It makes my tail wag when the poop is in the bag

A common problem for most communities is ensuring that dog parents take responsibility for their dog’s poop.

This brochure at the Town of Needham offices caught my eye…a plea to dog owners and walkers to bag it and trash it…

What initiatives does your town have to ensure poop is scooped?

Municipup says

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

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Dog pee on the sidewalk does more than just piss off your neighbors

Note from DoggyMom I follow all types of research.  But some – like this one – needs to be put into a larger context.  Urban cities have a lot of runoff thanks to all the hard surfaces including roads and sidewalks.  Urban designers look to institute green spaces to help with infiltration of water into soils and decrease runoff, which can be particularly helpful in high volume, storm events which overwhelm stormwater systems.

Urban runoff has a lot of contaminants from the oils, dust and debris of modern life.  All meat-eating animals have high nitrogen in their urine – and that’s why countries like NZ have issues with groundwater quality because of the number of cows that are left to graze and urinate on open pastures.  So of course dogs will have an impact on the soil quality and runoff in the very limited areas of green that they have to use in urban cities.  The solution?  Well, in my opinion, it’s partly an argument for creating more green space.


Nobody knows just how many dogs there are in the United States, but there are plenty—and many of them live (and pee) in human cities. Turns out, canine bathroom breaks may have more of an impact on the environment than you might think.

In a new study, a team of Columbia University undergraduate and graduate researchers led by ecologist Krista McGuire looked at the impact of pee on the urban soil microbiome. They found evidence that the nitrogen content and low pH of the urine can make city soil both harder and less absorbent of rainwater, while making the soil microbiome less diverse.

Your very good boy

The project was born out of McGuire’s observations with colleagues during other research on green infrastructure in NYC. In sites like unfenced tree pits, “the soils seemed barren, compacted, and the water from rainfall didn’t seem to penetrate very well,” she says.

The team suspected soil’s characteristics had something to do with all the dogs that urinated on those sites, so they designed an experiment to check. “We obtained soil from the city environment,” says McGuire, along with one species of commonly-used plant from the same nursery the city uses.

Both of these factors replicate what’s used out in the real world. Getting actual dog pee turned out to be harder. They approached animal shelters, which mostly turned them away, while the one shelter that acquiesced didn’t yield enough pee—the experiment required a whopping 40 gallons.

“Despite visiting the shelter twice a week for a couple months, less than 40mL [1.35 oz] of urine was collected due to difficulty in predicting when the dogs will urinate and the dogs’ refusal to continue urinating when a collecting bowl was brought near them as they were about to urinate,” the paper states.

“Ultimately, we decided to use coyote urine since coyotes are very closely related to domestic dogs, and their urine is commercially available,” McGuire says. If you’re not a gardener looking to repel deer from your tulips, you may not be aware of this, but yes, you can buy 40 gallons of coyote pee pretty easily.  (Note from DoggyMom:  Coyotes are kept in captivity and their urine is collected through drainage systems.  Some say that the income from the coyote urine farms help to support other conservation efforts.   I will need to research this further.)

Over the course of a month, they ran a greenhouse experiment, watering the plants at regular intervals with either straight water or water mixed with urine at different concentrations. They checked the soil each week. The results were dramatic: the bacterial community diversity decreased by up to a third during the experiment, and the kinds of bacteria in the microbiome changed. Meanwhile, the “runoff” from pots increased significantly, signifying that the soil was becoming less absorbent.

Outside the lab (say, outside your door), “a variety of different events can affect the impact of urine deposition,” says Gary King, a Louisiana State University biology professor who studies urban microbiomes. This experiment doesn’t address those factors—like, what if it’s raining, or what if some other pollutant has recently entered the soil?

But the results point to an important direction of research, he says. “There is a huge gap in our knowledge about basic microbial functions in the soils that are part of the system in our own built environment.”

That’s a serious problem, because soils help keep a city running. Things like street trees and planted medians aren’t just there to make downtown look good. Cities are mostly built on hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt, which don’t absorb water and allow it to enter the soil, so the sewer system works to keep water off the roads and out of your basement. But sometimes, it rains too much for this system. That’s where what’s known as “green infrastructure” comes in, by helping to absorb all the extra water. Otherwise, says McGuire, “What happens is that the stormwater combines with raw sewage in these below-ground piping systems. Past a certain threshold, it gets spewed out into local waterways.”

To keep this from happening, cities like New York are investing lots of money in building and maintaining green infrastructure, from street trees to deliberately designed water capture landscapes called “bioswales.” But as this research indicates, our furry friends’ bathroom breaks may be making these interventions less effective.

