these dogs as they often end up having traumatic experiences which only make them more fearful.

On walks, these dogs may feel intimidated by other dogs and if forced to meet and greet, they may hide between the owner’s legs if the other dog is too rowdy.

“Each dog has a different tolerance for meeting and greeting new dogs. Get to know your dog’s comfort level.” ~ Nancy Kerns

reactive-roverThe Reactive Rover

In a perfect world, everybody gets along with one another, but things aren’t always as one would dream. Reactive Rovers may have no doggy friends, but if they do, they’re only a few they know very well such as the dogs they live with or perhaps just a dog with which they grew up with. On walks, these dogs may display aggressive behaviors such as barking or lunging at other dogs coming too close (no to be confused with barrier frustation); basically, their way of telling them in doggy language to keep distance. These dogs may appear tense when other dogs are present. Reactive Rovers can be helped to accept and better tolerate other dogs under the guidance of a trainer, but they may  revert to their defensive behaviors if they are mismanaged or set up for failure.

For further reading: What’s Your Dog’s Play Style?

 

References:

  • Monroe SPCA, Four Categories for Measuring Dog Tolerance Levels, retrieved from the web on Sept 16th, 2016
  • Paws Abilities, Taming the Canine Tarzan, retrieved from the web on Sept 16th, 2016
  • Visiting the Dog Park: Having Fun, Staying Safe, By Cheryl S. Smith, Dogwise Publishing; 1st edition (March 16, 2007)
  • Fight, by Jean Donaldson, Dogwise Publishing (January 1, 2002)

Understanding Dog Pee Pads and How They Work

 

Dog pee pads:  let’s face it, the idea is ingenuous, getting a dog or puppy  to use a pee pad while the rest of the home remains immaculately clean is a dog owner’s dream come true. Too bad though that soon reality hits hard when dogs seem to potty just about everywhere except on the pee pad! If you’re dealing with this frustrating situation, rest assured you are not alone, countless owners get frustrated when their dogs totally miss the target and aim wrong. Is something wrong with the pee pad or is the dog just not getting it? Does Rover perhaps need a marksmanship class?Understanding better how pee pads work and how dogs perceive them, can help troubleshooting the problem.

puppy-pads-peeDog Pee Pads Under Scrutiny

What are pee pads for dogs? Also known as potty pads,  piddle pads, wee-wee pads or training pads, dog pee pads are simply square or rectangular layers of absorbent material meant to soak up a dog’s excretions.

Most dog pee pads are made of gauze over blue plastic which is meant to face down. Several brands also have adhesive tabs to help them adhere to the floor. For owner appeal, several brands  now offer odor-eliminating scents so to reduce odors. 

There are a variety of pee pads on the market nowadays with different features and perks. The next question is though, do pee pads really work? Are they suitable for everybody?  What can owners do to increase the chances that their puppy or dog will use them?

 

Not for Everybodypee-pads-for-dogs

Pee pads for dogs work may work for some owners, but they are not for everyone. If you have access to a yard and have time to invest in traditional potty training, your best bet is to start training your puppy or dog to go potty outdoors straight from the get-go. It can be quite challenging to wean puppies off training pads after using them for quite some time as puppies tend to develop a substrate preference at an early age. According to Karen Overall, puppies tend to develop a substrate preference at around 8 and a half weeks of age.

Not all people though have the fortune of having access to a yard, and some dog and puppy owners may find it easier to use the dog pee pads permanently (or partially, at least until the puppy is old enough to hold it for longer periods of time) for various reasons. Here are a few examples of cases where dog potty training pads may turn useful:

  • Owners of those teeny pint-sized dogs who get chilled very easily when temperatures drop
  • Owners of sick, convalescent dogs who are weak or have mobility problems.
  • Owners of fearful dogs who are too afraid and uncomfortable to potty outdoors
  • Owners of puppies who are in the process of being potty trained but live in high-rise apartments
  • Owners of young puppies who must leave their pups inside for longer than they can hold it
  • Owners of puppies who don’t have access to a backyard
  • Owner who have a health issue and cannot go easily outside

The Truth About Attractantspuppy-pee-potty-pads

Many companies advertise how well their pee pads work courtesy of several attractants added for the purpose of drawing the dog to relieve himself on the pad. Not all attractants are created equal though and therefore not all of them may work.

Some puppy pee pads are given a fresh grass scent. These pee pads can therefore turn helpful for dogs and puppies  destined to use grassy areas in the yard in the future as a permanent substrate.

