Category Archives: Dogs

Kibbles and Kale? Many Pet Owners Keen to Have Vegan Pets

A surprising number of pet owners, particularly those who are vegan, are interested in feeding their pets a plant-based diet, according to new University of Guelph research.

Researchers with U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College along with colleagues in New Zealand conducted an online survey of 3,673 dog and cat owners from around the world to learn about what kinds of foods they fed their pets and themselves.

Vegan diet photo

Photo by: Rarnie McCudden from Pexels

Published in the journal PLoS ONE, the survey found that 35 per cent of owners whose pets ate conventional diets were interested in switching their animals to a vegan diet.

More than half of them (55 per cent) added, though, that certain stipulations needed to be met before they would make the switch. Those stipulations included needing further evidence that a plant-based diet would meet their pets’ nutritional needs, wanting approval from their veterinarians and wanting plant-based pet foods to be easily available.

Just under six per cent of the survey respondents were vegan — meaning they ate no meat, dairy or fish – and more than a quarter (27 per cent) of them reported they already fed their pets plant-based diets.

Among the rest of the vegans, a full 78 per cent were interested in helping their pets to switch to a plant-based diet if one were available that met their needs.

Lead author Sarah Dodd, currently a PhD candidate at the OVC’s Department of Population Medicine, said even she was surprised by how many vegans had already chosen to eliminate meat from their pets’ diets.

“That percentage, 27 per cent, might sound like a small number, but when you think of the actual numbers of pets involved, that’s huge, and much higher than we expected.”

In total, 1.6 per cent of the 2,940 dogs in the survey and 0.7 per cent of the 1,545 cats were being fed a strictly plant-based diet; only vegans and one vegetarian chose to exclusively feed plant-based diets.

Another 10.4 per cent of the dogs and 3.3 per cent of cats were intermittently fed vegetarian diets or plant-based foods.

Of the 3,673 pet owners surveyed, 6 per cent were vegetarian (meaning they ate no meat but did eat dairy, eggs or honey), 4 per cent were pescatarian (meaning they ate no meat but fish, and may eat dairy, eggs or honey), and nearly 6 per cent were vegan (meaning they ate no animal products).

Dodd performed this study for her M.Sc. degree with Prof. Adronie Verbrugghe in OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies

Dodd said while her team’s research was not designed to assess whether vegan pet diets are a growing trend, she expects interest in the diets to increase.

“People have been hearing about how vegan diets are linked to lowered risks of cancer and other health benefits in humans. There is also growing concern about the environmental impact of animal agriculture.”

Previous studies have also shown that pet owners tend to offer the same kind of diets to their dogs and cats that they adopt for themselves.

“So, while only a small proportion of pet owners are currently feeding plant-based diets to their pets, it is safe to say that interest in the diets is likely to grow.”

However, there has not been much research on the nutritional suitability of vegan diets for dogs and cats, nor on the health benefits and risks of plant-based diets in these animals, said Dodd.

“This study shows there is a clear need for further research in this area.”

Source:  University of Guelph media statement

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Who should Fido fear? Depends on relationship

As states around the country move to stiffen punishments for animal cruelty, Michigan State University researchers have found a correlation between the types of animal abuse committed and the perpetrator’s relationship to an animal and its owner.

For example, animal-neglect crimes (i.e. withholding food and water) tend to be perpetrated by the animal’s owner. On the other hand, with crimes that involve kicking or stabbing, the suspect is usually an owner’s family member or intimate partner, said Laura Reese, professor of urban and regional planning.

Laura Reese and Odie

Study leader Laura Reese and her dog, Odie Photo by Laura Reese

Reese and Cassie Richard, an MSU master’s of public policy student who now works for the Oregon Commission for the Blind, studied more than 300 animal cruelty police reports in Detroit between 2007 and 2015. They categorized abuse into eight types including dog fighting, shooting, poisoning, stabbing and neglect. The researchers coded the list of motivations for cruelty as listed by the perpetrators, who were then matched with the Detroit police crime feed to examine their other patterns of crime.

The researchers also found:

  • It’s usually owners – rather than anyone else – who engage their dogs in dog fighting as a form of abuse, often for the money. But owners are also less likely to commit more active forms of cruelty, possibly because of their role as guardians.
  • Most stabbings involve family members while poisonings are typically committed by neighbors.
  • Motivations differ. For intimate partners of pet owners, frustration with a relationship is often the cause of violence, whereas for neighbors, annoyance with an animal is often the impetus for cruelty.

“This isn’t just an animal problem – it’s a human problem,” Reese said. “For example, people who shoot other humans are more likely to shoot animals. At the same time, dog fighting is a public safety problem and dogs running loose biting people due to neglect is a public health problem. So, addressing human problems will help animal problems and vice versa, and we need to encourage public officials to think that way.”

However, most policymakers don’t, she said. Animal cruelty prevention needs to be a coordinated effort between law enforcement, public agencies and nonprofits. And because forms of animal cruelty vary, public policies and public health solutions should vary.

For example, dog fighting is related to gambling, drugs and weapon offenses. Thus, crackdowns on those issues would address that form of cruelty. Meanwhile, low-cost veterinary services and enforcement of existing ordinances, such as licensing requirements and leash laws, would target owner neglect.

