Your dog’s water bowl: microbiology

This research was delivered to the 69th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science meeting in August 2018.

It’s important to clean your dog’s water bowl regularly – don’t be tempted to simply keep filling it up because bacteria grows on the sides of the bowl.  (Run your finger over it and you’ll probably feel a slippery surface – that’s called biofilm)

I personally like stainless steel bowls because they can be washed in very hot water in the dishwasher and because they are durable and recyclable.

Dog water bowl


The number of pet dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) in the common household is continually rising. The increasingly close contact between humans and cohabitant pets is leading to concerns regarding bacterial transmission of zoonoses. The dog water bowl has been identified as the third most contaminated item within the household, suggesting that it is able to act as a fomite for bacterial transmission, particularly where young or immunocompromised individuals are present.

Studies in livestock have identified that water trough construction material influences bacterial count; however no similar research has been conducted for dog water bowls.

The objectives of the current study were to identify which dog bowl material, plastic, ceramic or stainless steel, harbours the most bacteria over a 14 day period and whether the species identified varies between bowl materials. The study took place over 6 weeks. A sample of 6, medium sized (10-25kg) dogs, aged 2-7 (mean= 3.8 ± 1.95), was used. All dogs were clinically healthy, housed individually and located within a rural environment. All bowls were purchased brand new and sterilised prior to a two week sampling period.

On day 0, day 7 and day 14 swabs were taken from each bowl and 10-fold serial dilutions were conducted on blood agar. The cultured bacteria were subjected to biochemical testing and the most prominent bacteria from day 14 were further identified using PCR. A significant difference was identified for all bowl materials when comparing total CFU/ml between day 0 and day 7 and day 0 and day 14 (p<0.05). No significant difference was identified between total CFU/ml and bowl material (P>0.05), however descriptive statistics suggest that the plastic bowl material maintains the highest bacterial count after 14 days.

Several medically important bacteria were identified from the bowls, including MRSA and Salmonella, with the majority of species being identified from the ceramic bowl. This could suggest that harmful bacteria may be able to develop biofilms more successfully on ceramic materials. Further research is required to identify the most suitable or alternative materials for dog water bowls.

Source: Microbiological Assessment of Canine Drinking Water and the Impact of Bowl Construction Material

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Pet food ingredients consumers don’t want

To keep up-to-date with developments in dog health and welfare, I follow a number of publications.  This graphic appeared in a trade journal about pet food and I thought I’d share it – in its entirety and with attribution of course!

These results are not particularly surprising, but they do serve as a reminder to read your dog food labels and also to understand that there are still products out there using these ingredients.

 

6 pet food ingredients consumers don't want

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

We wish you a Fear Free Christmas

Earlier this year, I gained my Fear Free certification.  For those of you who haven’t yet heard of this, Fear Free is a comprehensive program with certifications for veterinary professionals, trainers, groomers and practices that teaches these carers about the emotional well-being of pets.  Enrichment and the reduction of fear, anxiety and stress are all aspects of Fear Free.

So instead of posting the ‘traditional’ pre-Christmas warnings about tinsel, pancreatitis risks, chocolate etc. that go along with the season – I’d like you to consider making your dog’s Christmas Fear Free.

Let’s consider the Christmas holidays from your dog’s point of view:

Izzy the Greyhound at Christmas

  • “My family are always out shopping and going to parties – I have no routine – and I’m worried.”
  • “These people who I hardly know have come to stay in my house – AND they are sitting on my chair.”
  • “They’ve also brought a dog with them, who wants to drink from my bowl, play with my toys and lay in my bed.  I don’t want to share everything.”
  • “Those little people – they follow me even when I try to hide.  I have nowhere safe to go.”
  • “My family says that this road trip will be fun.  I’m stuffed in the back of the car with bags and gifts.  I think I’m going to be sick.”
  • “I’ve been playing all day with the new dogs I’ve met.  I’m super-tired but I can’t settle.”
  • “Why can’t I play with the shiny balls on that tree?”
  • “Trees are for marking but they are usually outside.  I marked the inside tree and now my Mum is mad.”
  • “We drove for a long time and now there is nothing here that smells normal”
  • “I’m not in my home, and that Man who is in charge says I have to stay outside.  I’m an inside dog…”
  • “They call them Christmas crackers; but they don’t crack – they pop really loudly like a gun and I’m scared but they are laughing.”
  • “No one seems to care about me anymore; it’s like I’m invisible.”

If you think your dog will be feeling anything like these examples this Christmas, now is the time to make adjustments and plans to help them through the fear and stress of the holiday season.  Because the holidays should be Fear Free for everyone.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Image

Doggy quote of the month for December

Elizabeth Parker quotation dogs are not a thing

A ‘Robo-Nose’ Could Give K-9 Officers a Break

Robonose golden retriever

Golden retriever Rudy, wearing military dog tags and a U.S. flag, is being trained by the U.S. Army to use his amazing nose to find human remains. (Army photo)

Every day, thousands of trained K9 dogs sniff out narcotics, explosives and missing people across the United States. These dogs are invaluable for security, but they’re also very expensive and they can get tired.

Duke researchers have taken the first steps toward building an artificial “robot nose” device made from living mouse cells that officers could use instead of dogs.

The researchers have developed a prototype based on odor receptors grown from the genes of mice that respond to target odors, including the smells of cocaine and explosives. Their work appeared earlier this month in Nature Communications.

It turns out, there are a couple of very big differences between testing things in a lab dish and testing them in an actual nose.

“This idea of an artificial nose has been present for a long time,” said senior study author Hiroaki Matsunami, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the Duke School of Medicine. “The receptors were identified in the 1990s, but there are significant technical hurdles to produce all these receptors and monitor the activity so that we can use that in an artificial device.”

“E-noses” that exist now use various chemical compounds to detect smells instead of receptor stem cells, Matsunami said. He said those devices are “not as good as a trained dog.”

“The idea is that by using the actual, living receptors, maybe we can develop a device similar to animals,” Matsunami said. “Nobody has achieved that yet, but this study is moving toward that goal.”

Human, dog and mouse genomes contain around 20,000 genes, which contain instructions to create proteins that smell, taste, feel, move and do everything that our bodies do. About 5 percent of mouse genes have been identified as instructions to make odor receptors, Matsunami said. In contrast, humans only use about 2 percent of their genes to make odor receptors.

“These animals invest a lot of resources for this purpose,” Matsunami said. “Mice and rats are very good smellers; we just don’t use mice for detecting explosives in real life. There are some practical problems to do that.”

The first step of the study was to identify the best odor receptors to respond to target odors like cocaine or marijuana.

The researchers created a liquid medium primed with molecules that could light up from reactions. Next they copied about 80 percent of the odor receptors from mice, and mixed those receptors with seven target odor chemicals in the medium.

They measured the resulting luminescence and chose the best-performing odor receptors for the second part of the study, which monitored receptor activation in real time.

Previous research had done this by exposing selected receptors to odor chemicals in a liquid. But there are several differences between the petri dish and the nose. For one, we rarely submerge our noses into liquid baths of odor chemicals. Instead, our noses detect smells from wafting perfumes or stenches borne on the air. And our noses are full of mucus.

So, for the second half of the study, which was supported by the National Institute of Health grants DC014423 and DC016224 and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency RealNose Project, they attempted to mimic how we use our noses by exposing odorants to vapors and a few enzymes.

The researchers tested the receptors they had identified against two odor vapors for this study.

“We only tested two of them in the paper, but it’s showing the proof of principle of how it can be used,” Matsunami said.

The researchers hope they can fine-tune the device to test all receptors against many different smells.

“We have a panel of receptors so we can monitor how different receptors respond differently to various smells, including ones that are similar to each other in chemical structure or ones that might be related to real-world use, like something associated to explosives or drugs,” Matsunami said.

The researchers also tested various enzymes that one might find in mucus to see how they aided or impeded reactions. This process is more true-to-life than vapor molecules directly interacting with odor receptors.

“You’d think when we smell a chemical, the chemical would bind to the chemical receptor in the nose, but actually it’s not so simple,” Matsunami said. “When the chemical dissolves in the nasal mucus before binding to the receptor, it might be converted to another chemical by enzymes in the nasal mucus.”

Mucus is an unknown frontier in understanding how we smell. Reconstructing the key components of nasal mucus may be the next step toward building an artificial nose, according to the paper.

