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Tag: diet

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.”

Making New Year’s resolutions for our dogs is more popular than ever, survey finds

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A survey conducted for Milk-Bone says more Americans than ever are including their dogs in their New Year’s resolutions.

To which dogs, could they respond, would probably do so with a sarcastic “Gee, thanks.”

But fret not canines. Putting you on a diet ranks all the way down at nine in the top 10 list, and the most popular resolutions are mainly ones dogs would wholeheartedly support.

And keep it mind, we humans hardly ever carry out our resolutions, anyway.

Three thousand pet owners were surveyed, and the most popular resolutions were:

1. I will spend more time with my dog. (52%)

2. I will help my dog to have better health and wellness. (42%)

3. I will take my dog on more trips with me. (34%)

4. I will brush my dog’s teeth regularly. (31%)

5. I will help my dog get essential vitamins and nutrients.(30%)

6. I will help my dog become less anxious and stressed. (29%)

7. I won’t feed my dog food from the dinner table. (25%)

8. I won’t leave my dog home alone for quite so long. (23%)

9. I will help my pet lose weight. (21%)

10. I will take my dog to dog training class. (15%)

(Photo: Instagram)

What’s the matter with the bladder?

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The test results are in: Those stones in Ace’s bladder — the ones that clogged him up and made for a scary weekend — are of the struvite variety.

That’s good news. Struvite stones, unlike calcium oxalate stones, are commonly treated by switching to a prescription diet — rather than surgery.

With a little luck, things will continue to flow through his bladder as freely as Niagara Falls (pictured above), which he visited a few years back.

urinary soFor now, Ace is taking antibiotics and has been switched to a prescription dog food with the unappetizing name of “Urinary SO.”

He seems to like it anyway.

I am to continue monitoring his urine stream (given I have nothing better to do), make sure he drinks plenty of water, and hope that the stones remaining in his bladder decompose and exit his body smoothly and without incident.

Struvite stones are often the result of infections, but most experts say one’s choice of dog food — particularly choosing a dry food that’s high in grain — can also be the culprit.

I don’t want to blame the Beneful he has been eating for the past four years,  even though the Purina product is being blamed for far worse these days — so much so that I was contemplating a switch already.

I’m hoping he doesn’t have to stay on the Urinary SO for too long. The vet’s office recommended four cans a day for a dog of his size. It costs more than $3 per can. That amounts to more than I spend at the grocery to feed my own self.

In a compromise, the vet’s office said I could mix in some Urinary SO dry food, which costs slightly less.

Maybe, in the future — once we’re done with Urinary SO — I’ll return him to a raw diet. The years he was on that seemed to be his healthiest.

Since his Saturday emergency, when a catheter was used to get things flowing again, he has been peeing freely and abundantly. You might see it differently, but to me that, like the falls, is a glorious sight to behold.

Researchers unearth evidence of America’s earliest dog … and proof that it was eaten

A University of Maine graduate student says he has found a bone fragment from what he believes is the earliest domesticated dog ever found in the Americas — one that walked the continent 9,400 years ago.

And where he found it — ensconced in a dried-out sample of human waste — gives proof that eating dog was part of America’s culture, at least before America was America.

Graduate student Samuel Belknap III came across the fragment while analyzing a sample of human waste unearthed in  the 1970s. Carbon-dating placed the age of the bone at 9,400 years, and a DNA analysis confirmed it came from a dog — as opposed to a wolf, coyote or fox.

The Associated Press  reports that the fragment — which was the dark orange color characteristic of bone that has passed through the digestive track — was found in Hinds Cave in southwest Texas. 

The fragment provides the earliest evidence that dogs were eaten by humans in North America, and may have been bred as a food source, he said.

Belknap was studying the diet and nutrition of the people  in the Lower Pecos region of Texas between 1,000 and 10,000 years ago when he came across the bone.

Belknap and other researchers from the University of Maine and the University of Oklahoma’s molecular anthropology laboratories, where the DNA analysis was done, have written a paper on their findings, scheduled for publication in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology later this year.

The fragment is about six-tenths of an inch long and three- to four-tenths of an inch wide. Belknap said he and a fellow student identified the bone as a fragment from where the skull connects with the spine. He said it came from a dog that probably resembled the small short-haired dogs that were common among the Indians of the Great Plains.

Other archaeological findings have found evidence of domestic dogs in the U.S. as long as 8,000 years ago.

