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Tag: ears

How some dogs came to have floppy ears

It is generally accepted that most species, over time, adapt as the environment in which they live undergoes changes — to the point that their bodies physically alter.

Charles Darwin wrote about it 150 years ago, raising questions about why the once perky, upright ears of certain animals — namely wolves — had evolved to become, often, with domesticated dogs, floppy.

It was subsequently named “domestication syndrome” — the process by which domesticated mammals come to possess heritable traits not seen in their wild progenitors.

But why it happens is still theorized about.

My own theory (and bear in mind, it is coming from a former ape) is that, with dogs, once they started living with humans they no longer needed those alert and upright ears to detect threats; that, just maybe, they found what they more needed was a way to muffle human noise, as that species can be pretty damn loud. So, over time, their ears evolved from being pointy antenna-like sensors to sound-muffling flaps.

Basset hounds and bloodhounds, for example, clearly do not want to hear a single word we have to say.

How, then, would my theory explain the many breeds of dogs that still have pointy ears? Simple: Those are the ones who want to hear everything humans say, most likely because they don’t entirely trust us. (This also explains why cats still have pointy ears.)

As the video above shows, my theory is probably wrong.

It’s from the NPR science show Skunk Bear — which is very good at simplifying science for the increasing number of humans whose attention spans are shortening to the point they require cartoons to understand something.

Cartoons are especially helpful when the explanation involved includes words like “neural crest cells” and “postmigratory embryonic interactions”.

Basically, the latest thinking is that it is a deficiency of neural crest cells — which affect everything from adrenalin to ear cartilage — that is behind the change in appearance in domesticated species.

As Darwin noted, 150 years ago, numerous species with erect ears had become droopy eared after domestication, including “cats in China, horses in parts of Russia, sheep in Italy and elsewhere, the guinea-pig in Germany, goats and cattle in India, rabbits, pigs and dogs in all long-civilized countries.”

All, with domestication, were experiencing a form of erectile dysfunction. Thanks, humans.

“The incapacity to erect the ears,” Darwin concluded, “is certainly in some manner the result of domestication.”

A century later, experiments in the Soviet Union proved Darwin was right on target.

Russian geneticist Dmitry Belyayev took 130 foxes from fur farms and started a breeding program. He started with the tamest foxes and then bred their offspring again and again, always choosing the tamest.

After a few dozen generations, Belyayev’s foxes were totally tame, and becoming more and more floppy eared.

More recent research points to those neural crest cells as the factor.

Does this mean your pointy-eared dog is less tame than its floppy-eared counterpart?

I wouldn’t read that much into it. But I’m often wrong. I’m only human. Perhaps someday another cartoon will come along to give us the answer.

(Photos: John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

The nose knows but the ears tell

hotears

Many of us may be most familiar with infrared thermography from its least valuable (I’d argue) use — ghost hunting.

It serves many far more sophisticated purposes, though, than providing fodder for those shaky-camera paranormal TV shows — from assessing medical conditions to military reconnaissance, from finding missing children to sensing mood changes in humans.

And, no big surprise, dogs.

In the latest post on Dog Spies, her blog on Scientific American, Julie Hecht recounted a recent study at the Animal Behavior, Cognition and Welfare Research Group at the University of Lincoln in the UK.

Researchers found, through infrared thermography, that the ear temperature of dogs decreased (turning blue on the camera) when they were isolated, and warmed backed up (turning red) when they reunited with people.

It’s similar to findings in studies of human stress levels — except in humans it’s the nose, instead of the ears, that is the most common giveaway.

As Hecht explained, infrared thermography picks up changes in surface temperature. When frightened, stressed or placed in unfamiliar surroundings, blood rushes away from your extremities, in dogs and humans. They get cooler as your core gets warmer and ready to react to whatever threat may be ahead.

The tip of a scared person’s nose gets cooler in such situations, just as rat paws and tails have been shown to do in experiments. In rabbits and sheep, the ears are the most obvious indicator.

Stefanie Riemer and colleagues placed dogs for brief periods in an isolated and novel environment. As the researchers expected, thermographic images of the dogs in isolation showed their ear temperature increasing, then rising when they were reunited with people.

The study appears in the current issue of Physiology & Behavior.

Six dogs were included in the study, and several were found to be unsuitable for study because their fur was too dense to get a good reading.

It seems like a technology that could be put to good use when it comes to studying dogs, and in learning more about those with behavioral issues and what triggers them.

That seems to me a better pursuit than chasing ghosts who aren’t really bothering anybody. Non-invasive, physically, as it is, even infrared photography has the potential for being cruel.

