Specially trained dogs have been alerting diabetics to decreases in their blood sugar levels for years now — but only now do scientists have a pretty good clue of how dogs are able to do it.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge say what the dogs are able to sniff out is a common chemical called isoprene, which is found on our breath.
Isoprene increases significantly — and sometimes almost doubles — during hypoglycemia.
Medical detection dogs wake up or alert their owners whenever their blood sugar level drops to the point of hypoglycemia, a condition that can cause shakiness, loss of consciousness, and, if untreated, death.
Using mass spectrometry, the scientists studied the breath of eight women with type 1 diabetes, noting changes in the chemical signatures of their exhalations when their blood sugar levels were lowered to the point of hypoglycemia.
The increased in isoprene is too subtle for humans to smell, but with the ability to detect odors at concentrations of around one part per trillion, dogs are able to sense it.
The scientists aren’t sure why isoprene increases as blood sugar levels drop, but they suspect it might be a byproduct of cholesterol.
Their findings were published in the July issue of the journal Diabetes Care.
The research could lead the way to developing medical sensors that replicate some of what diabetic alert dogs do, providing diabetics with an alternative to frequent blood testing, said lead researcher, Mark Evans.
“It’s our vision that a new breath test could at least partly – but ideally completely – replace the current finger-prick test, which is inconvenient and painful for patients, and relatively expensive to administer.”
Posted by John Woestendiek July 1st, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, blood sugar, breath, detection, diabetes, diabetic, diabetic alert dogs, dog, dogs, hypoglycemia, increased, isoprene, levels, medical, pets, research, science, scientists, sense, smell, sniff, university of cambridge
That trio of sassy grandmothers currently being featured in a series of Volkswagen ads has a new traveling companion — a Chiweenie with an overbite — and true to his name (Tuna) he’s stinking up the place.
In the ad, the grandmas detect an odor in the vehicle, which they at first blame on it being diesel-powered. After some continued sniffing, they determine the real source of the foul smell: It’s Tuna.
Tuna — that’s his real name — had achieved some major fame even before appearing in the ad, with more than 1.5 million followers on his Instagram page.
And he’s already published his own book, “Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog with an Overbite.”
According to that website, Tuna is a 4 year-old Chiweenie (Chihuahua-dachshund mix) with an exaggerated overbite who was rescued in 2010 by Courtney Dasher at a Farmers Market in LA.
Within a year, Dasher created an Instagram account dedicated to Tuna’s photos. By the end of 2012, he had hundreds of thousands of followers.
Dasher said her goal was to “bring people joy through Tuna’s pictures that showcased his cartoonish looks and his charming personality.”
“Since Tuna is the epitome of the underdog, most people advocate for him and adore him for his endearing qualities. His loyal followers embrace his physical differences, have fallen in love with his charm and connect to his message; that true beauty comes in all forms and radiates from within.
“Furthermore, he is an ambassador for animal rescue, since he too was once rescued, and it has become a part of Courtney’s mission to raise awareness for rescue groups through this platform.”
Dasher met Tuna at an adoption event after he’d been found discarded on the side of the road near San Diego.
You can find more of our “Woof in Advertising” posts — looking at how dogs are used in marketing — here.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 20th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ad, ads, advertising, animals, book, chihuahua, chiweenie, courtney dasher, dachshund, diesel, dogs, dogs in advertising, facebook, grandmas, grandmothers, instagram, marketing, mix, odor, overbite, pets, photos, sassy, smell, tuna, tuna melts my heart, tunameltsmyheart, twitter, volkswagen, woof in advertising, woof!
When a neighbor complained about their dogs, the residents of a home in a quiet Chicago suburb responded by loudly repainting the side of their house that faces the complainant — in bright yellow, orange and purple stripes.
“It’s a slap, it’s absolutely a clear message of retaliation,” one resident of the 400 block of Longfellow Streeet, Leigh Van Heule, told the Daily Herald.
Early this summer, at least one neighbor filed a complaint with the Glen Ellyn Police Department that led to Julie A. Dombroski being fined for having four dogs in the home, one more than allowed by village code.
