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Why dogs eat poop: A new theory suggests the behavior all goes back to wolves

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If you had to pick the one non-violent behavior that most dismays dog owners, it would likely be when their dog consumes dog poop — be it the dog’s own or some other dog’s.

Most of us can tolerate their incessant licking of their privates. We can laugh off them humping the leg of a house guest. But most humans find their dog gobbling up feces a revolting and inconceivable act, and some — believe it or not — have even cited it as a reason for returning a dog to a shelter.

While traditionally it has been speculated that some dogs (a minority) engage in the practice to make up for some deficiency in their diet, a new paper suggests it may be in their genes, Scientific American reports.

Veterinary researchers at University of California at Davis who surveyed nearly 3,000 dog owners found 16 percent of dogs consume canine feces “frequently,” meaning, in this case, they’ve seen them do it more than six times. In a second survey of just owners of poop-eating dogs, 62% of them were described as eating it daily and 38% weekly.

Benjamin Hart, a veterinarian who directs the Center for Animal Behavior at Davis, reviewed the survey results and the scientific literature on poop-eating, most of which he says is speculative and doesn’t provide any sort of definitive answer for the cause of what’s called coprophagy.

The survey showed no link between feces-eating and other compulsive behaviors. Coprophagy wasn’t associated with age, gender, spaying or neutering, age of separation from the mother, ease of house training, or any other behavior problem.

What coprophagic dogs had in common was this: More than 80 percent were reported to favor feces no more than two days old.

To Hart, that suggests that the cause may go back more than 15,000 years and be rooted, like so much else, in wolves. The new study by Hart and others was published in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science.

Typically, wolves defecate away from their dens, but at times of urgency, they may let loose nearby. When that happens, other wolves commonly gobble it up while it’s fresh, possibly, some scholars believe, to prevent the spread of parasitic infections.

Feces contain intestinal parasite eggs, which, after a couple of days, hatch into infectious larvae.

Wolves, he said, figured out that by eating any fresh poop left near the den they could be spared being infected by parasites.

“If they eat it right away, it’s safe to eat. They won’t get infected by parasites,” he said.

He theorizes that today’s poop-eating dogs still carry around that wolfy instinct, even though the feces of modern-day pets, consuming modern-day dog food, tend to be parasite-free.

Hart noted there is no shortage of explanations for dogs eating poop.

“For every person you ask about this, you get a different opinion. Because they’re guessing, whether they’re veterinarians or experts in behavior,” he said.

Some believe that stress, or enzyme deficiencies lead to the behavior. Others suspect dogs picked it up as they adapted to scavenging for food sources in human environments. Many dogs will try to eat anything, and poop, from their own or other species, falls into that category.

The study noted that dogs whose owners considered them “greedy eaters,” were far more like to engage in the behavior.

Dog owners responding to the survey sometimes saw their dogs eating poop, and sometimes just surmised as much, based on “tell-tale breath odor,” or because poop in the house was disappearing before they got around to cleaning it up.

While there are products on the marketplace that claim to correct the problem, most of those do little more than make a dog’s own poop foul tasting, according to the Washington Post blog Animalia.

A dog owner can try and correct the behavior, clean up immediately after their dogs, and monitor them closely while they are outside, but the bottom line is — disgusting as it may strike us — dining on feces isn’t that surprising given where dogs come from and what they’ve been through.

As Clive Wynne, director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, noted:

“The niche that dogs occupy is essentially one of making a living on people’s leavings — and that isn’t just our leftovers from dinner, but what we put down the toilet, too,” he said. “So it’s only from our human perspective that coprophagy seems strange.”

After a basset hound’s disappearance, donations enable town to purchase a drone

The small central Texas town of Hewitt will soon be purchasing its own thermal imaging drone — and they can thank a basset hound named Gus for that.

Gus is the greying basset who went missing last July and stayed on the run nearly 50 days before, with help from a loaned drone, he was tracked down, trapped and returned to his owners.

His disappearance led to a massive search and, once he was found, one of the organizers of Team Gus began a fundraising campaign to get the Hewitt Police Department a drone of its own.

Nikki Pittman presented a check for $6,000 to city officials during Monday night’s council meeting, KWTX reported.

“We desperately needed one here and we kept depending on Dallas, North Dallas to come down here with their thermal drone,” said Pittman. “It was just necessary for Central Texas,” she said.

gusleashes1The money was raised with donations and sales of Team Gus coozies and t-shirts. It will help pay for the Hewitt police and fire department’s purchase of a drone, and licensing and training.

Police Chief Jim Devlin thanked Pittman for her hard work. “While it was a team effort, it was kind of a mission of hers,” he said. “She really stuck to her guns and pushed this thing.”

Devlin said police and fire agencies in New York City and Los Angeles have entire fleets of thermal drones that they use for “all kinds of types of operations. Those can be just as applicable to Hewitt, Texas as anywhere else,” he said.

The drone would be used for locating missing pets and people, and helping firefighting crews by giving them an overhead view of how a fire is spreading.

