Category Archives: research

A product for pigs proves useful for dogs

Boar MateThis is Boar Mate, a smelly spray product that helps farmers with swine breeding.

John McGlone, a professor at Texas Tech University, had some of the product at his home at a time when he was looking for ways to stop his Cairn Terrier’s problematic barking.

After a single spray of Boar Mate, Toto stopped barking.

This led the professor of animal welfare and behavior to pursue a new idea and product development.

After extensive testing and publishing of the results, and with funding help from Sergeant’s pet care products, Stop That! was developed and hit store shelves under the Sentry pet products name in 2013. It has been met with tremendous success by pet owners who were on their last legs in trying to curtail bad behavior in dogs.

Stop That!The pheromone ‘secret ingredient’ is a synthetic version of  androstenone.  This pheromone  is secreted by male pigs and is picked up by female pigs in heat. It is a foul-smelling odor for humans and also affects dogs through their olfactory system.

The testing

McGlone had four different groups of barking dogs in separate kennels. The first group of dogs simply had a person with another dog stand in front of the kennels. The second group of dogs was sprayed with a placebo that made the startling, spritz noise. The third group of dogs was sprayed with the noise and a lower concentration (.01µg/mL) of androstenone in isopropyl alcohol. The fourth group was sprayed with a higher concentration (1.0 µg/mL) of androstenone in isopropyl alcohol that also made the spritz sound.

In the first group, 25 percent (3 out of 12 dogs) stopped barking. In the second group, 44 percent (4 of 9 dogs) stopped barking. In the third group, sprayed with the lower concentration of the pheromone, 78 percent (7 of 9 dogs) stopped barking. In the fourth group, sprayed with the higher concentration of androstenone, 100 percent (6 of 6 dogs) stopped barking.

“We sprayed it in their nose or toward their head while they were barking … barking and jumping, running back and forth,” McGlone said. “This whole behavior stopped. You could almost see them thinking, ‘What was that?’”

McGlone and his group also tested the dogs to see if there were any physiological effects from the spray on the dogs, observing them for 10 minutes before and after being sprayed after outfitting the dogs with telemetry jackets and transmitters to monitor heart rate. The androstenone had no effect on the dogs’ heart rates either before or after being sprayed.

Having shown its effectiveness, McGlone was able to classify androstenone not only as a pheromone but also as an intermone, a term developed by him and his team that refers to a product that is a “pheromone in one species and has a behavioral effect in another species, but we do not know if it is a pheromone (naturally produced) in the other species.”

Source:  Newswise media release

Animal-assisted therapy: less pain medication required

Patients recovering from total joint replacement surgery who receive animal-assisted therapy (AAT) require less pain medication than those who do not experience this type of therapy.  AAT has been used in a variety of healthcare settings to improve quality of life and physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive health for patients.

Lazer, a Sheltie, is a Northwest Community Healthcare animal-assisted therapy dog.  He is shown with his handler Dr. Don Lang, DVM.

Lazer, a Sheltie, is a Northwest Community Healthcare animal-assisted therapy dog. He is shown with his handler Dr. Don Lang, DVM.

This retrospective study measured the need for oral pain medication in patients who were exposed to animal-assisted therapy and those who were not. The groups were similar in age, gender, ethnicity, length of stay and type of total joint replacement. The animal-assisted therapy consisted of daily visits from specially trained dogs for an average of five to 15 minutes. The need for oral pain medication was significantly less (28 percent less) in the animal-assisted therapy group (15.32 mg versus 21.16 mg).

This study offers interesting observations about the healing potential of animals,” said Fran Vlasses, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN, co-author and associate professor and chair, Health Systems, Leadership and Policy Department, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. “The efficacy of animal-assisted therapy in decreasing the need for pain medication and its effect on patient well-being after surgery deserves further study.”

These data were published in the August/September issue of Anthrozoos by researchers from Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and Loyola University Health System. Anthrozoos is the official journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology.

Source:  Loyola Medicine media release

Journal details:

Julia Havey, Frances R. Vlasses, Peter H. Vlasses, Patti Ludwig-Beymer, Diana Hackbarth. The Effect of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Pain Medication Use After Joint Replacement. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 2014; 27 (3): 361 DOI: 10.2752/175303714X13903827487962

Making cadaver dogs more efficient

A PhD student at the University of Huddersfield (UK) is conducting research to make cadaver and victim recovery (VR) dogs more efficient in their work.

These special dogs are probably not as well known as other working and assistance dogs, because the work they are associated with isn’t pleasant.  They are used to recover dead bodies (victims of suicide or murder), plus to find body parts and fluids that can help police track down the perpetrators of crime.  VR dogs were used to identify body parts from victims of the 7/7 bombings in London, for example.

