Why do some dogs seem so obsessed with chasing their tails?
Researchers at Bristol University in the UK have entered the second phase of a study aimed at finding the answer.
Scientists from the two-year “Bristol Spinning Dog Project” will visit the homes of the 50 non-spinning dogs to collect urine samples and cheek swabs, and complete training tasks aimed at assessing the pet’s personality and ability to learn, The Independent reports.
In the first phase of the study, the researchers examined spinning dogs, delving into everything from their DNA to their environments to their personalities.
After examining dogs that chase their tails, the researchers will use the non-spinners to act as a control group.
Tail-chasing, while the topic of many a YouTube video, is likely something we shouldn’t be laughing about — out loud or otherwise — at least in those cases where the behavior is obsessive.
The researchers say reasons for the behavior aren’t fully understood — some spinning dogs may be merely seeking attention or expressing a desire to play, but spinning frequently or while alone could be a sign of frustration or a more serious disorder.
“There isn’t much information in the research literature about why dogs spin,” said Beth Loftus, one of the lead researchers. “We think this behavior develops because of personality and genetics, as well as the environment during a dog’s first 16 weeks and learning throughout life. But we don’t really know what it means for dogs’ welfare.”
“We hope to be able to identify dogs that are starting to spin and stop it from developing to the point where they are doing it almost to the complete exclusion of other, more normal types of behavior,” she added.
The research is being funded by the Dogs Trust charity.
(Photo : Flickr Commons / Tim Mowrer)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anticipation, behavior, boredom, bristol university, chasing, chasing tails, disorder, dog, dogs, frustration, research, science, spin, spinning, study, tail chasing, uk, veterinary, why dogs chase their tails
A physician’s organization led a rally this week urging Wayne State University to end its long-running series of cardiac research experiments on dogs.
About 45 people joined in the protest, led by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
According to the nonprofit organization, the heart failure experiments have been going on for 20 years, at a cost to taxpayers of about $8 million, and have provided no information beneficial to treating human heart disease.
No dogs leave the program alive.
“These research experiments have not garnered anything that has advanced human health,” said Jennifer Giordano, a Detroit-area doctor representing the committee. “We want them to use human-relevant research methods.”
In the experiments, heart problems are induced in the dogs by the use of implanted electrodes, which cause their heart rates to more than double.
The dogs are then put through multiple surgeries and are required to run on treadmills. About 25 percent of the dogs die during or after the surgery. Those who do survive are euthanized when their participation is no longer needed.
The experiments are funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.
At the Wednesday rally the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine presented a letter signed by actress Lily Tomlin to Wayne State University officials, calling on them to end medical experiments on dogs. Tomlin is a Detroit native and attended the university.
In the letter, Tomlin wrote: “I understand that Wayne State is spending millions of taxpayer dollars using dogs in heart failure experiments that have not benefited human health in any way. I urge you to end these senseless experiments as soon as possible.”
A copy of the letter was given to Matt Lockwood, a university spokesman who came to the rally and a read a statement defending the experiments, the Detroit News reported.
“Almost every medical advance in the last 100 years was due to research on animals — chemotherapy, hip replacements, transfusions, dialysis — was all tested on dogs,” Lockwood said. “We need to continue to do research to advance science.”
He said the animals in the experiments are under the constant supervision of veterinarians.
“There’s a committee that’s sole purpose is to ensure the animals are as comfortable as possible,” he said. “We’re also under the oversight of the federal government and the state. Never once has any animal been found to have been mistreated at any time.”
He said the dogs are euthanized after taking part in the experiments, but he declined to provide numbers.
(Photo: Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 10th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cardiac, cease, detroit, disease, dog, dogs, end, experimentation, experiments, failure, heart, induced, laboratory, letter, lily tomlin, medical, pets, physicians committee for responsible medicine, protest, rally, research, science, stop, surgery, wayne state university
One out of every six fast food customers pick up a little something for the dog at the drive-thru window, according to a study by a marketing research company.
