Tag Archives: University of Liverpool

Research reveals overweight dogs may live shorter lives

New research from the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition reveals overweight dogs are more likely to have shorter lives than those at ideal body weights.

Results from the study, conducted retrospectively across two decades and published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, revealed the lifespan of dogs that were overweight was up to two and a half years shorter when compared to ideal-weight dogs.

fat bulldog

The study examined more than 50,000 dogs across 12 of the most popular dog breeds. The effect of being overweight was seen in all breeds, although the magnitude of the effect differed, ranging from between five months less for male German Shepherds to two years and six months less for male Yorkshire Terriers.

Poorer quality of life

It is estimated that over a quarter of households (26%) in the UK and nearly half in the US (47.6%) own a dog. However despite our affection for canine companions, concern is growing that many pet owners are unaware of the serious health implications of dogs carrying extra weight. Pet obesity is steadily on the rise, with latest figures estimating one in three dogs and cats in the U.S. is overweight.

Although the study did not examine the reasons behind the extra pounds in dogs, feeding habits are thought to play a role in pet obesity. According to a recent Better Cities For Pets survey , more than half (54%) of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it, and nearly a quarter (22%) of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy.

Study co-author and Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool Alex German, said: “Owners are often unaware that their dog is overweight, and many may not realise the impact that it can have on health. What they may not know is that, if their beloved pet is too heavy, they are more likely to suffer from other problems such as joint disease, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer, as well as having a poorer quality of life. These health and wellbeing issues can significantly impact how long they live.

“For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets. Being careful about what you feed your dog could go a long way to keeping them in good shape and enabling them to be around for many years to come.
“Worryingly, it is estimated only one in five pet owners always measures how much food they are giving their pet, with four in five (87%) always or often simply estimating the amount of food they think their pet needs at each serving.”

About the Study

The University of Liverpool and WALTHAM study was a retrospective, observational cohort study that leveraged demographic, geographic and clinical data from dogs that received care at BANFIELD® Pet Hospitals between April 1994 and September 2015. Data were available from 50,787 dogs across 12 of the most popular family breeds: Dachshund, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, American Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, Boxer, Chihuahua, Pit Bull Terrier, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, and Yorkshire Terrier. For each breed, the lifespan dogs whose owners reported them to be overweight and those in optimal body condition was compared.

As the largest general-veterinary practice in the world, Banfield has more than 1,000 hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico comprised of veterinary teams who are committed to providing high-quality veterinary care for more than three million pets annually. The data extracted for this study included demographic (breed, sex, neuter status and date of birth) and geographic (latitude and longitude of the owner’s postcode) variables, plus data collected during in-clinic visits (date of visit, bodyweight and if available body condition), and date of death. Pedigree status and date of birth are both owner-reported parameters and were not verified by veterinary staff.

Source:  University of Liverpool

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The virtual pooch that could help prevent dog bites

A virtual dog could soon be used as an educational tool to help prevent dog bites, thanks to an innovative project led by the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC).

In collaboration with Dogs Trust and University of Liverpool animal behaviour researchers, the VEC has created a proof of concept virtual reality (VR) experience in which people can approach and interact with a dog displaying signs of aggression in a safe and controlled way.

Virtual reality dog

Virtual reality dog in its environment. Credit: Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC)

The experience aims to help adults and children recognise specific behaviours displayed by dogs, which could potentially lead to an attack or incident if not correctly identified.

6,740 hospital admissions for dog bites and strikes were recorded in the UK in 2013 and University of Liverpool research suggests that the burden of dog bites is considerably larger than those estimated from hospital records.

As part of a desire to better educate children and adults about dog bite prevention, Dogs Trust wanted to explore whether a digital tool could help people identify a range of stress and threat behaviours typically exhibited by dogs, which have the potential to lead to a bite.

In response to this challenge, a team animal behavioural specialists and psychologists from the University worked closely with the VEC to make certain that the body language and detail shown in the virtual environment was both realistic and a truthful reflection of real-world canine behaviour.

As the user approaches the dog, the behaviour and body language of the dog gradually changes, the dog’s behaviour begins to display signs of aggression including licking its lips, lowering of the head and body, front paw lifting, growling, and showing of teeth. These behaviours are referenced from the ‘Canine Ladder of Aggression’ which shows how a dog may behave when it does not want to be approached.

Iain Cant, VEC Visualisation Team Leader said: “This was a really interesting project to work on with a lot of exciting potential for the future.

“The next steps will look to enhance the detail within the immersive environment to ensure the simulation is as realistic as possible. Future developments will also show a wider range of dog behaviours and the dog’s reactions to user behaviour.”

“More broadly the project highlights how immersive experiences can be used by organisations such as Dogs Trust as a valuable educational tool.”