Kip, a victim recovery dog from the South Yorkshire Police department, has been helping in the research (photo courtesy of University of Huddersfield)

Kip, a victim recovery dog from the South Yorkshire Police Department, has been helping in the research (photo courtesy of University of Huddersfield)

In her experiments using Kip, researcher Lorna Irish set out a sequence of vials containing different odours that she had prepared in the lab.  These chemicals are known to be produced from the body decomposition process.  Alongside these test chemicals were “positive controls” associated with human cadavers, such as human bone – from archaeological sources – and pork at various stages of decomposition.  Pork meat is used for training such dogs due to the ethical and legal problems associated with obtaining human material.  It is thought to be the closest analogue for human flesh for decomposition studies.  There were also “negative controls” – smelly chemicals not associated with decomposition, such as clove oil.

Kip correctly identified the odours derived from decomposition and was not distracted by the “negative control” smells.  It was a successful demonstration. In the field, VR dogs can sometimes be distracted by “false positives”, such as dead animals, or even mushrooms, explained Lorna.  If she can arrive at a greater understanding of the chemistry of odours from human cadavers, then VR dogs can be extra efficient.

“If you train a dog with a chemical that is specific to human decomposition, you can enhance its ability.  It is not about changing the way the dogs do it, but improving it,” she added.

Irish is approximately half-way through the research for her degree; she is traveling widely across the UK to observe dog training methods.

Source: University of Huddersfield media statement

 

Treating canine cancer with nanotechnology

An 11-year-old Labradoodle named Grayton  is the first patient at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in a new clinical trial that is testing the use of gold nanoparticles and a targeted laser treatment for solid tumors in dogs and cats.

Grayton is suffering from a return of nasal adenocarcinoma, a cancer of the nasal passages that typically has a short life expectancy.  (Grayton’s tumor was originally treated with high dose radiation which extended his life by three years.)

Dr. Shawna Klahn, assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, performs a checkup on Grayton four weeks after his experimental cancer treatment involving gold nanoparticles and a targeted laser therapy. (photo courtesy of Virginia Tech News)

Dr. Shawna Klahn, assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, performs a checkup on Grayton four weeks after his experimental cancer treatment involving gold nanoparticles and a targeted laser therapy. (photo courtesy of Virginia Tech News)

“This (nanotechnology) treatment involves two phases,” Dr. Nick Dervisis, assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, said. “First, we infuse the patient with the gold nanoparticles. Although the nanoparticles distribute throughout the body, they tend to concentrate around blood vessels associated with tumors. Within 36 hours, they have cleared the bloodstream except for tumors. The gold nanoparticles are small enough to circulate freely in the bloodstream and become temporarily captured within the incomplete blood vessel walls common in solid tumors. Then, we use a non-ablative laser on the patient.”

Dervisis explained that a non-ablative laser is not strong enough to harm the skin or normal tissue, but “it does cause the remaining nanoparticles to absorb the laser energy and convert it into heat so that they damage the tumor cells.”

Like all clinical trials, the study involves many unknowns, including the treatment’s usefulness and effectiveness. One month after the AuroLase treatment, the nosebleeds that initially brought Grayton back to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital had stopped and Grayton has no other side effects.

Grayton’s owners report that he recently enjoyed the family’s summer vacation at the beach.

Grayton may be the first companion animal in the study at the veterinary college, but he certainly won’t be the last. Dervisis is continuing to enroll patients in the study and is seeking dogs and cats of a certain size with solid tumors who have not recently received radiation therapy or chemotherapy. For more information about the trial and eligibility requirements, owners should visit the Veterinary Clinical Research Office website.

Source:  Media release, Virginia Tech News

Jealousy in dogs is real

Dogs can act jealous (is this really news to most dog owners?).  Well, researchers have taken steps to scientifically prove that jealousy exists.  They undertook this research because researchers studying emotion have argued for years whether jealousy requires complex cognition or that jealousy is a social construct not linked to physiology and psychology the way emotions like fear and anger are…

Emotion researcher Christine Harris, professor of psychology at UC San Diego, with Samwise, one of three border collies to inspire the study on dog jealousy. Photo by Steve Harris.

Emotion researcher Christine Harris, professor of psychology at UC San Diego, with Samwise, one of three border collies to inspire the study on dog jealousy. Photo by Steve Harris.

The research, published in the journal PLoS ONE, by University of California San Diego psychology professor Christine Harris and former honors student Caroline Prouvost is the first experimental test of jealous behaviors in dogs.

The findings support the view that there may be a more basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers.

Harris and Prouvost show that dogs exhibit more jealous behaviors, like snapping and pushing at their owner or the rival, when the owner showed affection to what appeared to be another dog (actually a stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail). Dogs exhibited these behaviors more than if the same affection was showered on a novel object and much more than when the owner’s attention was simply diverted by reading a book.

“Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival,” Harris said. “We can’t really speak to the dogs’ subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship.”

Since there had been no prior experiments on dog jealousy, the researchers adapted a test used with 6-month-old human infants. They worked with 36 dogs in their own homes and videotaped the owners ignoring them in favor of a stuffed, animated dog or a jack-o-lantern pail. In both these conditions, the owners were instructed to treat the objects as though they were real dogs – petting them, talking to them sweetly, etc. In the third scenario, the owners were asked to read aloud a pop-up book that played melodies. Two independent raters then coded the videos for a variety of aggressive, disruptive and attention-seeking behaviors.

