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Tag: eating

Another example of how humans and dogs are becoming more alike: our poop


It’s never really looked at it in its entirety, as one phenomenon, but how alike dogs and humans are — and keep becoming — continues to astound scientists around the globe.

Compassion? Both species seem to have it. Cognition? Dogs are quite capable of that, perhaps even exceeding us in certain areas. The diseases and disorders we get? Pretty much the same.

Not too many people look at the forest — at what all this, cobbled together, might mean — but scientists from particular disciplines, locked in a lab with a narrow focus, keep discovering new similarities, such as this latest one, deep in our intestines.

The microorganisms that live in dog’s intestines are more similar to the microbes inside us than to those in other animals, says a new study published in the journal Microbiome.

The dog microbiome “has some of the same species [of bacteria] as the human’s,” said lead author Luis Pedro Coelhos, “but different strains.”

The researchers were surprised because they expected that dogs would share only a few strains of bacteria with their owners. Instead, their intestinal flora could be cousins, says a summary of the study in Popular Science.

The study was not really about those similarities; it was aimed at better understanding canine weight loss.

Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and Nestlé Purina Research worked with a sample of 32 beagles and 32 Labrador retrievers. Half of the members of each breed were overweight, while the other half were a healthy weight. For four weeks, they fed all of the dogs the same diet of Purina.

Then, they collected poop and conducted DNA analyses as they further altered the diets of the dogs.

They found the leaner dogs’ microbiomes changed much less than that of the overweight dogs. The findings, they say, gave then a baseline for how a healthy dog microbiome should behave, and suggested dogs may be better subjects for research into human weight loss than other species that have been used for that purpose.

Jack Gilbert, a researcher at the University of Chicago’s Microbiome Center who does research for Purina but was not involved in the study, told Popular Science the study was significant for what it showed about the similarities between the guts of dogs and our own.

“You can control a dog’s diet much more than you can do a human’s,” says Gilbert. The same is true for pigs and mice, but the fact that dogs have such a similar microbiomes to humans means that studying their response to certain diets could produce the best results.

The cause of the similarities isn’t entirely understood, but the study pointed out, “Dogs were domesticated early in modern human history and frequently shared food resources with humans.”

Over time, their digestive systems might have grown even more like our’s, and their obesity rates have come to mirror that of humans.

Further proof that we don’t just like each other, we are like each other — and in ways that continue to be discovered, as we sit around learning, bonding, loving, overeating and growing fat together, becoming, more and more, reflections of each other.

(Photo: Digital Vision/Getty)

Diller: The avocado-eating dog that helps propagate the species

avocadodogWhen it comes to avocados, Diller is a dog who doesn’t just crave the fleshy green fruit, but seems to have an abiding respect for the pit as well.

Diller was born to the litter of a pregnant rescue dog and taken in by a family that was moving to a horse ranch in Southern California.

Roaming the grounds there, he quickly discovered a couple of abandoned avocado trees that remained from an old orchard that used to be a few hundred feet from the house.

He tried one. He liked it. And he’s been picking them off the trees and eating them ever since.

We’ll point out here that giving your dog an entire avocado is not a good idea. They are not toxic to dogs, but the pits can be a choking hazard

avodogtwoDiller, though is a meticulous eater, according to a recent story in The Dodo. He never bites into the pit, but he does lick them so clean that they shine.

“One day I came home from work and there were two perfectly clean avocado pits sitting at the foot of my chair. They seriously looked like they had been polished,” said Diller’s owner Robert Moser. “I was sitting there wondering, ‘What the heck?’, when Diller sauntered in with the third, gently placed it on my shoe, and wagged his tail, clearly expecting pets for being a very good boy.”

Moser had tried sprouting avocados from pits before, but never with success.

“Pits that had been whacked out of the avocado with a knife were usually too scuffed up, and if you tried to grow them with the brown seed skin still on, they’d usually rot,” Moser said. “With that in mind, I knew what I had to try the moment I saw the clean pits laid at my feet.”

Almost all of the seeds Diller brought him have sprouted, and Diller ended up with more avocado saplings than he knew what to do with.

avothreeNow he regularly gives them as gifts (accompanied by a photo of Diller with the seed the plant sprouted from) and trades them with other farmers.

“There are probably a few dozen Diller-trees throughout California nowadays, Moser said.

“The earliest of Diller’s trees are just starting to bear fruit. I know the folks that have them will think of him every time they harvest. It’s the sort of thought that makes you smile when it crosses your mind, you know?”

(Photos: From The Dodo; provided by Robert Moser)

Few restaurants comply with official request to stop serving dog meat during Olympics


As the Winter Olympics got underway in PyeongChang, dog meat was still being openly served in most restaurants that offer it, despite attempts by the government to keep a lid on the practice.