Journal citation:  Evaluating the effects of canine urine on urban soil microbial communities

Source:   Popular Science

Mutation makes bulldogs and Norwich terriers more susceptible to breathing problems

The discovery of a new mutation associated with breathing difficulties in popular dog breeds suggests that shortened skulls causing flat faces is not the only factor that contributes to the condition, but that swelling around the airways from edema may also play a role. Jeffrey Schoenebeck of the University of Edinburgh and colleagues report these findings in a new study published 9th May 2019 in PLOS Genetics.

Respiratory diseases are prevalent across dog breeds, particularly in brachycephalic breeds such as the Bulldog and French bulldog. The flat facial conformation of these breeds has long been assumed to be the major predisposing factor, however, the underlying genetics of their respiratory condition has never been elucidated.

Upper Airway Syndrome

The research team became interested in the Norwich Terrier, a breed presenting with many of the same respiratory disease symptoms as the Bulldog. A distinction, however, is that the Norwich terrier is not considered to be a brachycephalic breed and so presented an opportunity to dissociate respiratory disease from head conformation.

The researchers performed a genome-wide association analysis for respiratory disease severity in the Norwich Terrier and resolved an association on chromosome 13 to a missense mutation in ADAMTS3. Variants in this gene were previously shown to cause an oedematous phenotype–a disease characteristic in the airways of affected Norwich Terriers and brachycephalic dogs alike. The researchers screened over 100 breeds for the ADAMTS3 variant and found that it is enriched in the Norwich Terrier, Bulldog and French Bulldog. This discovery changes how we view respiratory disease predisposition in the dog, offers potential genetic screens and highlights a new biological function for ADAMTS3.

The study presents a new way of looking at these respiratory diseases in dogs, where fluid retention in the tissue that lines the airways makes it more likely that dogs with the mutation will develop breathing obstructions. “We conclude that there are additional genetic risk factors, that if inherited, will likely lead to airway disease in dogs regardless of their face shape,” stated author Jeffrey Schoenebeck. “The challenge ahead is to integrate these ideas, and implement sensible breeding practices and treatments that consider various health risks including those presented by the mutation of ADAMTS3.”

If scientists develop a test for this mutation, then dog breeders can develop better breeding practices to avoid passing on the faulty gene. Additionally, screening for the mutation may help veterinarians identify dogs which are at risk of UAS, and in particular identify the dogs at risk of swelling of their airways after surgical treatment, which is a common, life-threatening post-operative complication.

Sources:  Science Daily and PLOS Genetics

Rescue and Jessica

Rescue and Jessica

Children’s books featuring dogs are an integral part of educating children about the human-animal bond and dogs, generally (not to mention encouraging children to learn to read!)

In Rescue and Jessica:  A Life-Changing Friendship, service dog Rescue meets Jessica who is a double amputee.  Not only does he help her with everyday tasks, but he also helps her see a future for herself.

Although a work of fiction, authors Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a wife and husband who suffered the loss of limbs in the Boston Marathon bombing, have drawn on their own experiences with their black Labrador service dog, Rescue.  The book includes an endnote which explains how service dogs are trained.

The authors and their illustrator have been recently honored with a Christopher Award. Christopher Award founder Father James Keller created the awards to salute media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

Kensky & Downes

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes (photo by Boston Globe)

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

Writing for Nanny

It’s always been important to me that my dogs participate in our lives.

Sometimes, my dogs have written their own greeting cards.  When my Mum had knee replacement surgery in May 2007, my dog Daisy sent her this card and poem as part of our get well package.  (I found the card when sorting through some of my mother’s possessions).

 

Hi Nanny Greeting card

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

CSI for dog poop

PooPrints is a DNA pet waste management service which helps condominium, apartments and senior living communities to identify owners who are not picking up their dog’s waste.

It’s basically CSI for dog poop.

As part of lease or purchase agreements, there is mandatory DNA testing of the resident’s dogs which is done with a mouth swab.  PooPrints analyses the dog’s DNA and then adds it to its database.

If a pile of poop is found on the property, site managers collect a sample of poop using a PooPrints sample collection kit and send it to the lab for testing.  Because cells of the intestine are sloughed off as feces passes through the digestive tract, DNA can be extracted from the sample and matched to the profiles found in the database.

And then the offending dog owner can receive a warning, citation or other enforcement action taken against them.

This type of profiling works well in closed communities because there’s a mechanism for capturing the DNA of the dogs who live there.

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

Doggy quote of the month for May

“I always say, the time you spend with your dog makes the difference in a great dog or a crate dog.” 

― M.K. Clinton, author

Dog in crate