Pee pads treated with ammonia can aid in the potty training process considering the role ammonia has in potty training. Ever heard how using ammonia-based products to clean up soiled areas can cause a puppy to actually soil over the area more and more? Here’s the reason why. Ammonia is a byproduct excreted in urine, so when you clean up urine using an ammonia-based product, you are spreading the smell of.. yes, urine. So when the puppy feels the need to urinate, he’ll pick the spot that smells like ammonia simply because the smell of urine tells him that’s his peeing spot. Adding ammonia to a pee pad may therefore actually do the trick convincing him to pee on it, but there’s a cheaper option as described below.

And what about pee pads treated with pheromones? Some pee pads are treated with synthetic pheromones while others sell pheromones in spray form to be sprayed directly on the pee pad. Pheromones are chemicals secreted by dogs that trigger responses in other dogs who smell them. In this case the synthetic pheromones used in dog pee pads are crafted for the purpose of attracting the dog to pee over it in a similar fashion as when they sniff a fire hydrant or lamp post that has pheromones left by another dog. While this may seem like an astute strategy, it doesn’t always work. Indeed, many housebreaking pheromones-based sprays have awful reviews. And while some pups seem attracted to the pads, it’s most likely because they can’t wait to rip them up into pieces or turn them into their favorite sleeping spots! So for sake of effectiveness, even an old newspaper may work, but it might not fare well when it comes to absorption.

idea tipDid you know? If you have plain pee pads with no attractant, you can make your own form of attractant by simply collecting with a paper towel a bit of your dog’s urine from an area he previously soiled and passing it onto the pee pad. The scent of pee will tell your dog that this is his new bathroom!

Strategies for Successpuppy

Many people assume that once you place a pee pad on the floor, the dog will magically pee on it every single time. Sorry, to burst someone’s bubble, but if things were as simple as that, the process of potty training would be as easy as pie and dogs would start growing halos over their heads. The truth is that dogs need to be trained to use the pads and it can take even a bit of time and patience. There are several strategies though that can help attain success.

  • Set your dog for success. Placing the pee pad in the farthest corner of the house is like sending your dog on a treasure hunt through a maze, especially for small pups. Make it easy to find.
  • Make going potty on pee pads easy, fun and rewarding while making going potty in other areas, difficult, boring and close to impossible (courtesy of management and supervision).
  • If you must leave for the day or cannot supervise you puppy, keep your puppy confined inside a small enclosed pen with the pad strategically located at the opposite side from his bed, water bowl and toys. Most dogs do not like to soil near where they sleep, eat or drink, so their best choice is to use the pad.
  • Choose a spot for the pee pads and make sure to keep the location the same. Dogs are routine-oriented creatures so if you start changing around the location of the pee pad they start feeling confused. If you really must change, do it gradually over several days moving it a few inches at a time.
  • Pick a location that is quiet and with not many distractions going on.
  • Keep the pee pad on a surface that is easy to clean such as tile floor. If you must use carpet, place some tarp under it to prevent urine from seeping into the carpet.
  • The minute your pup positions himself to eliminate on the pad, be sure to say “go potty”so that he associates that word with the action of elimination.
  • Always lavishly praise and reward your dog or puppy for using the pee pad.
  • Never scold your puppy for missing the pad or going somewhere else. Scolding makes puppies associate your presence with punishment causing them to potty secretly out of sight behind a couch or under a bed.
  • Clean up all accidents with an enzyme-based cleaner that dissolves any traces of residual odors. Remember that to a dog, residual odors of previous accidents act as reminders of the past which may trigger them to urinate on them once again. While we use our eyes to locate a restroom, dogs use their noses.
  • If you are using the pee pads temporarily and then you are planning to let your dog potty outside grass, your best bet is to use a pee pad that smells like grass, or even better, use one of those fake grass litter boxes for dogs that provide the scent and feel of real grass. Also, placing the pad gradually closer and closer to the door can be helpful if your final objective is to get your dog to potty outdoors.
  • Once your puppy learns to reliably used the pads in his enclosure, you can gradually increase his confinement area (keeping the pads always in the same place) until he graduates to being left loose in the house and remembering where to go.