The South Korean government had requested restaurants cease the practice and even offered subsidies to those that did, but only two of the 12 restaurants serving dog meat in PyeongChang complied, a county government official told AFP.

A minority of South Koreans still consume dog meat — most commonly in a soup called boshintang — many of them in the belief it leads to increased energy during the hot summer months.

Between 1 and 2 million dogs a year across the country a year are butchered and sold at markets and to restaurants.

Well before the Olympics began, activists stepped up campaigns to ban dog consumption, with protests in Seoul and online petitions urging boycotts.

In PyeongChang, the county government asked the restaurants with dog meat items on the menu to stop serving the food in exchange for subsidies.

“Some of them initially shifted to selling pork or things instead of dog meat only to find their sales plunging sharply. They then switched back to dog meat,” PyeongChang County government official Lee Yong-bae told AFP.

“We’ve faced a lot of complaints from restaurant operators that we are threatening their livelihood,” he said.

Signs advertising dog meat dishes such as boshintang, yeongyangtang or sacheoltang have been replaced with more neutral ones such as yeomsotang (goat soup) to avoid giving “a bad impression to foreigners” during the games, according to Channel News Asia.

South Korean authorities periodically try to persuade restaurants to change their menus or drop signs suggestive of dog meat during major international events hosted by the country, as was the case with the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

The tradition has declined as the nation increasingly embraces the idea of dogs as pets instead of livestock, and most younger South Koreans avoid it.

A Gangwon province official told The Associated Press there were no plans to relocate dog farms situated near Olympic areas. There is one farm near Pyeongchang; six near Jeongseon, where the downhill skiing course is located; and 10 in Gangnueng, the coastal town that will host events like figure skating and hockey. Gangwon has 196 registered dog farms, though most are closer to Seoul.

While NBC isn’t too likely to be showing us any of the during its Olympics coverage, USA Today provided a fairly expansive report on one such farm today

Hundreds of dogs have been removed from Korean dog farms by Humane Society International and sent to the United States for adoption, including mine, a Jindo named Jinjja.

The group assists the farmers in establishing new careers in exchange for closing down and surrendering their dogs.

duhamel2One Olympic competitor, Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel escorted two rescued farm dogs on a flight back to Canada after competing in a qualifying event last year in PyenongChang.

Duhamel adopted one of them, through the group Free Korean Dogs.

“Most of the time, he just wants to sit in everybody’s arms,” Duhamel said of the dachshund mix, named Moo-tae. “He doesn’t even care to play, he just walks up to everybody and wants to be held.”

Duhamel, a silver medalist in Sochi, is hoping to assist in closing a dog farm once the Olympics conclude. She, American skier Gus Kenworthy and American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis have appeared in a public service announcement about the dog meat trade.

Duhamel has arranged to fly home another rescued farm dog when she returns to Canada, so it can be put up for adoption there, according to CBS News.

(Photos: At top, Park Young-ae, owner of Young Hoon Restaurant, arranges dog meats at her restaurant in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Associated Press; photo of Duhamel and Moo-tae, courtesy of Free Korean Dogs)

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

dog_wolfleashes1

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.”

A kind of ban may kind of be in effect at next month’s Yulin dog meat festival

festival

It might not be permanent, and it might not be too strictly enforced, but Chinese authorities have banned dog meat sales at this year’s upcoming Yulin dog-eating festival, according to two U.S. nonprofit organizations.

Thousands of dogs are slaughtered, cooked and served each year at the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival festival in Yulin to mark the summer solstice.

This year, though, amid growing protests and international opposition, the Yulin government has, at least reportedly, banned the city’s dog meat vendors from selling the meat for one week starting June 15.

That’s according to several animal welfare organizations who say they’ve received “word” — if not documentation — of the ban.

The 10-day festival is slated to begin on June 21.

The Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project and Humane Society International (HSI), both based in the U.S., said in a joint statement that they’d confirmed the ban through unidentified local contacts.

“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” Andrea Gung, executive director of the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, said in the statement.

The organizations attributed the change to Yulin’s new Communist Party secretary, Mo Gongming, who reportedly wants to improve Yulin’s national and international image.

The ban will carry penalties, with fines of up to $14,500 and jail time for violators.

Yulin officials are not verifying the report, but they say they’ve never officially sanctioned the festival in the first place, and some apparently decline to acknowledge it exists.

“There’s never been a dog meat festival in Yulin,” the Los Angeles Times quoted a municipal official as saying this week.

While some media outlets are reporting the festival has been cancelled, that doesn’t appear to be the case, National Geographic reports.

“The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet,” Peter Li, a China policy specialist at Humane Society International, said in a statement. “But if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolize China’s crime-fueled dog meat trade.”