Source:  Science Daily

YouTube videos help researchers study dog bites

dog-biting

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have turned to the popular video-sharing site YouTube to study the complex issue of dog bites.

Preventing dog bites is an increasingly important public health and political issue with implications for both human and animal health and welfare. However, it remains difficult for researchers to understand the circumstances leading up to dog bites, with most studies relying on evidence collected after bites happen, such as hospital records and victim interviews.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports researchers have, for the first time, used YouTube videos to directly observe and analyse dog bites in situ.

Lead author Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka said: “Online videos present us with an unexplored opportunity to observe dog bites first-hand, something which is just not possible using other methods. Making more use of this type of shared content for research could help us better understand how and why bites occur and contribute to the development of bite prevention strategies.”

Using search terms such as ‘dog bite’ and ‘dog attack’ the researchers sampled 143 videos that were uploaded to YouTube between January 2016 and March 2017. For each video the context of bites, bite severity, victim and dog characteristics were recorded. For 56 of these videos they were also able to analyse the details of human and dog behaviour leading up to the bite.

The researchers acknowledge that YouTube videos of dog bites are likely subject to some bias, with, for example, bites by small dogs perhaps perceived as ‘comical’ and therefore more likely to be uploaded online.

The findings reveal that despite this potential bias, the demographic characteristics of the victims and dogs seen in YouTube bite videos, such as breed type and victims’ sex and age, are consistent with those found in previous studies. Common dog breeds observed included Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, Pit bulls and Labrador Retrievers. Around 7 in 10 of the bite victims in the videos were male, while more than half of bites observed were to children and infants.

Although this small study did not allow an exploration of the causal relationship between human behaviour and dog bites, some behaviours that have been previously observed within the context of dog bites were observed here to precede a bite. For example, the researchers observed that tactile contact with a dog increased approximately 20 seconds before a bite, as did standing or leaning over a dog.

Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka added: “These findings could offer some valuable new insight for the development of bite prevention strategies. Prevention messages could emphasise the risk of leaning over a dog and simply advise avoiding contact with a dog when possible or in doubt.”

Future research plans to better understand people’s behaviour around dogs and their perceptions of dog bites include a series of interviews with dog owners, people who work around dogs and bite recipients.

The paper ‘Online videos indicate human and dog behaviour preceding dog bites and the context in which bites occur’ is published in Scientific Reports [doi:10.1038/s41598-018-25671-7]

Source:  University of Liverpool media release

Risk of chocolate poisoning in dogs peaks at Christmas, warn experts

Christmas dog

Christmas dog, photo courtesy of the University of Liverpool

Pet owners are being urged to be vigilant this Christmas, as University of Liverpool researchers warn of a “significant peak” in the risk of chocolate poisoning in dogs over the festive period.

Most people know that chocolate can be poisonous to dogs but may not know why. The toxic ingredient is a caffeine-like stimulant called theobromine that can lead to an upset stomach, a racing heartbeat, dehydration, seizures and in the most severe cases death.

In a new study published in the Vet Record, researchers from the University’s Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) have used electronic health records from UK veterinary practices to analyse cases of chocolate ingestion in dogs.

The findings reveal significant seasonal peaks of chocolate ingestion cases across the year, most notably at Christmas and to a lesser extent at Easter –  as chocolate becomes more accessible within the home.

In most cases the amount of chocolate consumed was quite small, with common festive culprits including selection boxes, chocolate cake, liqueurs, chocolate Santas and advent calendars.

Veterinary researcher Dr P-J Noble who led the study commented: “Dogs love a chocolate treat and at Christmas there are plenty about. Sadly dogs can’t eat chocolate safely so many of them end up making an unplanned visit to the vet, which can disrupt the celebrations.

“People should keep festive chocolates away from pets. If chocolate is consumed, owners should talk to their vet as soon as possible, and ideally be prepared to quantify the amount and type of chocolate consumed. Information on the chocolate packaging may help the vet take the best action. While many cases of chocolate-eating are not at toxic levels, where they are, it is better to see the vet quickly.”

The research, which analysed 386 cases of chocolate ingestion in dogs from 229 UK veterinary practices between 2013 and 2017, also revealed some differences in the seasonal pattern of UK cases compared to other countries. Peaks in similar cases around Valentine’s Day and Halloween that have previously been reported in the USA and Germany were not found in the UK, which the researchers suggest could be due to different festival priorities.

The study also found that chocolate ingestion was significantly less common in older dogs and that no specific breed is more at risk than others.

Dr Noble added: “Big data is allowing us to perform wide scale studies of issues like chocolate exposure. This will help us to understand the influence of age, breed, season and geography on a wide range of different problems.”