“These visits translate to a staggering number of trips (over 1,000,000,000 annually) where the dog is the one ‘lovin’ it,'” concludes a recent study on dog ownership and fast food habits conducted by Relevation Research.
The study found just over one third of canine owners have visited fast food drive-thrus with their dog — and, of those, four-fifths claim to have ordered menu items specifically for their dogs.
McDonald’s is visited most often by dog owners, followed by Burger King and Wendy’s.
With dog ownership, and dog pampering, expected to continue to grow — especially among baby boomers and millenials — QSRs (or quick service restaurants) would be well advised to put healthy dog treats on the menu, it suggests.
“Because of disposable incomes and empty nester status, Baby Boomer owners could be strong candidates for QSR,” said Nan Martin of Relevation Research. “But the Baby Boomer also has an evolving focus on health. That means menu items specifically targeted for dogs or dog-friendly in terms of ingredients will resonate best.
“QSR and dog food/treat manufacturers should team up to design dog-safe offerings. Companies catering to the dog will win with owners who want to, guilt-free, feel like they’re spoiling the dog.”
(Photo: Relevation Research)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 9th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, burger, burger king, dining, dog, dogs, drive thru, drive-through, eating, fast food, food, fries, market, mcdonald's, order, pampering, pets, qsr, research, study, wendys, windows
Dogs have a knack for helping us accomplish our goals. Somehow, they seem to know what those goals are without ever being told. Maybe, they know our goals better than we do.
With no apparent effort, they can help us accomplish our missions … whatever the mission … even missions that are completely opposite from one another.
Dogs, for instance, can help us stick to a routine, or get us out of a rut. (Ace has done both for me.)
They can enlarge our circles of friends, and — at those times solitude might be best — keep it from getting too lonely. (Ace has done both of those, too.)
And they can both keep us young and show us how to grow old.
That last trick, I think, is particularly impressive.
Dogs, when you think about it, show us how to live our lives (in the moment, with abandon), cope with our maladies (with brave perseverance) and die our deaths (with grace and dignity).
Between the examples they offer, the similarities between our species and the uncovered secrets dogs may still hold, it’s no surprise that science and medicine and more than a few other fields of study are increasingly turning to them for answers.
What dogs have to teach us about living a healthy life — some of it obvious (if we pay attention), some of it suspected and undergoing research — was the subject of an article last month in AARP Magazine.
As it noted, dogs, as they continue to evolve alongside us, are increasingly mirroring us, right down to getting the same diseases and disorders.
“… This evolution is ongoing, a process scientists call convergence: Human and canine genes, shaped by the environment we share, are evolving in lockstep. Today, along with home security and leftover disposal, dogs confer a host of wellness benefits, especially to kids and older people,” the article’s author, David Dudley, wrote. “People with dogs sleep better, weigh less and get more exercise than dog-free peers.”
“And there are the less tangible perks, the ones cataloged in Marley & Me–style books. This burgeoning “dogoir” literary genre revolves around the reductive but basically correct idea that a dog is foremost an instrument of personal growth: It exists to ease your existential anxieties, impart lessons about love and friendship, and teach you how to be a better person.”
But as noted by Dudley, who weaves the lessons his dog Foghat taught him into the article, that’s just the beginning of what dogs might have to share.
He cites a couple of research projects as examples of the possible answers dogs may hold when it comes to aging.
Neuroscientist Elizabeth Head is studying elderly beagles at the University of Kentucky in an attempt to determine why, by age 6 or 7, they start showing signs of the microscopic beta-amyloid plaques that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
About a third of the beagles will succumb to canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, about the same percentage of Americans over 85 who will get Alzheimer’s.
“It could be that living in our environment — our food, our water, our homes — has made dogs more vulnerable,” she says.