“House soiling quickly becomes a bad habit because dogs develop strong location, substrate, and olfactory preferences for their improvised indoor toilet areas.”~Ian Dunbar Dog Star Daily

References:

  • Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, 1e 1 Pap/DVD Edition, by Karen Overall MA VMD PhD DACVB CAAB, Mosby; 1 Pap/DVD edition (July 9, 2013)
  • Dog Star Daily, Housetraining, retrieved from the web on Sept 15th, 2016.


Dog Word of the Day: Flirt Pole

 

Among the many toys and gadgets purposely crafted for a dog’s entertainment, the flirt pole deserves a spot of honor as it can provide loads of fun and allows a great outlet for dogs who like to chase things. Not many stores are equipped with flirt poles, but they are becoming more and more popular as more and more dog trainers are suggesting them for dogs in need of expressing their prey drive in a non-destructive way. Since flirt poles increase exercise, they benefit dogs in many ways such as improving their balance and motor skills and strengthening those  joints and muscles.

flirt-poleIntroducing the Flirt Pole

Also known as “flirt stick,” a flirt pole can be described as the giant version of a classical cat toy where feathers are attached to a string  to entice lazy kitties to play. This comparison after all, is not too bad, considering that the purpose is the same: to coax the animal to chase a fast moving object. A flirt pole though is a tad bit different. It’s best described as a pole made out of light wood or plastic with a lure attached at the end, quite similar in appearance to a fishing pole, only that unlike a fishing pole, the string cannot be retracted. The lure attached at the end usually consists of a toy, but can also be a rag, pieces of fleece or an animal’s hide.

Uses for Flirt Poles

Flirt poles can be used in different ways. The lure can be dragged on the ground to stimulate a dog to chase it around. The owner may stand still in one spot and move the lure snapping the pole around erratically, or by swinging the pole higher, the owner can entice the dog to jump in an effort to catch  the lure, but be careful though, as this can hurt the  dog’s joints, especially in young dogs who are developing. Always talk to your vet first before engaging your dog in jumping activities ans high-impact sports. A warm-up period is recommended to prevent muscle sprains. Here are some ideas on how to use the flirt pole.

  • Flirt poles may come handy for puppies and young dogs who have lots of energy and live in small places.  Make sure the area is clear of anything that can be knocked over.
  • Flirt poles can provide an alternative to chasing squirrels or wildlife.
  • It can make a fun rainy-day activity for bored, under stimulated dogs.
  • A flirt pole can be also used as a way to improve a dog’s performance in certain doggy sports.
  • Does your dog have too much energy on walks? Use a flirt pole to tire him out before a walk.
  • Use it to train toy-motivated dogs by allowing them to play with it after performing a wanted behavior.
  • Dogs can be taught to catch and release the lure on cue as done with tug toys. Praise your dog for catching and then ask to release. Then, resume the game. If you wish to attain better impulse control you can ask a dog to sit or lie down before resuming the game..
  • Use a flirt pole to work on the “stay” cue, “leave it”  or “drop it” cue to improve your dog’s obedience training.
  • Keep it handy on walks, when you need to distract your dog from something that he focuses too much on.

A Word of Cautionflirt-pole-2

Laser pointers, special gadgets that emit a small red dot of light that dogs chase around, have been known for causing obsessive behaviors in dogs. A main problem with laser toys is that they stimulate a dog’s nervous system triggering the chasing instinct, but since dogs never get a chance to physically catch the red dot, they never get a sense of closure and this can cause obsessive behaviors to put roots. “I’ve seen light chasing as a pathology where they will just constantly chase around a light or shadow and pounce upon it. They just spend their whole lives wishing and waiting,” explains Nicholas Dodman, veterinary behaviorist and professor at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Flirt poles, on the other hand, are a preferable option as the dog actually is given the opportunity to interact with and catch the object at the end of the pole. It’s therefore important to allow the dog to eventually catch the lure and play with it every now and then, something dogs cherish  doing since they ultimately never get to catch those squirrels in yard (hopefully)!

Did you know?  Trainers of bomb and drug sniffing dogs know for a fact that fruitless searches where they never get to find anything may overtime cause them to become mentally drained. To prevent this mental fatigue from interfering with their jobs, trainers must occasionally take their dogs on dummy missions where they finally get to find something and are rewarded for it.

DIY Flirt Pole For Dogs

For those who like to hand craft their own things, a flirt pole can make an easy Do-It-Yourself project. Simply arm yourself with about 3 feet of PVC pipe and thread an 8 feet long rope through it making a double knot so that it doesn’t slide out of the pipe. Next, securely tie a toy such as a small stuffed animal at the end of the rope and you’re done! Don’t feel like making a flirt pole yourself? No worries, if your local pet shop doesn’t stock them, you can always find them in many online stores today who can deliver it straight to your door.

Did you know? Play behaviors which include elements from predatory behavior activate a dog’s endogenous reward system, explains Mechtild Käufe in the book “Canine Play Behavior: The Science Of Dogs At Play.”

 

References:

Canine Play Behavior: The Science Of Dogs At Play, Mechtild Käufe, Dogwise Publishing (22. Oktober 2014)

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Do Dogs Have Blood Types Like Humans Do?

 

We never see dogs lined up in front of blood donation centers so it makes sense to wonder whether dogs have specific blood types like humans do. This is something worthy of knowing about considering that dogs may at some point in their lives need a transfusion, and it’s sure interesting discovering whether there is such a thing as dogs donating blood and whether they must go through the same screening for blood-borne infectious diseases as people do. So today’s trivia question is:

Do dogs have blood types like humans do?

A Yes, dogs have blood types too, but more than humans

B Yes, dogs have blood types too, but less than humans

C Yes, dogs have blood types too and the same exact types as humans

D No, dogs do not have blood types.

The correct answer is: drum roll please….

drum

 

 

The correct answer is A, yes, dogs have blood types too and even more than humans do.

dog-blood-transfusionA Greater Variety

Even though all dog blood is made of the same elements, not all dog blood is the same. Dogs have different blood groups and types, and just as in humans, it’s important to know about a dog’s blood type.

Blood transfusions in dogs can be needed when a dog loses blood as from a car accident or other traumatic injury causing lots of blood loss, or from medical conditions that cause destruction of red blood cells. While in humans there are four major blood groups, that is A, B, AB and O, when it comes to dogs and delivering blood transfusions things are a tad bit different.

Dogs have about eight basic blood types, however, as many as 12 may exist, explains veterinarian Dr. Chris Bern.

A Different Structure

bloodDog blood falls under a different system compared to humans when it comes to blood groups. In humans, blood groups are based on inherited proteins that sit on the surface of red blood cells. These proteins differ between one person and another. Dogs do not have the same blood group proteins as humans do, but rather their groups are basically structured based on the dog erythrocyte antigen (DEA) system.

A dog’s DEA is always followed by a number, so for example, you may see DEA 1.1 positive, DEA 1.1 negative, DEA 1.2, DEA 3, DEA 4, DEA 5, DEA 7 and DEA8. According to veterinarian Linda M. Vap, DEA 1.1 and DEA 1.2 tend to occur in about 60% of dogs, DEA 4 occurs in up to 98% of dogs and dogs with this type alone are universal donors, while DEA 3 and 5 are found in lower proportions and DEA 7 is seen in 8 to 45 percent of dogs in the U.S. Little though seems to be known about DEA 6 and 8 and other possible antigens thought to exist.

dog-bloodAbout Dog Transfusions

As with human transfusions, dog blood donors need to screened for diseases and the antigens in the blood need to be known. In humans, transfusions are risky when the blood is not compatible as the body detects the blood as foreign and attacks it as if was a life threatening virus. This can cause life threatening complications. In dogs, though, in a first time transfusion the risks for complications are generally low; however, if a dog has had a transfusion before then there are higher risks of a reaction, explains board-certified veterinarian Dr. Joey. In this case, cross-matching, the process of determining whether a donor’s blood is compatible with the blood of the recipient, can help prevent severe allergic reactions to the donor dog’s blood.

 

Did you know? Greyhounds are often used a blood donors because they have special traits that makes them suitable for the task. On top of being docile and having large veins, their blood is particularly appealing. “Oxygen-carrying red blood cells can account for up to 47 percent of the blood of other dog species. In greyhounds, however, that number runs as high as 70 percent, which allows the species to replace lost blood quickly and “recuperate faster,”explains shelter veterinarian Leonard Vidrevich for an article for Sun Sentinel.

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is sick, please see your vet for proper treatment.