“Simple education and informing people about proper nutrition, spaying and neutering could be done in schools,” Reese said. “Folks often want to do the right thing, but they may not have the resources. At the same time, cruelty is also tied up with domestic violence, which raises a separate and more complex set of concerns. That’s why we need our legislators and local officials to understand the complexities of animal cruelty and make solutions a priority.”

The study is published in the journal Anthrozoös.

The journal article can be read here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927936.2019.1550282)

Source:  Michigan State University media release

Laying flowers in Christchurch

It has been a dark few days in Christchurch after Friday’s shootings at two mosques, which have made worldwide news.

Today, Izzy and I came into the city to lay flowers at the tribute to the 50 innocent people who had their lives taken from them, and for the wounded who hopefully will recover. We were not alone.

Our city is coming together over this tragedy and we appreciate your support and thoughts to all who have been affected.

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

 

Both dogs and wolves cooperate with humans

A recent study conducted by behavioural researchers at Vetmeduni Vienna shows that dogs and wolves both work equally well with humans, albeit in different ways. The allegedly unequal brothers are thus much more similar than often assumed.

Human social life would be unthinkable without cooperation. The frequency and complexity with which humans cooperate with each other are extraordinary, if not unique. To better understand the evolution of this outstanding human skill, researchers have proposed dogs (Canis familiaris) as a good model of human cooperation.

Wolves cooperate with humans

Wolves cooperate with humans, but they take the lead. Credit: Friederike Range/Vetmeduni Vienna

The wolf inside dogs makes the difference

A recent study by Vetmeduni Vienna, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that the ability to work with people lies not so much within dogs themselves but in the “wolf within the dog” – that is to say, in very specific behavioural characteristics that dogs share with wolves. The study tested the extent to which dogs and grey wolves collaborate with humans in order to solve certain tasks. The findings show that both dogs and wolves cooperate intensively with humans and are equally successful, although the animals attain their goals in different ways.

Wolves show more initiative

Especially in one point the two closely related animals show significantly different forms of behaviour. In their cooperation with human partners, dogs follow the behaviour of the humans while wolves lead the interaction: they are more independent. Study director Friederike Range from the Konrad Lorenz Institute at Vetmeduni Vienna says, “The detailed analysis of the cooperative interactions revealed interesting differences between wolves and dogs. It shows that, while wolves tend to initiate behaviour and take the lead, dogs are more likely to wait and see what the human partner does and follow that behaviour.”

Differences in behaviour due to domestication

Based on the results of the study, the researchers propose that in the course of domestication dogs were selected for breeding because of their higher submissive tendencies (deferential behaviour hypothesis). According to this hypothesis, this helped minimize conflicts over resources and ensured the safe coexistence and cooperation in which humans lead and dogs follow.

Teamwork counts for wolves

Forming the background to the study are certain fundamental considerations in the field of behavioural science. As humans and dogs have been exposed to similar environmental pressures, this could conceivably represent a case of convergent evolution. Some research suggests that dogs acquired specific predispositions for cooperative interactions during the domestication process due to reduced aggression and increased tolerance. Against this background, better cooperation with humans would be expected in dogs than in wolves. However, wolves are a highly cooperative species, working together to raise the young, hunt and defend their territory.

Early socialization with humans is crucial

The research team led by Friederike Range therefore hypothesized that dogs did not develop any new traits during domestication, but rather that the collaborative skills of their common ancestors – wolves – form the basis for the evolution of dog-human cooperation (canine cooperation hypothesis). In contrast to the hypotheses of other scientists, the researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna therefore did not assume that dogs will outperform wolves when cooperating with humans. As Friederike Range says, “Based on the canine cooperation hypothesis, we expected that wolves would cooperate with humans as well as dogs if early and intensive socialization is given.” The present study fully confirms this assumption.

For the experiment portion of the study, 15 grey wolves (11 males, 4 females, age: 2 to 8 years) and 12 mixed-breed dogs (7 males, 5 females, age: 2 to 7 years) were tested at the Wolf Science Center in Ernstbrunn, Austria, where animals are socialized with people very early on and have close ties to them. The results of the experiment show that dogs and wolves, when socialized with humans and kept under similar conditions, work similarly successfully with humans, albeit in very different ways, which explains why dogs make the better pet.

The article “Wolves lead and dogs follow, but they both cooperate with humans” by Friederike Range, Sarah Marshall-Pescini, Corinna Kratz and Zsófia Virányi was published in Scientific Reports.

Source:  Vetmeduni Vienna media release

The Australian Dingo is unique

Since the arrival of British settlers more than 230 years ago, most Australians have assumed dingoes are a breed of wild dog.

Now 20 leading researchers have confirmed in a new study that the dingo is actually a unique, Australian species in its own right.

Dingo

Dingoes play a vital ecological role in Australia by competing with introduced predators like feral cats and foxes, researchers say. Photo: Getty Images.

The latest findings provide further evidence of specific characteristics that differentiate dingoes from domestic dogs, feral dogs, and other wild canids such as wolves.