People in parts of China, as well as other Asian countries, have prized dog meat for centuries, though its consumption has been on the decline as pets become more popular, especially among younger people. Some older residents still consider it a delicacy with health benefits.

The dog meat festival, on the other hand, is relatively new, having started in 2010 and quickly become an object of international scorn.

The festival’s dog meat sales have dropped each year since 2014, according to Li. He expects, even with the ban, such sales will be going on during the festival.

“It won’t be public resistance … they’ll probably do it secretly,” he said. “They’ll probably sell it at night, or they’ll supply dog meat to restaurants. They just won’t sell it at the market.”

While he hadn’t seen anything documenting the ban, the organization heard about it from local dog meat traders, as well as three visitors to a local market, he said.

Most Chinese people would like to see an end to the festival, according to a survey cited by China’s official New China News Agency.

“It is embarrassing to us that the world wrongly believes that the brutally cruel Yulin festival is part of Chinese culture,” Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association charity, a Chinese animal welfare group, told the agency. “It isn’t.”

(For more stories about the dog meat trade, click here.)

(Photo: A vendor waits for buyers at a market in Yulin during last year’s festival; by Wu Hong/ EPA, via NBC)

Eating dog meat banned in Taiwan

yulin

In a landmark piece of legislation, Taiwan has outlawed the consumption of dog and cat meat.

The island’s legislature yesterday passed an amendment to its animal protection laws, imposing longer prison sentences and stiffer fines for harming animals, and explicitly banning the slaughter, sale and consumption of dogs.

The island’s official Central News Agency (CNA) said the new law reflects the transition of Taiwan “from a society in which dog meat was regularly consumed” to one where “many people treat pet cats and dogs as valued members of their families.”

The amendment also bans “walking” pets on leashes pulled by cars and motorcycles.

The amendment comes after a series of animal abuse cases, and a strong push by animal lovers and the animal welfare movement.

Last year, a group of military personnel beat and strangled a dog and tossed its body into the ocean, an assault that was captured on video.

The amended act calls for fines between $1,640 to $8,200 for people who eat or sell dog meat, and up to $65,000 for deliberately harming an animal.

Violators of the new law may also see their names, photos and crimes publicized, Taiwan’s Central News Agency said.

Previously, the Animal Protection Act, passed in 2001, only covered the slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat, and not individual consumption.

The new law makes Taiwan the first Asian state to impose a full ban on both the marketing of dog meat and its consumption.

The amendment’s sponsor, Kuomintang Legislator Wang Yu-min, said that while some localities already had measures banning dog and cat meat consumption, national legislation was needed, according to the China Post.

China has long been criticized for its annual dog meat festival in Yulin, where as many as 10,000 dogs are slaughtered and served as meals.

Opposition to the consumption of dog is growing in China, and in South Korea, where some are pushing the government to impose restrictions on the dog meat trade before the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul.

LA supervisors condemn dog meat trade

yulin-dog-meat-festival-2015-1

Los Angeles County Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to call on the Chinese and South Korean governments to stop slaughtering canines for human consumption.

With the annual Yulin dog meat festival approaching, the supervisors added their voice to the growing international chorus of opposition to the 10-day celebration of dog meat in the Guangxi region of China and to the dog meat trade in general.

“Los Angeles County is home to millions of people who care deeply about preventing animal abuse and suffering,” Supervisor Hilda Solis wrote in her motion. “On behalf of our residents, I ask the Board of Supervisors to join me in condemning the Yulin dog meat festival, and the rampant abuse and torture of dogs and cats for human consumption in both China and South Korea.”

The festival, which has faced growing protests, takes place in June.

The resolution is similar to one passed last year by the Berkeley City Council.

In January, a resolution was introduced at the national level by Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) that asks the U.S. government to condemn the festival.

“My legislation condemns the festival and calls on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to impose a ban on the killing and eating of dogs as part of Yulin’s festival, enact anti-animal cruelty laws banning the dog meat trade, and enforce China’s food safety laws regulating the processing and sale of animal products,” Hastings said.

An estimated 10,000 dogs are skinned alive during the 10-day Yulin festival, then butchered and eaten as a way to mark the summer solstice. Some of the animals are pets that have been lost or stolen.

An estimated 2 million dogs are slaughtered and eaten each year in South Korea.

“Anything you can do to help us fight this … most people don’t know about it,” Valarie Ianniello, executive director for the Sherman Oaks-based Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation, told the supervisors. The organization is one of several that work to raise awareness about and help rescue dogs from farms and festivals in China, Cambodia and South Korea.

“It’s important for everyone to get involved in the anti-animal abuse and torture movement,” Solis said in an e-mailed statement Monday. “This isn’t about a cultural difference. This is about pets being stolen and slaughtered in an inhumane way.”

(Photo: Reuters)