How scrap metal could help a dog in need

Tucker and Rejeanne Asselin, who is appealing for donations of scrap metal to help fund Tucker's surgery (photo by Fort Erie Times)

Tucker and Rejeanne Asselin, who is appealing for donations of scrap metal to help fund Tucker’s surgery (photo by Fort Erie Times)

Seven-year-old Tucker is a Blue Heeler-Boxer mix who needs surgery to remove a piece of plastic that has embedded itself in his tongue.  His owner, Rejeanne Asselin, said she needs to come up with at least $800 to pay for his medical bills.

Since Asselin lives on a disability pension, her fixed income leaves little room for spending on Tucker’s medical care.  So, she is appealing to her local community of Fort Erie, Ontario, to donate any scrap metal, copper, aluminum, pop cans and beer bottles that can be recycled and exchanged for money that will help pay the vet bills.

“It might not be much but it all adds up in the long run,” Asselin said.

“Everyone has scrap metal, or these kinds of things lying around the house. Every little bit helps.”

Asselin first noticed something was wrong with her “good companion” in January when he wasn’t eating or drinking very much.  It took her until February when she had saved enough money to take him to the vet for an exam.

At first, the veterinarian thought Tucker might have cancer. After he was given some antibiotics and pain medication, Tucker was sent home. The swelling in Tucker’s mouth eventually went down and upon further examination from the veterinarian, it became clear something was embedded in Tucker’s tongue.  It’s likely some type of plastic.

The foreign object can’t be removed until Asselin comes up with enough money to pay for Tucker’s treatment.  He is still on pain medication but is having difficulty eating and is restricted to soft food.

“He is my protector, my guardian and my family.  You can tell he’s in pain.  But, Tucker is a very sweet dog.”

Anyone with scrap metal or other items in the Fort Erie area is being urged to  call Asselin at 905-871-6005 .

Source:  Fort Erie Times

New products to help train dogs for explosive detection

The Department of Homeland Security (USA) has been conducting independent assessments and developing products to assist canine explosive teams.

An explosive detection dog in action. Photo courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

An explosive detection dog in action. Photo courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

One of the biggest challenges in the training and testing of canine teams results from the explosives materials themselves – especially new homemade explosives. Due to the potential safety risks of explosives, only specially trained federal explosive technicians can provide the material for training and testing. This not only limits training times and opportunities, but also increases the costs since the technicians must travel to a central location for multi-day training events.

Researchers have been developing a new training aid that matches the scent of explosive materials but poses no danger to the trainers, the canines or the environment. It is currently undergoing field testing within federal, state and local canine detection teams. A key objective was to for the canines to react to the non-hazardous, non-explosive training aid the same way they would actual explosive material.

“It doesn’t go boom if you drop it, hit it or light it on fire,” said Canine Program Manager, Don Roberts. “That allows teams to take the training from the very controlled environment we currently have to train in for safety reasons and put it in a real-world scenario – for example putting the odor in a cinderblock and seeing if the dog can find it. We can put this new training aid in car wheel wells, airports etc., without fear that they’ll explode.”

S&T’s partner, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, developed the new training aid, Roberts said. After a number of trials, they’re ready to transfer the technology to the Transportation Security Administration, the primary customer for the aid. The bigger news, according to Roberts, is that the product was also designed to fit first responders’ needs as well.

“The design price point and usability factor has been geared to the first responder community – state and local explosive detection dogs who don’t have the regular training support TSA has. They are the ones who really need these products,” said Roberts.

The training aids are made to be thrown away after being used. These aids can last for over eight hours and can be stored up to two years. The scent can be dissolved in water, as opposed to the previous explosive training materials, which required special handling, transport and had to be stored in a bunker.

Next steps for this program include developing a second scent for training the dogs, and licensing so that the products can be produced outside of the federal government.