A day after the ticket was issued, a man began painting the siding on one side of the house in which Dombroski lives, one row at a time.
Patricia Amabile, who lives in the house facing the striped siding, says she’s at “a loss of what to do.”
Dombroski and her grown children reportedly moved into the home a few years ago, sharing it with a man who has lived there most of his life.
A man who answered the door of the painted house Friday morning declined to comment, and messages on the home’s answering machine Friday and Monday weren’t returned, the Daily Herald reported.
Amabile and other neighbors say they’ve tried to talk with the dog owners, but they refuse.
Some residents of the block say the homeowners didn’t clean up after their dogs all summer, resulting in foul smells. Neighbors contacted the DuPage County Health Department, which conducted an inspection and ordered the homeowner to clean up the waste.
The dogs, apparently German shepherd and Lab-pit bull mixes, also are known for getting loose in the neighborhood, neighbors said, and police confirmed that one had been involved a dog bite case.
“We don’t have to like each other,” Amabile said. “We just have to be civil. That’s what everybody wants … All we wanted was for them to take care of their yard and take care of their dogs.” she said.
Insulted as some neighbors feel about the paint job, some of those commenting on the Daily Herald website yesterday said they actually liked the look, and praised the homeowners for bringing a little color to the otherwise drab suburbs.
(Photo: By Bill Ackerman / Shawmedia.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 19th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, colors, complaint, dispute, dogs, dupage county, fined, fines, glen ellyn, health department, illinois, orange, pets, police, purple, retaliation, revenge, siding, smell, striped, waste, yellow
Dogs aren’t truly color blind, but they do see a lesser range of hues than humans do.
They may have better hearing than us, and be far superior to us at sniffing things out, but when it comes to seeing rainbows they don’t have as much to get excited about as we do.
Dogs have only two types of cone cells, which are responsible for color vision, enabling them to see blue and yellow — and their various mixes.
Most of us humans have three different types of cone cells, allowing us to see red, green and blue, and all combinations of those colors.
As this graphic from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog shows, dogs miss out on reds and oranges and generally enjoy a less vivid spectrum of colors.
But before you start feeling superior, consider that we’re probably not seeing all there is to see in a rainbow, either.
Butterflies may have up to five cone receptors, while the mantis shrimp has 12. They are fluttering around, or swimming around, seeing colors we’ve never seen.
(Imagine what a butterfly shrimp might see, if it weren’t breaded and fried.)
Quick science lesson: Colors are just different wavelengths of visible light, so the color of an object depends on what kinds of light it absorbs and reflects. What bounces back and hits our eyes is processed by our brain. Then and only then can we pronounce that the sky is blue, or that the dress is black and blue, or white and gold.
Humans on the Internet (which are slightly different than humans) recently spent weeks debating whether a dress shown in a picture was blue with black fringe, or white with gold fringe.
And everyone of them — unlike shrimp, butterflies and dogs — was absolutely sure that what they saw was right.
While other species may have more finely honed senses of smell, sight and sound, we humans have a much more refined sense of smugness, and we lead all species when it comes to the senses — or are they sins? — of pride, envy and greed.
That’s why, when it comes to rainbows, many of us are most concerned with the pot of gold (or is it blue?) that’s at the end of it.
I’ve given up on finding that, but I would, just once, like to see a rainbow as a butterfly does.
As for that dress, the fact that its color was more debated by women than men isn’t too surprising.
Not only are women less affected by colorblindness (because the genes encoding red and green receptors are located on the X-chromosome, of which men only have one and women have two), but they also have a higher potential of being “tetrachromats” – people with four types of color receptor cells instead of three.
Though the evidence remains inconclusive, some researchers believe this fourth receptor allows tetrachromats to see a wider range of colors.
I’m not sure if consensus was ever reached in the great dress debate, and I don’t really care.
But if you simply must have a final answer, ask a shrimp.
