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Can people make their pets happy?

Researchers from Nestlé Purina Petcare are conducting some of the first studies of their kind into how external stimuli can generate joyful emotions in dogs.

While scientific evidence demonstrates that owning a pet can help lower people’s blood pressure, and reduce anxiety and depression, less is known about whether human contact has a similarly beneficial effect on animals’ emotional wellbeing.
A technique being used in this research is thermal imaging:  as blood flow changes to a part of the body, the temperature will also change.

Photo courtesy of Nestle Purina

Photo courtesy of Nestle Purina

Researchers use a thermal camera to measure these temperature fluctuations in pets’ eyes, ears and paw pads.

“Scientists have known for years how to evaluate negative states such as stress and anxiety in animals,” said Ragen T.S. McGowan, Nestlé Purina Petcare behaviour scientist. “Less is known about how to measure positive states such as happiness or excitement.”

“Thermal imaging has been widely used in animal welfare studies, to assess inflammation in racehorses, for example, or to see how certain conditions affect livestock’s stress levels,” she continued.

“This is one of the first times it being used to measure positive responses in pets.”

Source:  Nestlé Purina media release