The finding that a dingo is not a ‘dog’ comes after the Government of Western Australia contemplated declaring the dingo as ‘non-fauna’, which would have given more freedom to landowners to kill them without a licence.

Co-author Professor Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University says the classification of dingoes has serious consequences for the fragile ecosystems they inhabit, and state governments are required to develop and implement management strategies for species considered native fauna.

“In fact, dingoes play a vital ecological role in Australia by outcompeting and displacing noxious introduced predators like feral cats and foxes. When dingoes are left alone, there are fewer feral predators eating native marsupials, birds and lizards.

“Dingoes can also increase profits for cattle graziers, because they target and eat kangaroos that otherwise compete with cattle for grass in semi-arid pasture lands,” says Professor Bradshaw.

Lead author, Dr Bradley Smith from Central Queensland University, says the scientific status of the dingo is contentious, resulting in inconsistency in government policy.

“The dingo has been geographically isolated from all other canids, and genetic mixing driven mainly by human interventions has only been occurring recently,” Dr Smith says.

“Further evidence in support of dingoes being considered a ‘wild type’ capable of surviving in the absence of human intervention and under natural selection, is demonstrated by the consistent return of dog-dingo hybrids to a dingo-like canid throughout the Australian mainland and on several islands.

“We have presented scientifically valid arguments to support the ongoing recognition of the dingo as a distinct species (Canis dingo), as was originally proposed by Meyer in 1793.”

Dr Smith says little evidence exists to support the notion that any canid species are interchangeable with dingoes, despite the fact that most canids can successfully interbreed.

“There is no historical evidence of domestication once the dingo arrived in Australia, and the degree of domestication prior to arrival is uncertain and likely to be low, certainly compared to modern domestic dogs.”

“We show that dingoes have survived in Australia for thousands of years, subject to the rigours of natural selection, thriving in all terrestrial habitats, and largely in the absence of human intervention or aid,” Dr Smith says.

“The dingo is without doubt a native Australian species,” concludes Professor Bradshaw.

Source:  Flinders University media release

Chemical pollutants in the home

New research by scientists at the University of Nottingham suggests that environmental contaminants found in the home and diet have the same adverse effects on male fertility in both humans and in domestic dogs.

Chemicals in homes

Chemicals commonly found in homes, at concentrations relevant to environmental exposure, have the same damaging effect on sperm from both man and dog. Credit: © Tatyana Gladskih / Fotolia

There has been increasing concern over declining human male fertility in recent decades with studies showing a 50% global reduction in sperm quality in the past 80 years. A previous study by the Nottingham experts showed that sperm quality in domestic dogs has also sharply declined, raising the question of whether modern day chemicals in the home environment could be at least partly to blame.

In a new paper published in Scientific Reports, the Nottingham team set out to test the effects of two specific man-made chemicals namely the common plasticizer DEHP, widely abundant in the home (e.g. carpets, flooring, upholstery, clothes, wires, toys) and the persistent industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153, which although banned globally, remains widely detectable in the environment including food.

The researchers carried out identical experiments in both species using samples of sperm from donor men and stud dogs living in the same region of the UK. The results show that the chemicals, at concentrations relevant to environmental exposure, have the same damaging effect on sperm from both man and dog.

Leading the work, Associate Professor and Reader in Reproductive Biology at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, Richard Lea, said: “This new study supports our theory that the domestic dog is indeed a ‘sentinel’ or mirror for human male reproductive decline and our findings suggest that man-made chemicals that have been widely used in the home and working environment may be responsible for the fall in sperm quality reported in both man and dog that share the same environment.”

“Our previous study in dogs showed that the chemical pollutants found in the sperm of adult dogs, and in some pet foods, had a detrimental effect on sperm function at the concentrations previously found in the male reproductive tract. This new study is the first to test the effect of two known environmental contaminants, DEHP and PCB153, on both dog and human sperm in vitro, in the same concentrations as found in vivo.

Rebecca Sumner, who carried out the experimental work as part of her PhD, said “In both cases and in both subjects, the effect was reduced sperm motility and increased fragmentation of DNA.

Dr Sumner added: “We know that when human sperm motility is poor, DNA fragmentation is increased and that human male infertility is linked to increased levels of DNA damage in sperm. We now believe this is the same in pet dogs because they live in the same domestic environment and are exposed to the same household contaminants. This means that dogs may be an effective model for future research into the effects of pollutants on declining fertility, particularly because external influences such as diet are more easily controlled than in humans.”

Professor Gary England, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science and Professor of Comparative Veterinary Reproduction said:“Since environmental pollutants largely reflect a Western way of life such as the effects of industry, the chemicals present in the environment are likely to depend on the location.  An important area of future study is to determine how the region in which we live may affect sperm quality in both man and dog.”

The full research paper, ‘Independent and combined effects of diethylhexyl phthalate and polychlorinated biphenyl 153 on sperm quality in the human and dog’  is available here.

Source:  University of Nottingham media release

Doggy quote of the month for March

“The love of a dog is a pure thing.  He gives you a trust which is total.  You must not betray it.”

– Michel, Houellebecq, author

Izzy greyhound by R Sloan Photography