(Photos: Ace at Salvation Mountain in California, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; graphic from the Washington Post; photo of dress from ABC News)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 17th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, butterflies, color blind, colorblind, colors, dog, dogs, how we see colors, hues, perception, pets, rainbows, science, see, seeing, senses, shrimp, sight, smell, sound, spectrum, the dress
Or it could have been the love.
Misty, only nine months old, was found on a Brooklyn street corner earlier this month, covered in wounds and bites from being used as a bait dog.
She was placed in a city shelter, then pulled by Second Chance Rescue, which moved her into a foster home. On Friday, she escaped from the backyard of that home.
Friends and neighbors joined in on the weekend-long search. Thousands of flyers were posted, and a $2,000 reward was offered. More than $4,500 was quickly raised to help in the search, and more than 14,000 people had, by Monday, “liked” her Facebook page.
But it was bacon — not social media — that apparently led to her safe return.
“The whole thing is unbelievable,” Misty’s foster mom, Erin Early-Hamilton, told NJ.com.
When someone suggested slapping some bacon on the backyard grill to lure the dog home, Early-Hamilton — despite being a vegan — was willing to give it a try.
She was sitting in a chair, and her husband was at the grill, when Misty came wandering home around 2 p.m. Monday.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 21st, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, backyard, bacon, bait dog, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, foster, grill, lost, missing, misty, new jersey, new york, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, rescue, return, runaway, scent, second chance rescue, shelter, smell
60 Minutes looked at bomb-sniffing dogs in a report that, especially given last night’s other featured stories — on the Marathon bombing and the 9/11 Memorial — brought home not just how many lives they’ve saved in the military overseas, but how many more they might save here.
Reporter Lara Logan focused on the dogs of war, and the trainers that describe their canines as nearly infallible when it comes to detecting bombs.
But they’re not so infallible when explosive devices are planted after the dogs have made their sweeps, as apparently was the case at the Boston Marathon.
“Would an average police dog have found these bombs at the Boston Marathon …?” she asked trainer Mike Ritland.
“…Based on what I do know, yes,” Ritland said. “If dogs went through the areas where they were placed– you know, your average, certified police bomb dog should have found them. My thoughts are if these guys (the suspects) are paying close attention to these dogs, they’re waiting. And when the dogs leave, they bring it in, they hand– they infiltrate, essentially, they drop it right where it’s busy, and very soon after, it detonates.”
As the “60 Minutes” piece pointed out, since 9/11 dogs have been used more than ever because nothing is more effective in finding hidden bombs. Dogs in the employ of the military and FBI have sniffed out bombs, captured enemies, and one assisted Navy SEAL Team 6 when it took down Osama bin Laden. Much more of what they do, given the often secretive nature of their work, never becomes known.
“The best of them serve with U.S. Special Operations and they’re in a league of their own,” Logan noted. “It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to talk about them publicly because much of what they do is classified, but we were able to talk to the people who train them for this story. We took the opportunity to ask about what might have happened in Boston while getting a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of America’s most elite dogs.”
(One member of the “60 Minutes” team — in a segment not shown on the air but featured on 60minutesovertime.com — even volunteered to be chased down by a military dog in training in Texas. Producer Reuben Heyman-Kantor, in the video above, tried to outrun the dog, but was brought down quickly.)
In her interview with former Navy SEAL Ritland, who now finds and trains dogs for Special Operations and top tier units in the FBI, Logan asked, “What can these dogs do on the streets of America?”
“The very same thing that they do for our boys overseas in that they detect explosives– they are a fantastic deterrent– they use their nose to find, you know, people as well,” Ritland said.
“Everybody knows that dogs can smell better than humans but what they don’t realize is that if you and I walk into the kitchen and there’s a pot of beef stew on the counter, you and I smell beef stew. A dog smells potatoes, carrots, beef, onion, celery, gravy, flour. They smell each and every individual component of everything that’s in that beef stew. And they can separate everyone one of those. You can’t hide anything from them. It won’t work because you can’t fool a dog’s nose.”
Ritland now trains dogs on his 20-acre ranch in rural Cooper, Texas, runs the Warrior Dog Foundation for retired war dogs, and is the author of “Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines.”