In a study in Italy two years ago, 20 bank tellers who had been robbed at gunpoint were shown a series of faces — happy, neutral, angry, etc. On the fifth face, the researchers exposed them to a loud and unexpected blast, and recorded, thermographically, how the blood left the noses and face.

Half of the tellers had already been diagnosed with PTSD.

Whether the researchers ended up giving PTSD to the other half is not addressed in the study.

(Photo: S. Riemer / Physiology & Behavior)

Adele? This dog seems to really feel her

Cruelty to animals? You be the judge.

The dog in the video above is listening to Adele’s hit single, “Hello.”

He or she isn’t restrained, so we won’t say he or she is being forced to listen to the song. He or she appears free to leave the room, just as we are free to turn off the radio, or the Adele television ad, or the Adele TV show appearance.

Adele is not inescapable, though it sometimes seems that way.

A woman named Jillian Caspers posted the video of she and her dog sharing some Adele time — though it has been removed from some media outlets after complaints of copyright infringement by SME Entertainment Group.

(Don’t be surprised if it disappears from here as well. It’s not that Adele and her representatives are worried about us drowning in her music — a distinct possibility — they just want to make sure they get paid for it.)

We reproduce the video here not to step on Adele’s toes, but for a scholarly examination of the dog’s reaction to this particular song, which is also known to result in serious and heartfelt pangs of emotion in humans.

But is that what the dog is experiencing? Or is it just hurting his or her ears? Note how he or she howls most loudly during the high-pitched chorus.

It’s always a mistake to pretend we understand what a dog is feeling. And while conjecture about it is not necessarily a bad thing — it shows some sensitivity on our part — it often fails to get us anywhere as well.

And yet we can’t help but wonder.

Is the dog’s wailing a result of Adele’s vocal style hurting his or her ears? Or is he or she moved by the song’s oh-so-drippy emotion? We don’t think he or she is picking up on any sadness from the owner, as she is laughing her head off about it all.

It’s doubtful, too, that the dog is understanding the insipid lyrics.

The truth is — and it rips our heart in two to say this — we will never know.

Are the plaintive and nostalgic tones of Adele’s voice enough to send the dog on an emotional roller coaster ride. Is the dog having the equivalent of what we humans would call “a good cry.”

Or are the whines simply his or her way of saying, “Please spare me from another second of this.”

(All profits from this blog post will be sent to SME Entertainment Group)

Pig ears recalled amid Salmonella fears

 Jones Natural Chews Co of Rockford, Illinois,  is recalling 2,705 boxes of pig ears after random tests found some of the product contaminated with Salmonella, the Food and Drug Administration reports.

The recall was the result of a routine sampling program by Washington State Department of Agriculture which revealed that the finished products contained the bacteria.

No illnesses have been reported.

The pig ears in question — also sold under the Blain’s Farm and Fleet and Country Butcher brands — were distributed in Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. They were shipped to distributors and retailers between September 15, 2010 and November 2, 2010

Consumers who have purchased any of these pig ears are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-877-481-2663

Salmonella can affect animals and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products. People handling dry pet food and/or treats can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the chews or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. If your pet consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

To see a full list of the recalled lots, keep reading. Read more »

Westminster Dog Show: An opposing view

Best in Show

Best in Show Pictures

If the following take on Westminster reads like its coming from some PETA hothead that’s because it is.

Then agains, hotheads are sometimes worth listening to.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, and her remarks appeared in the form of a guest column in the Sacramento Bee.

Pollard-Post recounts watching Westminster in her youth, usually with a bad case of strep throat, and with her dog Katie at her side…

“But had I known then that Westminster – and the dog-breeding industry that it props up – share the blame for the mutilation and deaths of millions of dogs each year, I would have changed the channel faster than you can say ‘Sesame Street.’

“Back then, I had no idea that the snub-nosed bulldogs and pugs prancing around the ring may have been gasping for breath the whole time because these breeds’ unnaturally shortened airways make exercise and sometimes even normal breathing difficult. I didn’t know that the “wiener dogs” that made me laugh as their little legs tried to keep up may have eventually suffered from disc disease or other back problems because dachshunds are bred for extremely long spinal columns. I didn’t learn until much later that because of inbreeding and breeding for distorted physical features, approximately one in four purebred dogs suffers from serious congenital disorders such as crippling hip dysplasia, blindness, deafness, heart defects, skin problems and epilepsy.

“I remember feeling shocked when I learned that Doberman pinschers’ ears naturally flop over, and that their ears only stand up because they are cut and bound with tape when the dogs are puppies. And I felt sick to my stomach when I discovered that cocker spaniels have beautiful, long, flowing tails, but American Kennel Club breed standards call for their tails to be amputated down to nubs. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that these procedures ‘are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient’ and they ’cause pain and distress.’