A 1980s study reported dog bones found at Danger Cave, Utah, were between 9,000 and 10,000 years old, but those dates were based on an analysis of the surrounding rock laters as opposed to carbon dating. In Idaho, researchers believed they’d found 11,000-year-old dog bones, but later tests showed them to be no more than 3,000 years old.

Worldwide, studies have found evidence of dogs going back 31,000 years from a site in Belgium, 26,000 years in the Czech Republic and 15,000 years in Siberia.

The earliest dogs in North America are believed to have come with the early settlers across the Bering land bridge from Asia.

Belknap said eating dogs was once common in Central America, and that some Great Plain Indian tribes ate dogs when food was scarce or for celebrations.

 “It was definitely an accepted practice among many populations,” he said.

Bikinied “Lettuce Ladies” to dog Baltimore

PETA thinks Baltimore residents are too fat, and that a vegetarian diet could help them achieve a much-needed slimming down.

To that end, it is sending women clad in lettuce bikinis to the city to hand out veggie hot dogs.

Makes perfect sense.

Baltimore was recently ranked the eighth fattest city in the country, so PETA’s “Lettuce Ladies” are hitting the road to show Baltimore (and other fat cities, as well)  how healthy, compassionate, and delicious it is to be vegan.

The free veggie dogs will be handed out at noon this coming Friday at City Hall, 100 Holliday St.

PETA says meat consumption has been directly linked to obesity, and that adult vegans are, on average, 10 to 20 pounds lighter than adult meat-eaters. On top of that, PETA says, foregoing meat also helps fight heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.

Nature’s Variety expands voluntary recall

naturesvalleyNature’s Variety has expanded its voluntary recall of all Chicken Formula and Organic Chicken Formula products with a “Best If Used By” date on or before 2/5/11.

Nature’s Variety has received new test results from an outside facility that indicate that its Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diet, issued under the “Best If Used By” dates of 10/29/10 and 11/9/10, may be contaminated with Salmonella.

The company — out of an “abundance of caution,” it says — is also expanding the recall to include all Chicken Formula and Organic Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diets for dogs and cats with any “Best If Used By” date on or before 2/5/11.

The products included in the expanded recall are:

UPC#7 69949 60130 2 – Chicken Formula 3 lb medallions
UPC#7 69949 60120 3 – Chicken Formula 6 lb patties
UPC#7 69949 60121 0 – Chicken Formula 2 lb single chubs
UPC#7 69949 50121 3 – Chicken Formula 12 lb retail display case of chubs
UPC#7 69949 60137 1 – Organic Chicken Formula 3 lb medallions
UPC#7 69949 60127 2 – Organic Chicken Formula 6 lb patties
The “Best If Used By” date is located on the back of the package above the safe handling instructions.

If you have purchased one of the affected products, you may return the unopened product to your local retail store to receive a complete refund, or exchange it for another variety. If your package has been opened, dispose of the raw food in a safe manner by securing it in a covered trash receptacle. Then, bring your receipt (or the empty package in a sealed bag) to your local retailer for a complete refund or replacement.

Dogs joining humans in enjoying longer lives

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Although it’s difficult to find any studies that back it up, dogs seem to be living longer — a result of improved veterinary technology, healthier diets and, we’d like to think, pet owners taking their reponsibility more seriously.

Veterinarians say it’s no longer unusual for some dogs and cats to reach 15 years or more, according to a recent MSNBC report, and there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting that.

The MSNBC report, for instance, mentions Chanel, the wire-haired dachshund who when she died last month at the age of 21, was heralded as the world’s oldest dog, according to Guinness World Records. It also mentions Max, a terrier mix whose owner thinks he deserves some heralding as well. He is 26 and going strong.

While there don’t seem to be statistics to support it, it seems dogs, like people, are seeing their life expectancy stretch to new lengths.

“Just as the average life expectancy for people keeps reaching closer to the century mark, we’ll continue to see the same parallels in our pet population,” says Martha Smith, director of veterinary services at Boston’s Animal Rescue League.

Melanie Otte, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine at Florida Veterinary Specialists in Tampa, believes someday it will not be uncommon to see dogs routinely reaching 19 years of age, according to an article in South Florida’s News-Press.

That strong bond between an owner and their pet is one reason why dogs are living longer, some experts say.

My guess is, in some cases, it’s one reason people are living longer, too.

(Photo by John Woestendiek)