Why aren’t some dogs walked regularly? (The Lassie Effect)

A new study from the University of Liverpool in collaboration with The University of Western Australia has examined why some people feel motivated to walk their dogs regularly and others don’t.

There are more than 8 million dogs in households across the UK. Unfortunately not all of them are taken for regular walks.

dog-walking

Photo: K Crisley, The Balanced Dog

The study, led by Dr Carri Westgarth from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, examined the demographic and behavioural factors that contribute towards owners reporting having a strong sense of encouragement and motivation to walk provided by their dogs, which the team call ‘the Lassie effect’.

Encouragement and motivation

As part of the study data was collected from 629 dog owners participating in the RESIDE study, a 10-year study of 1813 residents in Perth, Western Australia.

The results of two survey outcomes, ‘Dog encouragement to walk’ (how often dog encouraged me to go walking in last month) and ‘Dog motivation to walk’ (Having a dog makes me walk more), were analysed to identify both positive and negative factors associated with them.

Dog and owner factors

Explaining her findings Dr Westgarth said: “There are both dog and owner factors that are associated with an owner’s sense of encouragement and motivation to walk the dog, which in turn has been found to be associated with increased dog walking behaviour.

“We now know that owners feel more motivated to walk larger dogs, and if they believe that walking keeps the dog healthy. A strong relationship or attachment to the dog and reporting feeling that their dog enjoys walks is also motivating to owners.

“They are less motivated to take their dog out if they perceive that it is too old or sick, or if other family members usually walk the dog instead. These factors may be targeted in future interventions to increase and maintain physical activity levels of both people and pets.”

Source:  University of Liverpool news release

The benefits of being dog-friendly (Christchurch take note)

Here’s more research that backs up my position on dogs and the Christchurch rebuild.  Hopefully the CCDU and CERA will take note…

A study from the University of Liverpool has recommended investing in dog owner education and facilities as a strategy to target physical inactivity and problems such as obesity in both people and their pets.

The research team reviewed scientific papers published since 1990 (31 studies from the UK, USA, Australia and Japan) and found that access to dog-friendly walking environments and better education about dogs’ physical needs could all motivate people to get out and take more exercise with their pets.

An exercised dog is a healthy one, less likely to be obese, and who is less likely to develop behavioural problems like aggression and excessive barking. 

Among the most common findings of all studies was that dog owners have a varied understanding of how much exercise their dog needs. This affected how much they took their dog for a walk; something that could be addressed with education programs.

People without access to high quality local areas that support dog walking, for example parks where dogs are allowed off-leash and poo-disposal facilities are provided, were less likely to walk with their dog and missed out on the associated health benefits.

There are a large number of reasons why people do or don’t walk their dog and it is worth considering how we can address this when designing strategies for reducing obesity, or when planning urban areas and public open space. Not being able to let their dog off the leash is a particular put-off,” said Dr Carri Westgarth, co-author of the study.

Study authors Dr Carri Westgarth and Dr Hayley Christian take an off-lead walk (photo courtesy of University of Liverpool)

Study authors Dr Carri Westgarth and Dr Hayley Christian take an off-lead walk (photo courtesy of University of Liverpool)

The study also found that some people are worried about their dogs’ behaviour and may be less likely to take it out to the park – potentially out of embarrassment or worry about how it might act – but lack of walks may also be causing this bad behaviour, due to boredom, frustration or lack of socialisation.”

When I submitted to the CCDU in November 2012, I made the point that by having greater accessibility, owners have more opportunity to take dogs out – and that increases opportunity not only for exercise but also socialisation.   We want good ownership to be more visible in our communities – thus making it the norm.  Poor ownership would also be more visible – and subject to peer pressure combined with enforcement approaches.

Let’s have a dog-friendly central city with walking accessibility from one end to the other!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  University of Liverpool media release

 

Another reason to keep your dog fit and trim

University of Liverpool researchers have found that obese dogs can experience metabolic syndrome, a condition that describes multiple health issues that occur in the body at the same time.  Obese humans suffer from the same syndrome.

The condition occurs when a number of health problems, such as increased blood glucose and increased cholesterol levels, develop together, with the potential to increase the risk of other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In a study of 35 obese dogs, 20% had metabolic syndrome.  These dogs had increased blood insulin which suggests that the pancreas is working harder than normal.  Blood adiponectin, a protein produced by fat cells that helps control sugars and fats, was also at lower levels than normal.

The metabolic abnormalities improved when the dogs successfully lost weight.

The research team admits that they have to study the impacts in more detail to understand the health implications of metabolic syndrome.

However, why wait for more studies?  If your dog is overweight we already know that their quality of life improves with weight loss.

Source: University of Liverpool media release