 

References:

  • Hohenhaus AE. Importance of blood groups and blood group antibodies in companion animals. Transfus Med Rev 2004;18(2):117-126.
  • DVM360, An update on blood typing, crossmatching, and doing no harm in transfusing dogs and cats, retrieved from the web on September 13th, 2016

 

I am Your Dog’s Spleen

 

The spleen is one of those organs in dogs that lives in the shadow. Many people are not even aware that their dogs have a spleen, and unfortunately some get a scary, wake-up call of its presence when complications with this organ arise. Because a dog’s spleen is on the mushy side, it cannot be surgically repaired as other body parts and therefore it must often be removed when it starts bleeding. Yet, a dog’s spleen carries out many important functions. So today, let’s learn more about a dog’s spleen, what it does, where it’s located and the problematic complications that arise when a dog’s spleen is in trouble.

spleenIntroducing Your Dog’s Spleen

Hello, it’s your dog’s spleen talking! I am a vascular organ which means I carry lots of vessels, and since I am sort of spongy, I can easily store lots of blood  I am not that great looking, being a red, mushy blob, but looks aren’t really important after all when you are tucked away, out of sight. I am located in the left side of your dog’s body in an area well protected from his ribs. Your dog’s stomach is my neighbor to which I attach courtesy of the“gastrosplenic ligament.”  I might be small in size, but I do quite a whole lot!

Did you know? In ancient times the spleen was thought to be the physical source of hot temper, hence the reason for the saying “”venting spleen” meaning to let out anger.”

I Act as a Filtermaze

I work as a filter, removing old blood cells your dog’s body no longer needs. Yes, blood cells get old too after a while, so I filter all those worn-out or damaged red and white blood cells, and platelets from your dog’s blood. You may find my quality control process quite interesting, here’s an example of how I sort them out: I have all the blood cells pass through a maze of narrow passages. The healthy blood cells that pass through the maze with no problems are sent to the dog’s bloodstream, while those who can’t pass the test will be broken down. It’s survival of the fittest at best! Not everything that doesn’t pass my test is to toss though. I sort through the old and damaged red blood cells and recycle the iron so new healthy red blood cells can be made and I can dispose of the rest as waste. How’s that for an economical solution?

I Help with Immunity

It might not seem like it, but I play a role in helping your dog’s immune system. You see, I am on the “front line” and when I detect the presence of a foreign invader, such as a virus, bacteria or parasite, I make special lymphocytes and send them out to fight them.

I Act as a Reservoir

Remember when I said I am spongy and store lots of blood? Well, there’s a good reason why I do that. Generosity, is my second name. I keep a reservoir of blood that can be used in case of emergencies. Yup, I can provide a quick “transfusion” before going through the hassle of finding a donor with the correct blood type. But that’s not all, I also store platelets which helps your dog’s blood clot which comes handy when there is too much blood loss.

dog pain goes away at the vetWhen Things Go Wrong

Sadly, I am prone to some problems and some can be quite serious! I am prone to developing tumors, and the worst one is a nasty malignant cancer that goes by the name of hemangiosarcoma. This malignant cancer can quickly spread to other organs such as the heart, lungs or liver, and, remember when I said that I am vascular? Well, that means I am prone to bleeding easily, and as such, I can cause a dog to become quickly weak and anemic and I can even cause a dog to bleed to death too.

In the best case scenario, I may have a benign tumor known as a hemangioma. The only way to tell whether I am affected by a nasty cancer or not is by taking a needle biopsy to be sent out to a pathologist which can can be done while doing an ultrasound.  While having a hemangioma may sound like good news, the problem with this type of tumor is that it can cause me to rupture and bleed. Yes, imagine it as being “blood blister” on your dog’s spleen.  When this happens, you won’t see any bleeding as it’s internal, but affected dogs may become weak, lethargic, thirsty, they may develop pale gums, fluid in the belly and may even collapse. If it is more gradual, you might see just weakness and wobbliness, with an increase in drinking. So in this case, surgery is warranted, but the the best part is that surgery is in most cases curative. 

As other internal organs, I can be prone to injury as it can happen with car accidents, a kick from a horse or a bite wound. If the injury causes laceration to my major splenic vessels things can get life threatening, as I can hemorrhage profusely.

Did you know? Yunnan Paiyo, also known as Yunnan Baiyao, is a supplement that is getting more and more popular these days for spleen problems in dogs. This herbal product comes in capsule form and can help to stop bleeding, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.

As seen, I am quite important! While I may be an important organ that plays some important functions, I want to be honest: dogs and people can live without me. They sure may be missing out a helpful organ that helps fight infections, but they can still do well without me. I hope you now know more about me, best regards,

Your dog’s spleen Dog Pawprint

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is sick, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

 

References:

DVM360, Surgery of the spleen (Proceedings), retrieved from the web on September 12th, 2016

 

 

 

Why Has My Dog Become Sensitive to Noises?