“It kind of boiled down to – we need one in Central Texas,” Devlin said. Hewitt police are matching the donation.

He believes having their own drone would have cut down on the time it took to catch Gus.

“I’d never thought we’d get outrun by a basset hound, but I also think if we did have the drone we could have launched that, we could have had control with that, I think it could have made a pretty big difference in the amount of time that he was actually on the loose,” said Devlin.

Devlin said the department is researching the purchase, but could have a drone in the air within the year. Firefighters, police officers and animal control staff will be trained how to use the equipment.

Gus disappeared July 24th. Mutts & Mayhem, a Dallas are rescue group, joined the search effort, using its thermal drone for three different overnight surveillance missions. Those helped lead searchers to the area where, in September, they set a trap and caught him.

Squish appears on Rachel Ray show

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Squish, an Ohio dog whose face was left twisted and contorted by what veterinarians believe was a severe beating, will be a guest on “The Rachel Ray Show” today.

Appearing via a video call with the once-abused dog will be the woman who rescued him and to whom he now belongs, a veterinary intern at the time who now practices in San Antonio.

Squish was a four-month-old stray when he ended up in the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter in 2016, with a fractured jaw, fractured skull and missing one eye.

After two months, given his appearance made him unlikely to be adopted, and given he was barely able to eat, the shelter added him to the list of dogs to be euthanized, but sent him to VCA Great Lakes Veterinary Specialists for a second opinion.

squishdog2When intern Danielle Boyd was sent to carry him into the exam room, she was taken with his friendliness and trust. “I was enamored by this little one-eyed pup who clearly endured so much pain,” she told the dodo.

Boyd decided to bring him home that night, just to give him a break from the shelter.

He has been her’s ever since.

Even though she was just a week away from a scheduled to move to Texas to finish her veterinary residency, she adopted the dog and a series of extensive surgeries began.

Less than 36 hours after Squish’s surgery, they drove from Ohio to Texas. “That became the beginning of our many adventures together,” she says. Boyd had lost her dog just days before she met Squish.

After several surgeries, Squish — who had difficulty seeing out of his one eye and whose injuries prevented him from being able to eat — is chewing on tennis balls, munching dry dog food, and apparently carrying around sticks as crooked as his face.

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Vets suspect blunt force trauma led to his misshapen head. Both his skull and upper jaw had been fractured by a blow, or a series of them.

Squish now spends his time being the mascot for the veterinary hospital where Boyd works.

“Employees come visit him in my office when they need a little Squish love,” Boyd said. “Squish also shows clients whose pets are facing eye removal surgery how happy he is with one eye.”

Ray gave Boyd a lifetime supply of products from her Nutrish pet food line, and, along with everyone else in the studio audience, a $100 PetSmart gift cards.

(Top photo by Kin Man Hui /San Antonio Express-News, bottom photos by Danielle Boyd)

Nose-less dog found wandering the sreets in Kentucky is getting much-needed help

An animal clinic in Lexington, Ky., is working to heal a stray dog with a host of medical problems, including not having a nose.

The dog, believed to be a Jack Russell terrier mix, was taken in by the Pulaski County Animal Shelter after being seen walking down a road alone on a rainy and freezing night.

Woodstock Animal Foundation in Lexington agreed to take the dog and give her the care she needs, WKYT reported.

nonoseShe’s being called Mirabel, which means “of wondrous beauty.”

According to the clinic the dog is about eight years old. She was found dirty, cold and infested with fleas. Her missing nose is believed to be the result of a genetic defect.

According to a post on the Woodstock Animal Foundation Facebook page, a Pulaski County resident called the animal shelter in Pulaski County, which picked the dog up. Given all of the dog’s health problems, the shelter contacted the clinic.

“… She didn’t have a nose nor an upper lip and had had numerous litters of puppies,” the foundation said, and apparently she been bred frequently at a puppy mill.

Mirabel also has a heart murmur, an inguinal hernia, mammary tumors and needs a dental procedure.

She was updated on her vaccines, tested for heartworms and had her hernia repaired. The clinic is raising money for other necessary procedures.

The foundation says anyone interested in helping with those expenses can call them at 859-277-7729, or mail a check to the Woodstock Animal Foundation, at 843 Lane Allen Road Lexington, Ky., 40504. Contributions can also be made via PayPal to woodstockadoptions715@gmail.com.

Mirabel was treated to a trip this week to the PetValu store in Lexington’s Palomar center, where she received a bed, doggie treats, food, and a coat.

(Photo from the Facebook page of Woodstock Animal Foundation)

Boston museum will attempt to fight art-damaging bugs with a Weimaraner

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is training a dog to sniff out pests that could damage artwork.

Riley, a three-month-old Weimaraner, would be the first dog trained specifically to detect moths and other pests that could damage high-value artwork in a museum.

“It’s really a trial, pilot project. We don’t know if he’s going to be good at it,” said Katie Getchell, the deputy director of the museum. “But it seems like a great idea to try.”

museumdogAfter Nicki Luongo, a museum employee who trains police dogs on her own time, got Riley as a family pet, discussions began on whether she might be able to train him to detect damaging insects that tend to eat through textiles and wood.

My money’s on Riley, because dogs have proven time and again that their noses can sniff out almost anything — from cadavers to cancers, explosives to bed bugs, turtle eggs to ants.

Most museums take steps to prevent pests from threatening artwork, including quarantining any new works. Still, moths and other bugs sneak in, occasionally hitching a ride on a visitor’s coat, the New York Times reported.

Riley will be trained to learn specific bugs’ scents, and alert his handlers by sitting in front of an artwork when he detects them. At that point, museum staff would more closely inspect the artwork.

If Riley is successful, museum officials say they would share what they’ve learned with other museums and organizations that need to protect textiles, Getchell said.

Riley was presented with his own museum photo ID badge last week, according to CBS in Boston.

Riley would do his detecting after hours.

(Photo: Boston Museum of Fine Arts)

American Kennel Club grants recognition to two centuries-old European breeds

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Rembrandt recognized the kooikrhondje nearly 400 years ago. It took the American Kennel Club until this week.

The breed — its formal full name is the Nederlandse kooikerhondje — is one of two the AKC announced this week have been added to its list of officially recognized breeds.

The AKC’s breed list is a fairly arbitrary one, and making it involves — more than anything else — jumping through the proper AKC hoops and paying the proper AKC dues. Usually, every year or so, a breed or two or three gets full recognition bestowed.

This year, it’s the kooiker, as it is sometimes called for short, and the grand basset griffon Vendeen.

They bring the number of AKC-recognized breeds to 192.

Both breeds will be eligible to compete in most dog shows this year, but can’t compete at the Westminster Kennel Club show until next year.

kooikerleashes1The Nederlandse kooikerhondje (if you want to try to pronounce it, it’s NAY’-dehr-lahn-seh KOY’-kehr-hahnd-jeh) are small, brown-and-white, spaniel-style dogs whose history goes back hundreds of years in Holland. They can be seen in the paintings of Rembrandt and even more commonly in those of another 17th Century Dutch Master, Johannes Vermeer.

Kooikerhondjes were trained to help hunters lure ducks into cages and net-covered canals. The practice waned in the 19th century, and the dogs neared extinction during World War II before a baroness began working to re-establish the breed.

There are now about 7,000 worldwide and roughly 500 in the U.S.

The other breed officially recognized by the AKC is the grand basset griffon Vendeen, which also has centuries-old roots in Europe.

gbgvleashes1The GBGV (for short) has a long and low-to-the-ground body and wiry hair, and the AKC describes the breed as laid back, intelligent and friendly.

A smaller cousin, the petit basset griffon Vendeen, has been recognized by the AKC for decades.

The process of getting a breed fully recognized by the AKC involves first establishing a National Breed Club.

After that, those seeking to get a breed established — namely, or at least mainly, breeders — get the breed listed with the AKC Foundation Stock Service by submitting a written request, and documentation that includes a written history and a written breed standard.

Before getting recognition, it must be shown that there are at least 300 dogs of the breed spread around at least 20 states.

If the criteria are all met and a substantial nationwide interest and activity in the breed is demonstrated, the AKC Board of Directors can vote to allow the breed to compete in the Miscellaneous Class.

Even after that, it can still be years before the breed is fully recognized, also by a vote of the board.

(Top image, courtesy of Rembrandt; breed photos, courtesy of American Kennel Club)

Dog cafe opening soon in East Village

borisandhortonleashes1What’s being billed as New York’s first dog cafe will open later this month in the East Village.

Boris & Horton, on 12th Street and Avenue A, is slated to hold a soft opening within the week and be fully open by the end of the month.

The owners describe it as a place where you can “have great coffee, eat, have wine and beer, hang out, and also bring your dog inside.”

It’s named for the owner’s own dogs — Boris, a pit bull mix belonging to Coppy Holzman, and Horton, a Chihuahua-poodle mix who belongs to his daughter, Logan Mikhly.

It’s designed like a living room, and the owners hope it will be the kind of place where people bond with their dogs and other people, as opposed to their laptops.

boris-horton-dogs2“It’s not just a coffee shop where people sit there with headphones on their laptops,” Holzman told Grub Street.

For humans, there will be pastries from Balthazar and Bien Cuit, plus gluten-free options from Husk Bakeshop, and coffee from City of Saints, as well as a more substantial menu and, in the evening until the 11 p.m. closing time, wine and beer.

There will also be a shop for dog products and store swag, and a puppy Instagram booth. On weekends, adoption events will be held.

Because the health department tends to take issue with dogs being allowed where food is prepared, the establishment will be divided into a café side, with food and drink sales, and a dog side, featuring tables and dog-focused retail.

Dogs must remain on their leashes and employees will be trained by the School for the Dogs to read canine body language and be prepared for altercations and issues.

(Photos: Milla Chappell / Boris & Horton website)