Dogs were about twice as likely to push or touch the owner when the owner was interacting with the faux dog (78 percent) as when the owner was attending to the pail (42 percent). Even fewer (22 percent) did this in the book condition. About 30 percent of the dogs also tried to get between their owner and the stuffed animal. And while 25 percent snapped at the “other dog,” only one did so at the pail and book.

The “other dog” – the stuffed, animated pooch used in the experiment. Photo by Caroline Prouvost.

The “other dog” – the stuffed, animated pooch used in the experiment. Photo by Caroline Prouvost.

Did the dogs believe the stuffed animal was a real rival? Harris and Prouvost write that their aggression suggests they did. They also cite as additional evidence that 86 percent of the dogs sniffed the toy dog’s rear end during the experiment or post-experiment phase.

“Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings – or that it’s an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships,” Harris said. “Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.”

Source:  UCSD media release

More evidence against breed specific legislation

UK legislation that targets ‘dangerous dogs’ has not been shown to reduce dog bites and policies should be based on evidence and risk assessment, suggests a new article.

Rachel Orritt, a PhD student of psychology at the University of Lincoln says that dog bites present a “public health risk of unknown magnitude but no scientific evidence upon which to base a reliable UK estimate has been obtained in the past two decades.”

She also says that discussion by medical professionals about the impact of dog-human interactions “sometimes ignores the health benefits concomitant with dog ownership” with one writer in The British Medical Journal suggesting that “the only way to stop dog bites will be to ban dogs.”

Orritt says there are several studies that show owning a dog is associated with increased physical activity, better self esteem and fewer annual visits to the doctor. She adds that “eradicating dogs would have negative consequences for human health.”

She argues that the British news media “confound the matter further through inaccurate representation of the risk posed by dogs.”

Inaccurate reporting of dog bites, coupled with public pressure “have contributed to the drafting of legislation,” she writes. The Dangerous Dog Act 1991 has been amended in an effort to improve this legislation “but has been shown to be ineffective at reducing dog bite incidence.”

Orritt says that to reduce dog bite incidence, “academics and medical and veterinary practitioners need to cooperate to develop effective, scientifically sound risk management strategies. These should be evidence based and should not depend on politically driven initiatives such as the current legislation.”

Risk assessment for human violence has proved to be accurate and reliable and Orritt says this “might be a practical preventative measure to reduce injury from dog bite” along with medical and veterinary professionals “familiarising themselves with evidence based resources.”

She says that attention must also be given to the psychological health of patients after trauma.

Orritt believes that research is needed to improve care and an “estimate of dog bite incidence” but until this is done, “the scale of the problem is entirely unknown.”

She concludes that evidence based measures to inform ongoing risk management, such as developing effective risk assessments, “should result in the reduction in dog bite injuries that punitive legislation has not achieved.”

Source:    EurekAlert! media statement

Journal Reference

R. Orritt. Dog ownership has unknown risks but known health benefits: we need evidence based policy. BMJ, 2014; 349 (jul17 7): g4081 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g4081

Female dogs are better navigators

New data from Dognition shows that female dogs tend to be more flexible navigators than males. This is the opposite of trends in humans, and gives us important insight into how dogs see the world.

Map reading dog

In the navigation game, part of the monthly Dognition subscription, owners hid food inside two bowls, and taught their dog that the treat was always on one side, for example always on the left. Then the owner brought their dog around to the opposite side and recorded which bowl their dog chose.

Brain

Female dogs were more likely to use an allocentric, or a landmark based strategy. They used objects in the room to figure out which bowl to choose. For instance, in the beginning, perhaps the bowl with the treats was near a door, or a lamp. When the females were brought around to the opposite side, they still looked for those landmarks, which means no matter which way they were oriented, they would always go back to the bowl they learned was ‘correct’ in the beginning.

In people, this is called forming a mental map, or using a ‘bird’s eye’ view. Using allocentric navigation means the dogs were mostly relying on their hippocampus, a part of the brain that mediates spatial awareness and memory. This strategy is particularly effective in large and unfamiliar environments, and is the more flexible of the two strategies. Not surprisingly, humans who rely on environmental navigation are good at reading maps.

Male dogs were more likely to be egocentric navigators. They learned the association by thinking ‘the treat is on my right’. When owners brought the dogs around to the opposite side, these dogs chose the bowl on their right, which was the opposite bowl that they had chosen before. By using this strategy, the dogs were mostly relying on their basal ganglia, a part of the brain that mediates motor skills.

Before there were maps or navigational instruments, Pacific islanders used egocentric navigation for long sea voyages. They used the position of the stars in relation to themselves, (e.g. to get to this island, the Milky Way should be on my right). People who rely on egocentric navigation tend to make good cinematographers – they have a special talent for allowing others to see the world as they do.

The results are exactly the opposite as in humans, where men are usually allocentric navigators and women are egocentric navigators. Perhaps male dogs just need to get better at asking for directions.

Source:  Dognition news