 

Those who own dogs suffering from noise phobias know for a fact how miserable life can be for their dogs when they are exposed to the noises they fear. Noise sensitivity affects a large percentage of dogs; it’s estimated that between 40 and 50 percent of dog owners have a dog who is ‘‘scared’’ of some sort of noise (1,2). The most common feared noises are fireworks, thunderstorms and gun shots, but often simple household noises such as a squeaky door, vacuum cleaner, loud voices or a car door can elicit fearful responses. How do dogs develop though noise sensitivities? It’s likely part genetic and part learned behavior and following are some possible causes for the acute onset of noise sensitivities in dogs according to research and studies.

dog-scared of noisesA Lack of Habituation

If you ever moved to a new place nearby a railroad, you might have been unable to sleep the first few nights. Then, after some time, you may have reached a point where you hardly ever noticed the noise. In that case, it can be said that you habituated to the noise. Habituation is a process that takes place when you eventually stop responding to a stimulus after repeated exposure. It’s an adaptive behavior, which means it’s productive since it helps conserve energy by not reacting to stimuli that are non-threatening and therefore no longer biologically relevant.

In dogs, we can see habituation take place in gun dogs. After startling at the noise of gun shots, repeated exposure may cause them to gradually habituate and their startle reaction decreases. Iimura and colleagues (4) found that when puppies younger than 6 months of age were exposed to fireworks, engine noises, door bangs, party poppers, vacuum cleaners, and loud voices, this exposure seemed to have a protective effect, helping the puppies habituate easier in future encounters later in life. In dogs who are fearful of noises, habituation instead doesn’t take place. Instead of recognizing a novel noise as normal through repeated exposure, the brain of a noise-phobic dog categorizes it as something life threatening.

“A fear response may include perfectly normal fearful behaviors but in a context in which they’re inappropriate. For example, a dog retreating from a snake may exhibit both appropriate and adaptive behavior…but if a dog retreats from everything that moves, that constitutes an abnormal behavior that’s maladaptive.”~ Karen Overall, veterinary behaviorist”

Take-home message: It’s important to get puppies used to noises at a young age! A study by Appleby and colleagues (6), found that lack of early exposure to an urban environment (presumably including exposure to engine noises) resulted in adult dogs who were more likely to show avoidance behaviors.

A Matter of Sensitization scared dog fight or flight

While habituation is the process where affected dogs get used to repeated exposure to certain noises, in sensitization the opposite  occurs, repeated exposure to noises exert a cumulative effect overtime, increasing the dog’s anxiety and fearful responses to the noise. Dogs who develop fear of thunder, often do so gradually rather than overnight. Iiumura’s studies found that 61 percent of dogs developed their fear over an extended period of time. The same late onset pattern appeared to take place with other dogs’ sensitivities to noises such as engine noises and fireworks. Interestingly, it seems that the way the noise is presented has an impact on the dog. Noises that appear in bouts and are separated by brief moments of quiet, seem to play a major role in sensitization.

“Sensitization—a noise bothers the dog more and more over time, causing it to be more sensitive to it rather than learning to ignore it.”~Sara Bennett, veterinary behaviorist

Take-home message: Nip the behavior in the bud before it has a chance to develop and spread like wildfire! Best to address the problem and seek help from a professional, before the fear is allowed to put roots and establishes overtime. Look for a professional specializing in positive, gentle behavior modification, harsh, aversion-based methods only make the fear worse!

scared dogStressed Induced Dishabituation

Even when a dog habituates to a noise, there is no certainty that a noise sensitivity will not emerge. When dogs undergo stress, their bodies are bombarded by the effects of hormones that the adrenal glands secrete and put them in an alerted state. If during this moment of stress, dogs are exposed to loud noises, these may result in fear responses and the onset of noise sensitivity overtime. What happens is, since the dog is stressed, he is not able to cope with the noise as he would if he was in a relaxed state. For sake of comparison, the process is somewhat similar to what happens when one’s immune system is lower. With the body’s defense system in a vulnerable state, a person is therefore more likely to get a cold than when he is in a healthier state.

The take-home message: It’s important to manage a dog’s stress and address its triggers, to prevent building fertile grounds for noise sensitivities.