“It’s not like our paper will be immediately applied to a portable device used in the airport soon, but this is an important step forward to show that it is possible,” Matsunami said. “We can more clearly see what kind of hurdles to pass in order for the community to create such a device.”

Three of the authors have filed a patent application for the work.

Source:  Duke University

Unleashing success

Pets bring joy, companionship and comfort to people’s lives every day, but new research found business leaders believe pet ownership contributed to their success. A survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital® discovered a correlation between pets and professional achievements: 93 percent of C-suite executives surveyed in the U.S. grew up with a pet, with 78 percent attributing their career success in part to owning a pet as a child.

“At Banfield Pet Hospital, we’ve long recognized the special bond between people and their pets, as well as the positive impact pets have on our society,” said Brian Garish, president of Banfield Pet Hospital. “From the pet ownership lessons we learned as children, to the ways our four-legged friends currently help us evolve, connect with others, and stay grounded, our latest research supports the notion we’ve had all along – that there may be a link between pets and their ability to help shape us as people.”

Unleashing success

WHETHER FELINE OR FEATHERY, PETS MAKE AN IMPACT
Banfield’s survey found childhood pet ownership may influence business success, and it isn’t just dogs and cats that have a positive impact. While more than four in five (83 percent) C-suite executives surveyed grew up with a dog, and almost three in five (59 percent) grew up with a cat, nearly two in five (37 percent) grew up with pets like birds, rabbits or rodents. Regardless of the pet, top business leaders agree their pet companions taught them valuable lessons as a child, such as responsibility, empathy and creativity – qualities they believe helped them to thrive as leaders in the workplace.

SIT, STAY AND SUCCEED
Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of those surveyed said their childhood pet taught them more valuable lessons than their first internship. C-suite executives feel their pets also helped them to develop other important leadership skills, including discipline (92 percent), organization (79 percent) and the ability to identify and anticipate business needs (38 percent).

CUT TO THE (CREATIVE) CHASE 
Many leaders surveyed also felt having a childhood pet unlocked vital lessons in creativity. Eighty-four percent of C-Suite executives who grew up with a pet said they’re creative, and almost three in five (59 percent) credit their childhood pet for having a positive impact on their ability to think outside the box. More than three in four (77 percent) C-suite executives said walking a pet helps them brainstorm business ideas and boosts creativity at work.

TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS
Didn’t grow up with a pet? Not to worry, as Banfield’s survey also suggests current pet ownership can go a long way in the workplace. Nearly all current pet owners surveyed reported they stick to a schedule or routine (86 percent), have better time management (86 percent) and are good at multitasking (86 percent) because of their pets. Sixty-two percent of C-suite executives surveyed believe pets had a positive impact on their ability to build relationships with co-workers and clients—and that’s true of both working professionals and C-suite executives, with 80 percent of those surveyed reporting they feel more connected to colleagues who are pet owners, and nearly the same number (79 percent) think co-workers with pets are hard workers.

A FUTURE WITH FIDO
When it comes to future generations, almost all (90 percent) of C-suite executives surveyed feel children would be more successful at school if they cared for a pet. And some business leaders shared they were responsible for taking care of their childhood pet, including grooming (54 percent), training (42 percent) and health needs (36 percent). Whether career-related or otherwise, it’s clear pets can make a huge impact on our lives, so it’s no wonder nearly one in five (19 percent) of C-suite executives who grew up with a pet would go back in time and add another to their pack. 

Source:  Banfield Animal Hospital

Dogs know when they don’t know

When they don’t have enough information to make an accurate decision, dogs will search for more – similarly to chimpanzees and humans.

Researchers at the DogStudies lab at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have shown that dogs possess some “metacognitive” abilities – specifically, they are aware of when they do not have enough information to solve a problem and will actively seek more information, similarly to primates. To investigate this, the researchers created a test in which dogs had to find a reward – a toy or food – behind one of two fences. They found that the dogs looked for additional information significantly more often when they had not seen where the reward was hidden.