Head thinks dogs might hold the key to defeating it. Past studies, she notes, have demonstrated that an antioxidant-rich diet and “behavioral enrichment” — a course of memory drills and new-skills training — can significantly delay or diminish plaque development and memory impairments.
At the University of Washington, Daniel Promislow, an aging researcher (in both meanings of the phrase), has assembled a team to join in a Canine Longevity Consortium. Through a a grant from the National Institute on Aging, they’re working on the first national longitudinal study on aging in dogs, which will include looking at how dogs stay so seemingly happy and carefree as they advance in years.
On the downside, as we all know, they can relatively suddenly become frail, forgetful and sick — as was the case with Dudley’s dog, Foghat.
“…He entered his dotage in roaring good health. Around his 18th birthday, I Googled “oldest dog in the world,” because I started to wonder if he was closing in on a record. He was what gerontologists would call a successful ager.
“And then, seemingly overnight, he wasn’t. If you have to go — and you do — a swift slide into decrepitude is the preferred way. The phrase is “compression of morbidity,” when the infirmities of age are delayed until the bitter end. Still, it’s no picnic. The joints went first. He started limping after a vigorous bouncing-a-soccer-ball-off-his-nose session. Then he needed help climbing into the car or crawling under the bed, his favorite sleeping spot.”
As Foghat declined, Dudley wrote, his “senescence appeared as both a comfort and a warning of what awaits: Some fears and eccentricities will lift with the years; others will only deepen. One by one, the things you love to do become too difficult and slip out of your life.”
With his death, Dudley says, “I was struck by the strange new stillness — the foreign silence of a household without a dog. It was as if a machine that had been humming in the background for a long time had suddenly been switched off.”
Amid that silence, Dudley, like many other grieving dog owners, started quantifying what he learned from Foghat.
” …And now that I’m no longer young, and he’s dead, I’ll do my best to follow the path Foghat blazed into my life’s last half…” he wrote.
“So eat the best food you can afford. Go for a walk, even if it’s raining. Take a lot of naps. Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch. And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”
(Photo: Foghat, the author’s dog, in 1995 at age 1, left, and in 2012 at age 18; courtesy of David Dudley / AARP Magazine)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 16th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aarp, acceptance, aging, alzheimers, animals, answers, cognition, david dudley, dignity, dogs, dogs as teachers, elderly, enjoy, examples, learning, learning from dogs, life, old, pets, research, secrets, solutions
A new study has a bone to pick with earlier researchers who concluded the domesticated dog has been around for 30,000 years.
New 3D analysis of skulls that had been identified as two of the earliest dogs shows they were actually wolves, a research team writes in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.
Fossilized remains that scientists said showed dogs date back at least 31,680 years — specifically those remains unearthed at Goyet Cave in Belgium — actually belonged to a wolf, according to a new study. So too, the new study says, did a 13,905-year-old fossil that was identified as belonging to a dog after it was found at a site called Eliseevichi in Russia.
The new study concludes that the the domestication of dogs happened during the Neolithic era (10,200 B.C.-2,000 B.C.) as opposed to the Paleolithic era (2.6 million years ago to 10,200 B.C.)
“Scientists have been eager to put a collar on the earliest domesticated dog,” lead author Abby Grace Drake said. “Unfortunately, their analyses weren’t sensitive enough to accurately determine the identity of these fossils.”
“Previous research has claimed that dogs emerged in the Paleolithic but this claim is based on inaccurate analyses,” Drake told Discovery News. “We reanalyzed some of the fossil canids from the Paleolithic and show that they are, in fact, wolves.”
“We did confirm that the Neolithic specimens Shamanka II (around 7,372 years old) and Ust’-Belaia (about 6,817 years old) are dogs, and therefore domestication took place by this time period or earlier,” added Drake, an assistant professor of biology at Skidmore College.
That means the wolves — who are generally (but not unanimously) believed to have evolved into dogs, possibly as a result of their interacting with humans — first appeared on earth after humans were farming and living in settlements, as opposed to when they were living in caves and hunting and gathering.