Source:  Department of Homeland Security media release

Read my other blog posts about explosives detector dogs:

Pampered Pooches at the Opus Vancouver

The Opus Vancouver, a boutique hotel named one of the “Top 5 Trendiest Hotels in the World” by Trip Advisor, offers a Pampered Pooch add-on for guests traveling with their dogs.

The package includes:

  • A locally-designed designer dog bandana
  • A photo shoot with a pet photographer (with one 5×7 print and 6 high resolution images on disc or provided online via dropbox)
  • And a 1-hour in-room massage for your dog (I particularly liked this part)
"I'm ready for my close up" Photo by Tanya King, pet photographer to the Opus Vancouver

“I’m ready for my close up” Photo by Tanya King, pet photographer to the Opus Vancouver

Pet-friendly travel is a niche market that is growing; dog owners are looking for ways that they can treat their pets as well as themselves when on vacation.

What’s your favorite place to stay when traveling with your dog?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

 

Dog-human cooperation is based on social skills of wolves

Dogs are man’s best friend and partner. The origins of this dog-human relationship were subject of a study, published recently in the journal Frontiers in Psychology,  by behavioural scientists from the Messerli Research Institute at the Vetmeduni Vienna and the Wolf Science Center.

They showed that the ancestors of dogs, the wolves, are at least as attentive to members of their species and to humans as dogs are. This social skill did not emerge during domestication, as has been suggested previously, but was already present in wolves. 

Photo by the Wolf Science Center

Photo by the Wolf Science Center

Commonly accepted hypotheses about domestication suggest: “Dogs have become tolerant and attentive as a result of humans actively selecting for these skills during the domestication process in order to make dogs cooperative partners.”

Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi from the Unit of Comparative Cognition at the Messerli Research Institute question the validity of this view and have developed the “Canine Cooperation Hypothesis”. Their hypothesis states that since wolves already are tolerant, attentive and cooperative, the relationship of wolves to their pack mates could have provided the basis for today’s human-dog relationship. An additional selection, at least for social attentiveness and tolerance, was not necessary during canine domestication.

The researchers believe that wolves are not less socially attentive than dogs. Dogs however cooperate more easily with humans because they more readily accept people as social partners and more easily lose their fear of humans. To test their hypothesis, Range and Virányi examined the social attentiveness and tolerance of wolves and dogs within their packs and toward humans.

Various behavioural tests showed that wolves and dogs have quite similar social skills. Among other things, the researchers tested how well wolves and dogs can find food that has been hidden. Both wolves and dogs used information provided by a human to find the hidden food.

In another study, they showed that wolves followed the gaze of humans. To solve the task, the animals may need to be capable of making a mental representation of the “looker’s” perspective. Wolves can do this quite well. 

Another experiment gave dogs and wolves the chance to observe conspecifics as they opened a box. When it was the observer’s turn to do the same, the wolves proved to be the better imitators, successfully opening the box more often than dogs. “Overall, the tests showed that wolves are very attentive to humans and to each other. Hypotheses which claim that wolves have limited social skills in this respect in comparison to dogs are therefore incorrect,” Range points out. 

At the Wolf Science Center in Ernstbrunn in Lower Austria, Range and Virányi investigated the social behaviour of dogs and wolves that grew up with members of their species and with humans. “The animals are socialized both with conspecifics and with humans. To be able to compare the behaviour of dogs and wolves and to investigate the effects of domestication, it is important that the animals live in the same conditions,” Virányi explains.

Source:  Vetmeduni Vienna media release

Read my other post about the Institute’s research with wolves here

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dog people vs cat people

As you know, I enjoy writing about research that gives us new insights into  all things dog.

Earlier this year, I blogged about research into personality and what makes a good pet parent.

But I think the debate will continue for some time in terms of characterizing dog people vs cat people.

Here’s another video to add to the debate:

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Better paws for Brutus

When Brutus was just a puppy, his breeder left the young Rottweiler outside in freezing temperatures.

The pup suffered frostbite in all four paws, and the breeder tried to salvage the puppy’s paws with an at-home amputation. But Brutus was maimed and couldn’t walk without pain.

