Tag Archives: police dogs

A chicken-flavored electrolyte drink could help sniffer dogs stay hydrated

The first comparison of three common hydration methods for sniffer dogs shows that while all are effective, dogs drink more and are more hydrated when given a chicken-flavored electrolyte drink compared to plain water or when injected with electrolytes under the skin. The study, published in open-access journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, also shows that the dogs did not suffer from a buildup of electrolytes from the drink, suggesting that electrolyte drinks are a safe hydration alternative for sniffer dogs, who are at risk of heat stroke in hot weather.

Working dogs, such as search and rescue dogs or police dogs, are crucial assistants when authorities respond to disasters or check for contraband at border crossings. These dogs often work in challenging environments, and can sometimes exert themselves to the point of exhaustion and heat stroke. In fact, hot weather can be dangerous for working dogs, as dogs don’t sweat much and rely on panting to cool themselves, meaning they can overheat easily.

detection dog

The risk of heat stroke increases with dehydration, so one effective way to help working dogs stay safe is to keep them hydrated. However, there are different ways to do this. “People use different techniques to hydrate working dogs,” says Cynthia Otto of the University of Pennsylvania, who was involved in the study. “Dog handlers disagree about the most effective method, and since there was no data on the safety or effectiveness of each technique, we wanted to provide some clarity.”

The classic hydration technique is to provide free access to plain drinking water. A second technique involves delivering water and electrolytes through a needle under the skin, which is known as subcutaneous hydration. Drinks containing electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are a third option, but these are controversial. Such drinks make sense as a rehydration aid for humans, as we lose electrolytes when we sweat. However dogs sweat very little, leading critics to say that the drinks could cause an unhealthy buildup of electrolytes in dogs.

The research team investigated these three common hydration strategies in a group of Border Patrol sniffer dogs who inspect vehicles at the Texas border, during the hot summer months. The team took a variety of measurements for each dog, including their hydration levels, fluid intake and work performance.

Happily, all three hydration strategies appear to be effective, and the dogs showed similar behavior, body temperature, and work performance regardless of the way they were hydrated. “In this controlled setting, all the hydration techniques were safe and effective,” says Otto.

However, dogs receiving a chicken-flavored electrolyte drink drank significantly more fluid and had greater hydration levels. Interestingly, these dogs did not suffer from a buildup of sodium, a component of electrolyte drinks that could have negative effects in the body in large quantities. The dogs who drank electrolytes excreted the sodium in their urine, meaning their blood levels remained normal. Overall, the dogs handled the electrolytes well, suggesting they are a safe and effective hydration method.

These results surprised the researchers, as a previous study had reported that dogs who were offered a non-flavored electrolyte drink, drank very little of it. The chicken flavoring may have been key, making the dogs think they were having a tasty treat, but the team will need to investigate this further.

“If a dog is reluctant to drink, then a highly palatable flavored electrolyte solution may give them a boost,” says Otto. “However, these are healthy dogs in a controlled environment, and we don’t know if all electrolyte or flavoring approaches are created equal, so we will need to do further work.”

Journal reference:  Cynthia M. Otto, Elizabeth Hare, Jess L. Nord, Shannon M. Palermo, Kathleen M. Kelsey, Tracy A. Darling, Kasey Schmidt, Destiny Coleman. Evaluation of Three Hydration Strategies in Detection Dogs Working in a Hot Environment. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2017; 4 DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2017.00174

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Royal visit to New Zealand – the dog connection

Today was the last day in New Zealand for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Will and Kate).  And finally, we have something dog-related from this visit!

The Duke and Duchess visited the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua this morning.  There, they met puppies, dogs in training, and fully-fledged police dogs.

William and Kate cuddle with police dog puppies (photo by Getty)

William and Kate cuddle with police dog puppies (photo by Getty)

A soft toy police dog was a gift to Kate, presumably for Prince George (photo by Getty)

A soft toy police dog was a gift to Kate, presumably for Prince George (photo by Getty)

And after this doggy (and soggy) visit, the Royals are now off to their next stop on the Royal Tour – Australia.   I hope Australia’s dogs will also be able to participate in their visit!

 

FIDO Cam

Watch out criminals.  You’re on FIDO Cam!

Made in the UK by the Military and Law Enforcement Division of Industrial Television Ltd, FIDO Cam was developed to assist police SWAT units which needed to check inside buildings before their teams entered.  The apparatus has also been used in drug busts and in search and rescue operations.

FIDO Cam is mounted on trained police and rescue dogs as seen here:

FIDO Cam

The company estimates that 70% of the police units in the UK own the gear; when activated, the camera sends a live feed of what ever the dog is seeing back to the handler.

FIDO Cam 2

Camera footage can also be used in court as evidence.

I wonder how long even a highly trained dog will wear the device (because it doesn’t look very comfortable).

At over £10,000 per unit, one thing is for sure:  it’s unlikely that these cameras will be purchased by dog owners who want to know what their dog gets up to when they are not at home!

Your dog – strategist?

Researcher Juliane Kaminski has published a study which shows that domestic dogs are much more likely to steal food when they think nobody can see them.

Many owners may think ‘so what – I already knew this’ – but Dr Kaminski’s systematic study helps to prove that dogs have the capacity to understand the human’s point of view.

Juliane Kaminski and her dog, Ambula (courtesy of University of Portland)

Juliane Kaminski and her dog, Ambula (courtesy of University of Portland)

The study found that when a human forbids a dog from taking food, dogs are four times more likely to disobey in a dark room than a lit room, suggesting that they understand humans may not be able to see them take the food.

The tests were complex and involved many variables to rule out that dogs were basing their decisions on simple associative rules, for example, that dark means food. 42 female and 42 male dogs took part in the study.

This is the first study to examine if dogs differentiate between different levels of light when they are developing strategies on whether to steal food.

The research is an incremental step in our understanding of dogs’ ability to think and understand which could, in turn, be of use to those who work with dogs, including the police, the blind and those who use gun dogs, as well as those who keep them as pets.

Dr Kaminski’s study has been published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Source:  University of Portsmouth media statement

Protecting K-9 cops

The Vest-A-Dog Network is actively working to outfit police dogs with protective vests.  Started in 1999, with funds were raised by a local girl for Tiko who was a replacement dog for another who was killed in action, the movement has grown.

You can donate directly  via the Vest-A-Dog website to support the featured canine protector or you can read about how to start your own local network on the site.

The program funds a K-9 One™ vest to sponsored police dog units.  These vests are made with Dupont Kevlar, the same material found in protective vests for human police officers.  The vests are designed to be bulletproof, stabproof and to protect against blunt force trauma.

A vest for protection against stabbing and bullets currently costs US$825 which is why many local units have difficulty finding the funds to protect their canine officers.

The New Zealand Police have stated (on their website) that they looked at an Australian vest in 2008/09 and decided that the vest would not have protected dogs that were previously injured on the line of duty.

However, I wonder that if with shootings like that of police dog Gage in Christchurch in July 2010, if the NZ Police should look at alternatives.  I’ve emailed them with details of the Vest-A-Dog project.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand