Tag Archives: University of Liverpool

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

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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

Quality of life improves when obese dogs shed excess weight

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have published the results of a study into the quality of life of obese dogs in The Veterinary Journal.

The researchers tracked various quality of life indicators with the owners of 50 dogs who were classified as obese.  These dogs were of various breeds and a mixture of males and females.   The same questionnaire was repeated once the dogs went through a weight loss programme (for the dogs that were successful in losing weight, and those that were not).

Photo courtesy of University of Liverpool

The vitality scores for the dogs that lost weight increased and their scores for emotional disturbance and pain decreased. The more body fat that the dogs lost, the greater their improvement in vitality.

Some people may think ‘these results are a no-brainer’ but in veterinary and other clinical medicine fields, the norm is ‘evidence-based medicine.’  That is, practitioners like veterinarians want results from research that is measurable and defensible when applying or recommending treatments.

Since obesity is linked to problems with the heart, arthritis and other conditions, research likes this helps to underpin the importance of the healthy weight message.

The same basic principles for weight loss in dogs apply to humans:  use portion control, increase exercise and activity, and eat healthy foods.