“… Like many people, I hadn’t made the connection that every time someone buys a purebred dog from a breeder or a pet store, a dog in a shelter – a loving animal whose life depends on being adopted – loses his or her chance at a home …

“Dog shows also encourage viewers to go out and buy purebred dogs like the ones they see on TV from breeders or pet stores. This impulse buying robs shelter dogs of homes, and even more dogs end up homeless when overwhelmed people discover that the adorable puppy they bought ruins carpets, needs expensive vaccinations and food and requires their constant attention.

“My own parents succumbed to the lure of purebreds: They purchased Katie from a breeder. Katie was an exceptional dog and my best friend, but it saddens me to think that other loving dogs waiting behind bars in shelters missed out on a good home because we thought we needed a certain breed of puppy.

“Thankfully, some things have changed. After Katie passed away, my parents adopted a lovable mutt from the local shelter. I haven’t had strep throat since I was a teenager. And if the dreaded illness strikes again, you’ll find me cuddling on the couch with my rescued dog, Pete, watching movies – not Westminster.”

Best wiener in a supporting roll: Jojo

jojo

 
A persistent dachschund saved a Washington family from a potentially damaging fire in their mobile home Sunday.

A 3-year-old dachshund named JoJo — who the family took home after finding him as a stray — is being credited for trying to shove 11-year-old Kalen Huntley out of her bed and alerting her parents to an electrical fire smoldering behind an outlet on her bedroom wall.

“Our dog saved our house,” Diane Urquhart, who lives in a mobile home park in Kennewick with her husband, Colt, and four of their five children, told the Tri-City Herald.

The couple and three of the kids were home early Sunday when JoJo, who normally sleeps in their daughter Kalen’s room, began repeatedly coming out the room and approaching the adults.

“He came out to see us four times, then kept going back into our daughter’s room,” Mrs. Urquhart said. On top of that, his ears weren’t in their happy position, she said.

“These ears we did not recognize,” she said. “And his face, if a dog can look worried, he looked worried.”

When she went into her daughter’s room, she smelled burning rubber and saw the dog nudging her sleeping daughter with his nose.

They called 911, and got everybody out of the house, taking their two cats and JoJo.

Urquhart said the wall at the head of her daughter’s bed was hot. Firefighters told the family the outlet, which had a lamp and alarm clock plugged into it, was minutes away from catching fire. When the family removed the outlet the next day, one side of it was scorched.

(Click here for all of the Wiener Awards.)

(Photo: Courtesy of Tri-City Herald)

New from the folks at Neuticles: Ear implants

apronThe man who invented Neuticles — those artificial testicles designed to keep a neutered dog’s manly pride and appearance intact — is back with a new product, this one designed to keep a dog’s ears erect.

Missouri inventor Gregg Miller has created ear implants for use in dogs who have had their ears cropped, only to have them flop again.

Ear cropping — generally frowned upon by the animal welfare community — is a procedure conducted mostly at the behest of breeders and the dog show crowd to get a dog’s ears to stand up straight, as called for in some kennel club breed standards.

Because the cropping process doesn’t always take, or injuries can cause an erect ear to go floppy, Miller felt the need to create a product that, once surgically implanted, would keep a dogs ears straight — something dogs probably could care less about, though their owners sometimes do.

“PermaStay Ear Implants”  are now available on Miller’s website, Neuticles.com, along with the polypropolene testicular implants (available in original, natural and ultra plus) and silicone eye implants for cats, dogs and horses.

“The direction I’m taking now is that I want to create whatever implantable device there is for pets,” Miller told Gatehouse News Service. “Then everybody will know my company is the implant company, the eyes, the ears, the testicles, and God knows whatever else.”

Miller said he began working on the ear implants about five years ago, after requests from customers.

The ear implant is a patch of  thin surgical mesh, with a plastic spine that helps support the ear. The ear implants, like Neuticles, must be installed surgically, so that the dog’s tissue actually grows around the prosthetic.

Miller admitted there was a lot of trial and error in developing the product.

“Everything would go fine at first, five or six weeks,” Miller says. “After that, these hideous infections would develop. The ear would swell up and blood and puss would spurt out. It was horrible.”

But he (sarcasm alert) bravely (end sarcasm) pressed on, and found that by using surgical mesh, further infections were avoided. The device is $400. The surgery cost is from $300 to $600. About 40 dogs have gotten the ear implants. “The dog doesn’t even know it’s there, it’s so humane,” he said.

earings01Miller, a former newspaper editor and reporter, created Neuticles about 15 years ago. The Neuticles website also features a line of merchandise, from barbecue aprons (pictured above) to earrings made out of Neuticles.

Now there’s a gift that says … God only knows.

And one you probably need about as much as your dog needs ear implants and Neuticles.