Metacognition study

In this study, dogs showed some of the signs of metacognition, specifically that they searched for more information when they had not seen where a reward was placed. © Juliane Bräuer

In the field of comparative psychology, researchers study animals in order to learn about the evolution of various traits and what this can tell us about ourselves. At the DogStudies lab at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, project leader Juliane Bräuer studies dogs to make these comparisons. In a recent study published in the journal Learning & Behavior, Bräuer and colleague Julia Belger, now of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, explore whether dogs have metacognitive abilities – sometimes described as the ability to “know what one knows” – and in particular whether they are aware of what information they have learned and whether they need more information.

To test this, the researchers designed an apparatus involving two V-shaped fences. A reward, either food or a toy, would be placed by one researcher behind one of the two fences while another researcher held the dog. In some cases, the dog could see where the reward was placed, while in others the dog could not. The researchers then analyzed how frequently the dogs looked through a gap in the fence before choosing an option. The question was whether, like chimps and humans, the dog would “check” through the gap when he or she had not seen where the reward was placed. This would indicate that the dog was aware that he or she did not know where the reward was – a metacognitive ability – and would try to get more information before choosing a fence.

Experiment set up

The overall set-up of the experiment, showing the two V-shaped fences, the experimenter who places the reward, the experimenter holding the dog, and the dog in starting position, without a curtain to block the view. This dog was participating in the third variation, with a time delay. © DogStudies. Belger & Bräuer, 2018. Metacognition in dogs: Do dogs know they could be wrong? Learning & Behavior. DOI: 10.3758/s13420-018-0367-5.

Some researchers argue that some animals, such as dogs, may only look for extra information when searching as a routinized, instinctual behavior, and not as a result of a metacognitive process. To control for this, Bräuer and Belger tested whether dogs show the so-called “passport effect,” originally described by researcher Joseph Call. When humans are looking for something very important, for example, a passport, they will engage in more active searching and will check for it more often than if they are looking for something less important or generic. Great apes display this same behavior – they will search more for a high-value food. Thus, Bräuer and Belger varied whether the dogs were looking for high- or low-value food, in order to test whether dogs also had the searching flexibility displayed in the passport effect. In another variation, they tested whether it made a difference to the dog when they had to search for a toy or for food.

The dogs “checked” more often when they did not know where the reward was hidden

The researchers found that the dogs did check significantly more often for the reward when they had not seen where it was placed. “These results show that dogs do tend to actively seek extra information when they have not seen where a reward is hidden,” explains Belger. “The fact that dogs checked more when they had no knowledge of the reward’s location could suggest that dogs show metacognitive abilities, as they meet one of the assumptions of knowing about knowing.”

Checking, however, did not always make the dogs very much more successful. In the first variation, with food or a toy as a reward, when dogs checked they were correct more often than when they did not check. However, in the second variation, with high-value or low-value food as the reward, even when dogs checked, they were not correct more than one would expect based on chance. The researchers theorize that this could be due to inhibition problems – the dogs get so excited about finding the reward, that they cannot stop themselves from approaching the closest fence even when they have seen that the reward is probably not there.

Additionally, the dogs did check more often for the toy than for the food in the first variation, suggesting that they do show flexibility in their searching and are not just engaging in a routine behavior. However, they did not check more often for the high-value food in the second variation, although they did look for it more quickly. Overall, the researchers concluded that the dogs, while showing some degree of searching flexibility, are not as flexible as primates.

In a third variation of the test, the dogs could always see where a food reward was placed, but were subject to a delay of 5 seconds to 2 minutes before being allowed to retrieve the reward. Interestingly, the dogs did not check more often with a longer time delay, even though they were slightly less successful. “It’s possible that this was due to a ‘ceiling effect,’ as dogs overall selected the correct fence in 93% of trials in this variation, so the pressure for seeking extra information was low,” suggests Belger.

Do dogs have metacognitive abilities?

The results did not allow the researchers to say definitively whether dogs possess metacognition, although they displayed some evidence for it. “For humans, vision is an important information gathering sense. In this case our experiment was based on a ‘checking’ action relying on sight – but the dogs probably also used their sense of smell when checking through the gap. We know that smell is very important for dogs and we could see that they were using it,” states Bräuer. “In future, we would like to develop an experiment investigating under what circumstances dogs decide to use their sense of smell versus sight. This may give us additional insights into their information seeking abilities.”

Source:   Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History