Underlying Medical Conditionsdog blanket sleep sick

Sometimes dogs may be sick or in pain, and their pain and discomfort may be associated with sounds, explains veterinarian Dr. Wally. The exact dynamics may not be clear: is the dog associating the noises with his pain, or is his pain making him more susceptible to being bothered by the noises?

Older dogs seem to be more prone to develop sound sensitivities as they age. Research suggests that each additional year of a dog’s life is subject to a 3.4% increase in the likelihood that the dog would react fearfully to exposure to loud noises.

The take-home message: have your dog see your vet for a full physical and neurological exam. Keep in consideration that as dogs age they become more susceptible to the negative effects of loud noises.

social-dogs-runningThe Effect of Social Transmission

Sometimes, dogs learn to fear a noise because they are exposed to other dogs who react fearfully to it. Iimura’s studies found that 22.6 percent out of 283 owners of noise- sensitive dogs, noticed that one of their dogs had learned to react fearfully through exposure to another noise-sensitive dog. As social animals, it’s not surprising that dogs are easily influenced from one another. This phenomenon can often be seen in dogs who have lived in a yard and cared less about the noise of person driving by with a motorcycle. Then, a new neighbor moves in and his dog rushes to the fence and barks when the motorcyclist drives by. Soon, the dog who cared less about this noise, starts gradually becoming more and more reactive. He might not  necessarily bark like the other dog, but he may rush out of the yard to see what the commotion is all about. Even among people, this can be seen. How would you react if a person suddenly rushes out of the office with a scared look on his face? Most likely, an adrenaline rush will hit you. Panic is easily contagious and can spread like wild fire in emergency situations.

Take-home message: if feasible, protect your dog from being influenced from other fearful dogs. There are risks that your dog will become fearful than the other way around (the fearful dog learning from your dog to become more confident.)

The Bottom Line

Since a dog’s brain is always in a learning state, any dog can become sensitive to noises given the right circumstances. It’s important to therefore be aware of the dynamics behind the onset of noise sensitivities so to prevent paving the path for them to establish and take over. Just as an immune system must be kept strong to fend of diseases, a dog’s mental well-being deserves the same attention.

References:

  1. Beaver BV. Canine behavior: a guide for veterinarians. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 1999
  2. BlackwellE,CaseyR,BradshawJ.Fireworkfearsandphobiasinthedomesticdog.2005.
  3. Sherman BL, Mills DS. Canine anxieties and phobias: an update on separation anxiety and noise aversions. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2008;38:1081-1106.
  4. Iimura K. The nature of noise fear in domestic dogs [MPhil thesis]. University of Lincoln,
    2006.
  5. Iimura K, Mills DS, Levine E. An analysis of the relationship between the history of develop-
    ment of sensitivity to loud noises and behavioural signs in domestic dogs. In: Landsberg G,
    Mattiello S, Mills D, editors
  6. Appleby DL, Bradshaw JWS, Casey RA. Relationship between aggressive and avoidance
    behaviour by dogs and their experience in the first six months of life. Vet Rec 2002;150:
    434–8
  7. Paolo Mongillo, Elisa Pitteri, Paolo Carnier, Gianfranco Gabai, Serena Adamelli, Lieta Marinelli (2013). Does the attachment system towards owners change in aged dogs? Physiology and Behavior, 120, 64 – 69.
  8. Dvm360l Canine noise aversion: The sound and the worry, retrieved from the web on September 11th, 2016

 

Problems Affecting Dogs With Hair Covering Their Eyes

 

There are several dog breeds with hair covering their eyes, and many people wonder whether these dogs are bothered at all by all those hairs and if they are even able to see. One of the most popular dog breeds known for having fur over the eyes is the old English sheepdog which is required by breed standard to have “the whole skull well covered with hair.” Whether these dogs can see or not is often a subject of debate, but more and more people are recognizing that their dogs do much better when their facial hairs are removed or tied up in what’s known in grooming circles as a “top knot.”

dog-breeds-with-hair-over-eyesBreeds with Hair Covering Their Eyes

What breeds have hair covering their eyes? There are several and the length of the hair covering their eyes may vary to just a few hairs just barely covering them to thick hairs almost covering the dog’s whole face. Here are just a few examples of dog breeds with hair over their eyes: Old English sheepdog, Briard, Lhasa apso, puli, Tibetan terrier, skye terrier, Portuguese water dog, soft coated wheaten terrier and the schnauzer.