Brutus

Brutus

Now 2 years old, Brutus is living with a new and dedicated owner in Loveland, Colorado, and has become the second dog ever known to receive four prosthetic limbs. He is learning to walk again with help from OrthoPets, an animal prosthetics developer in Denver, and pet orthopedics experts at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“I believe prosthetics will play a big role in the future of veterinary orthopedics,” said Dr. Felix Duerr, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences who practices small animal orthopedics and sports medicine at the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“Brutus shows how we can explore new technologies to find solutions, and how our partnerships with companies like OrthoPets really help.”

Brutus' paw

Brutus’ paw

Laura Aquilina, the dog’s owner, has provided a caring home for Brutus for seven months in an attempt to find “better paws” for the young rottie. She began fostering Brutus, and more recently adopted him, after he had trouble navigating hardwood floors and stairs in his first foster home, and the family couldn’t meet the disabled dog’s needs.

Aquilina and a pet rescuer in Canon City joined forces to raise nearly $12,500 for Brutus’ prosthetics and physical therapy through Go Fund Me, an online fundraising site. The crowdfunding project was aptly named “Better Paws for Brutus.”

Brutus with his prosthetics

Brutus with his prosthetics

In preparation for prosthetics, Brutus underwent corrective paw surgery with Dr. Trent Gall, a CSU veterinary alumnus working in Longmont. The procedure removed bone fragments, dew claws, and two toes left from the botched amputation.

After recovery from surgery, Brutus and Aquilina worked with Denver-based OrthoPets, the world’s largest veterinary orthotic and prosthetic company, to undergo the process of prosthetics fitting. OrthoPets adapts the same technologies used in the field of human orthotics to care for animal patients.

Martin Kaufmann, company founder, partnered with Colorado State’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital for its research and rehabilitation services.

“I don’t want to be part of a world that settles for ‘fine,’ and neither does CSU,” Kaufmann said. “There’s a common mission between CSU and OrthoPets to return animals’ lives to ‘great.’”

Since the collaboration began, CSU and OrthoPets have successfully developed techniques to treat Achilles tendon injuries in dogs and are investigating how specific injuries correlate with successful orthotic techniques and long-term prosthetic use.

Kaufmann compared the Rottweiler’s story to that of Nakio, the other dog known to live with four prosthetics. “We learned a lot from Nakio’s story and were able to apply that knowledge to Brutus’ case,” he said.

OrthoPets veterinarians learned that both of Brutus’ wrist joints had collapsed. “It’s similar to a human rolling his ankle completely to the side, left grossly unstable,” Kaufmann said, noting that the dog also has a troublesome callus that makes movement difficult.

The unique prosthetics have three purposes: to protect and make Brutus’ limbs more comfortable, to support his front collapsed legs, and to realign each leg to an equal length.

As his devices are refined, Brutus has entered a new phase of rehabilitation with physical therapy guided by Sasha Foster, CSU’s certified canine rehabilitation therapist.

“We’re working with Brutus to help him adjust to wearing his new prosthetics,” Foster said. “He’s learning how to move with them on. Once he’s mastered that, we will help him achieve higher-level functioning activities, like hiking and playing with other dogs.”

In upcoming months, Foster will use underwater treadmill therapy, balance activities, exercise balls and other neuro re-education therapies to help Brutus adjust to his new limbs.

Foster said her work is motivated by helping her patient – and the animal’s family. “When you improve the quality of life for a dog, you improve the quality life for the entire family,” Foster said.

It’s likely Brutus will need physical therapy intermittently for the rest of his life. But Aquilina is hopeful.

“You need a good team behind you, and we found that at CSU,” she said.

Follow Brutus’s recovery on Facebook and Instagram at @BetterPawsForBrutus

Source:  CSU media release

Doggy quote of the month for April

“He and I are inseparable companions, and I have vowed him my perpetual society in exchange for his devotion.”

– English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, about her dog, Flush

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Flush