Drake and colleagues Michael Coquerelle and Guillaume Colombeau used scans and 3D visualization software to study the shape and size of the two oldest skulls and compare the data with measurements from the skulls of other dogs and wolves, according to a report on Phys.org.
That technique allowed the team to identify subtle morphological differences between dogs and wolves, such as the direction of the eye cavity and the angle between the muzzle and forehead.
(Photo: Abby Grace Drake, Skidmore College)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 6th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: analysis, animals, dog, dogs, domestication, evolution, fossilized, fossils, neolithic, origin, paleolithic, pets, remains, research, science, skidmore college, wolf, wolves
Two University of Washington scientists think it might be possible to slow the aging process in canines and are launching a pilot study with 30 dogs to see if the drug rapamycin significantly extends their lifespans.
The researchers, using $200,000 in seed money from the University of Washington, plan to use pets, not laboratory animals, for the initial study, and recruit volunteer dogs — or at least dogs whose owners volunteer them — for larger scale studies in the future.
Daniel Promislow, an evolutionary geneticist, and Matthew Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist, say the study is aimed at determining whether rapamycin could lead to longer lives for dogs — as studies have shown is the case when it’s used on yeast, fruit flies, worms and mice.
“We’re not talking about doubling the healthy life spans of pets,” said Kaeberlein. “But at a minimum I would predict that you would get a 10 to 15 percent increase in average life span, and I think bigger effects are possible.”
In the pilot study, 30 large, middle-aged dogs will be involved — half receiving low doses of rapamycin, half receiving placebos.
The researchers say that subsequent studies will seek to enroll pet dogs from across the country.
Kaeberlein and Promislow hosted a meeting in Seattle last week where experts from across the country discussed the drug rapamycin and its possible effects on the health and longevity of dogs, the Seattle Times reported.
Currently used along with other medications to prevent rejection in organ-transplant patients, rapamycin has been called a promising anti-aging drug — though there have been no studies involving humans.
But almost 50 laboratory studies have shown that the compound can delay the onset of some diseases and degenerative processes and restore vigor to elderly animals, extending life spans by 9 to 40 percent.
Rapamycin functions, in part, by inactivating a protein that promotes cell growth. As a result, cells grow more slowly, which retards the spread of cancer.
Promislow, who has two elderly dogs of his own, noted that even if the drug doesn’t increase the life span of dogs, it could serve to keep them healthy longer. “We’re trying to understand why some dogs age better than others, and help all dogs age in a better way,” he said.
The drug has been shown to have serious side effects, including poor wound healing and an increased risk of diabetes, when used at the high doses required for organ transplant patients.
But the low doses used in anti-aging research with mice and other lab animals cause few side effects.
There have been no large-scale human trials. Studying how the drug affects dogs — who suffer many of the same old-age ailments as their masters — makes it possible to explore the possible benefits of rapamycin both more quickly and at a lesser cost.
If it does turn out to be a sort of fountain of youth — for dogs, humans, or both — the potential profits would be enormous.
“I think it’s worth a go, not just from what it can teach us about humans, but for the sake of the animals themselves,” said University of Alabama Biology Department Chairman Steven Austad, an expert in aging research who is not involved in the project. “It may not work in dogs, but if it did, boy, it’s going to be huge.”
According to the Seattle Times article, drug companies aren’t very interested in rapamycin because it’s no longer under patent.
But the researchers are hoping dog lovers, dog-food companies and some foundations might be willing to contribute to further research.
They’ve set up a website, dogagingproject.com,where people can donate and sign their dogs up to take part in the research.
“Given how I feel about my pets, I see this as a unique project where there’s a real potential for citizen science,” Kaeberlein said. “I think it would be great if pet owners who are really interested in improving the health of their animals would help fund this work.”