Ritland says its important — amid these days of budget cuts — to remember what lifesavers the dogs can be, both in wars and at home.
In Afghanistan, according to the report, 42 dogs have been killed in action. They’ve become so effective that the enemy is singling them out. A Taliban commander told “60 Minutes” that on his last operation they were ordered to open fire on the American dogs first, and deal with the soldiers next.
Logan visited what she said was one of only three breeders in the U.S. who produce dogs — almost always the Belgian Malinois — for top tier military units.
She also interviewed Green Beret Chris Corbin who, along with his dog Ax, almost died on their final mission in Afghanistan.
Corbin said he missed a signal from the dog while searching for mines. Ax was alerting to Corbin’s foot, but Corbin realized it too late. He lost both his lower legs. Ax was not wounded. Both returned to duty.
Ax was at Corbin’s side during the interview, and rarely took his eyes off his former partner as he described their first reunion after the blast.
“I just said something simple. ‘Hey, where’s my boy at?’ and he stopped. He froze. He looked around. And he went into a panic until he found me and he jumped on my legs. Painful. Just– I was just happy to see him. I didn’t care how much it hurt.”
Posted by John Woestendiek April 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 60 minutes, 911, animals, ax, belgian malinois, bomb, bombing, bombs, boston marathon, budget, chris corbin, cutbacks, detecting, detection, dog, dogs, explosive, fbi, green beret, homeland security, ied, lara logan, law enforcement, mike ritland, military, mines, navy seal, news, nose, pets, searches, security, smell, sniffing, special operations, sweeps, training
Your dog licks your face because he loves you, right?
Ah, if it were only that simple.
There are those that will assure you that yes, those licks mean affection — your “fur babies” are showering you with, in addition to a little slobber, love and gratitude.
There are also those more scientific types who will dissect the act so emotionlessly as to leave you never wanting another lick again — or perhaps even another dog, or at least not another dog book.
Thank Dog, then, for Alexandra Horowitz, who in her new book “Inside of a Dog,” manages to probe doggie behavior in a manner both scientific and passionate, without stomping on the sanctity of the human-dog bond like it’s a cigarette in need of extinguishing.
The book’s title comes from the Groucho Marx quote: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
What makes “Inside of a Dog,” released in September, one of the best dog books of the year is that it’s not too dark to read. Horowitz, a psychology professor, former staff member at The New Yorker, and long-time dog-lover is able — based in equal parts on her scientific research and her own personal experiences as a dog owner — to correct the many misconceptions about dogs without snuffing out the special light we see inside them.
As for those face licks, they have an evolutionary basis — it originally was a way for pups to encourage their moms and dads to regurgitate what they had eaten while hunting, thus sharing their prechewed bounty.
That doesn’t mean your dog is trying to make you puke everytime it licks your face, only that what’s now a ritualized greeting began that way.
The book gets to the root of other canine behaviors, as well, including:
· How dogs tell — and actually smell — time.
· Why it’s been futile leaving your television on for your dog all these years (and why this may be different now).
· How your dog really feels about that raincoat you make him wear.
· Why some dogs joyfully retrieve tossed balls and sticks while others just stare at you like you’re a fool for throwing them.
While not a training manual, it’s a book every dog trainer should read, and perhaps every dog owner who wants to truly understand not just what their pet means to them, but what their pet means.
The book goes into how dogs see, smell and hear the world, what their barks mean, what their tail wags mean. And it avoids the common oversimplifications associated with seeing dogs solely in terms of human behavior, or seeing them solely as modern-day wolves.
Horowitz, and the book, show some appreciation and understanding of the evolutions that have taken place, and continue to — the evolution of dogs, the evolution of humans, and the evolution of the bond between the two.
(Learn more about the latest dog books at ohmidog’s book page, Good Dog Reads.)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alexandra horowitz, behavior, bond, book, books, books on dogs, cognitive, dog, dog books, dogs, evolution, good dog reads, human, inside of a dog, kiss, know, lick, misconceptions, psychology, regurgitate, relationship, scientist, see, smell, tail, understanding, wag