Many of these dogs are working dogs which may makes one wonder how on earth they can get anything accomplished with all that hair covering their eyes, but when watching an old English sheepdog in action herding a group of sheep, one can see how their constant bouncing around helps move those hair out of the way, as seen in the video at the bottom of this article.

idea tipDid you know? The hair that covers the dog’s face and eyes is commonly referred to as “fall.”

Preserving a Tradition briard-dog

Breed standards are basically written descriptions portraying the ideal features required in a specific breed.  Many breed standards have strict requirements when it comes to how dogs must look. The goal of most breed standards is to preserve a traditional look but often these standards conflict with the dog’s well being and are therefore subject of debate. Not adhering to these standards can often make the difference between a dog who has success in the show ring and a dog who is disqualified. The rules are often quite strict when it comes to coat colors and styles.

For instance, the American Kennel Club breed standard for Old English sheepdogs requires that these dogs have the whole skull covered with hair. Shaving that hair seems out of question for those who show dogs as the standard clearly says “Neither the natural outline nor the natural texture of the coat may be changed by any artificial means except that the feet and rear may be trimmed for cleanliness.”

Physical Effects lhasa-apso

As seen, the hair falling over the dog’s eyes is a feature is highly cherished and considered a desirable show point in the show ring. Many owners of such breeds have belief that just because their dogs were born with such long hairs, they are not harmful since they must have been deliberately selected for good purposes. For quite a while there has been belief that the purpose of keeping the hair long was to protect the eyes from the effects of sunlight. This belief has been further reinforced by the fact that when the hair is lifted to expose the eyes, the dog’s eyes reflexively respond to the light by blinking and tearing.

This natural, photo phobic reaction has therefore led owners to come to the erroneous conclusion that the eyes need to be left covered, when in reality these dogs are reacting in such a way to bright light because of the hairs  constantly covering the eyes in the first place, explains world-known veterinarian, Michael W. Fox.  Another physical effect of the hairs covering a dog’s eyes is the constant irritation to the eyes which are prone to developing chronic conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers and other eye problems.

 “Popular mythology claims that if you cut the “shaggy bangs” exposing his eyes, the Old English will go blind. Rubbish! An innately watchful creature, this dog likes to see what is going on just as much as we do. For that reason, you will often see them with hair pulled back and fastened with an elastic or barrette.” ~Canine Review – August 2012 issue

Behavioral Effects top-knot-dog

On top of eye problems, those hairs almost constantly covering the dog’s eyes may also predispose dogs to behavior problems. These effects on behavior also contribute to a welfare problem that should be kept into consideration. Unable to see well and discern details of what is going on around them, dogs with hairs covering the eyes may suffer from behavior effects such as skittishness, defensive behaviors and unpredictability. According to Fox, once visual occlusion was corrected by moving the hair away from these eyes, dramatic changes in behavior occurred, turning skittish dogs into emotionally stable companions. Talk about the solution being “right in front of your eyes!

Several people claim that dogs do just fine with their eyes covered with hair because they can rely on their other senses, such as their sense of smell and sense of hearing to detect stimuli in their environment. However, dogs were blessed with their wonderful eyes for a purpose: seeing! Dogs rely on their eyes to communicate with one another, and they do best when they perceive the world around them using ALL the senses they were gifted with. Something worthy of therefore asking is “If you had all that hair in front of your eyes, could you see?” The answer is obvious, so if shaving a dog’s “fall” is not an option, putting it up in a neat top knot with elastics, barrets or clips can provide a wonderful compromise; basically, a win-win situation for all.

“When working with a long-coated breed such as the Old English, I watch coat movement. If the hair moves over the eyes, or around the mouth, I assume that the dog is making some kind of expression. I then watch the rest of his body language to see if I can understand what he is trying to say.”~Mary Stout, dog trainer. 

 

References:

  • Fox, M.W. (1983). Occlusion of vision in Old English Sheepdogs. International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems, 4(1), 9-10
  • American Kennel Club, Official Standard of the Old English Sheepdog, retrieved from the web on September 10th, 2016
  • A new direction for kennel club regulations and breed standards, Koharik Arman Can Vet J. 2007 Sep; 48(9): 953–965.
  • Dogspeak: How to Understand Your Dog and Help Him Understand You, edited by Matthew Hoffman, The Editors of Pets: Part of the Family, : Rodale Books; 1 edition (September 18, 1999).

 

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