(Photos: UW scientists Matt Kaeberlein, with his dog Dobby, and Dan Promislow, with his dog Frisbee; by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 4th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, anti aging, anti aging drug, biology, cancer, cells, citizen science, compound, Daniel Promislow, death, dog, dogs, drug, drugs, extending, fountain of youth, funding, geneticist, health, ifespan, laboratory, life, lifespans, lives, longer, Matthew Kaeberlein, molecular, pets, rapamycin, research, sickness, study, university of washington
Throw a dog who has never gone swimming into a pool and, pretty much instantly, he’ll start moving his four legs in a series of motions we’ve come to call the dog paddle.
Throw a human who has never gone swimming into a pool and — though the possibilities are much higher for helpless flailing about, cussing, drowning, or becoming traumatized for life — he may eventually come to his senses enough to try and work his way back to the side of the pool. He’ll do so not using a butterfly stroke, breast stroke or Australian crawl, but by doing what dogs do.
The dog paddle: It’s seemingly instinctual. It’s primitive. And though we humans mostly outgrow it, it remains sort of the default mode of propelling ourselves through water.
Just how primitive it may be is under investigation by Dr. Frank Fish, a professor of biology at West Chester University who — maybe because of his name, maybe not — has spent most of his career studying how marine mammals swim.
Most recently, he has been studying the swimming motions of dogs, and he has concluded that they are very similar to the motions dogs use in trotting. That explains the ease with which most dogs can make the transition from land to water — requiring no lessons, and (generally) little coaxing: They basically propel themselves the same way in water as they do on land.
That their stride and strokes are nearly identical is interesting in itself, but Fish thinks it could also help explain how whales and dolphins ended up in the ocean.
Fish subscribes to the theory that marine mammals were intitially four-legged land dwellers who ventured into the water one day (likely dog paddling at first), decided they liked it better there, then evolved into such super swimmers that they no longer needed legs, or, for that matter, land.
He borrowed a swimming pool used to rehabilitate horses at the University of Pennsylvania.
Analyzing the video, Fish and fellow researchers saw that dogs swim much like they run — with diagonal pairs of legs churning in unison, according to Science Daily. Fish presented his findings at the 2014 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting in Austin.
While there’s plenty of dog research we’d categorize as a silly waste of time, we find all this pretty intriguing.
First, it reminds us that practice makes perfect — to think that long, long ago there might have been a couple of four-legged dolphins who didn’t know how to swim, hesitating at the edge of the water: “I dunno, it looks dangerous … should we go in?”
Second, in an era when we’re increasingly relying on computers to do our thinking for us, it serves as a warning that those muscles we don’t use can disappear. It raises a host of interesting questions about our future, and our past.
Why is it we humans tend to dog paddle in our first encounters with water? Is that some sort of instinctual nod to a past when we got about on four legs, instead of two?
If cavemen had spent more time at the swimming hole, might we homo sapiens have evolved into something more amphibious?
Given that, might mermaids really exist?
It’s kind of inspiring to think there might have been a day when dolphins, the planet’s most graceful swimmers, were total klutzes in the water — that they started off splashing about with some awkward looking dog paddling and progressed to the point where they could actually leap out of the water.
It reminds us that, maybe, anything is possible with enough hard work — even when it comes to behaviors we might think are genetic and therefore unchangeable. Do we sometimes wear our genes too tightly, and allow them to restrict us from leaping into new things, and getting over old ones?
We wish Fish luck in unraveling how four-legged terrestrial forms evolved into no-legged, finned ones. And as long as the dogs involved in his research are having a good time — given Fish is letting his own dog be used in the study, we assume they are — we have no problem with them helping the professor prove his point.
In other words: Go Fish!
(Top Photo, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology; bottom photo, from the book Underwater Dogs)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 16th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, biology, dog paddle, dogs, dolphins, evolution, frank fish, genes, genetics, instinct, land, legs, mammals, marine, motions, movement, nature, research, science, study, swim, swimmers, swimming, water, west chester university, whales