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Tag: thunder

Puppies in training to detect ovarian cancer

Two chocolate Labs and a springer spaniel are being trained to sniff out ovarian cancer at the University of Pennsylvania.

In a collaboration between Penn and the Monell Chemical Sciences Centers, Ohlin and McBain (above) and Thunder (left) will use their noses to detect the disease in humans.

Ovarian cancer kills more than 14,000 women every year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the nation.

The collaboration, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, takes aim at the silent killer with a combination of chemistry, nanotechnology — and dogs.

Canines have been detecting lung and breast cancer for years. With an $80,000 grant from the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation, the new project will assess their effectiveness in sniffing out ovarian cancer, and continue an investigation that has been underway in Sweden.

The Swedish professor behind that project, who was using his own dogs for the study, is retiring. But he’s lending his expertise to those involved in the Penn project.

“He’s been advising us along the way to we don’t repeat the same mistakes he made along the way,” said Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center and Associate Professor of Critical Care at Penn Vet.

While the disease is often difficult to diagnose, ovarian cancer’s victims have a survival rate of 90 percent. No effective screening protocol yet exists to detect cases in the early stages.

In the new program, scientists from Penn Medicine’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology will take tissue and blood samples from both healthy and ovarian cancer patients. The samples will be analyzed by chemists, scientists, computers and the puppies at the Working Dog Center, who will be exposed to healthy samples and cancer samples in vented containers they can’t access, but can smell.

The dogs began their training at 8-weeks of age.

“They’re all fabulous and they are very strong in olfaction,” Otto said.

(Photos: Philadelphia Inqurer)

Polar Express: All hail breaks loose

 

With just two days left before Santa comes down the chiminea, even Arizona has decided it’s winter.

The last few days in Cave Creek — where I’m living in a (contradiction in terms alert) stationary motorhome — have been wet and cool, with temperatures plummeting at night to around, prepare yourself, 50 degrees.

We get by, and so far without turning on the heat. Instead I use three blankets and Ace. Normally, unless he’s feeling unusually needy, he’ll fall asleep with his head down by my feet and his rear pointed at my face, which is not without ramifications.

On the cold nights though, and there have been a couple, I reposition his 130 pounds so that we are side by side, pointed the same way, so that I might better absorb his warmth.

He puts up with it for a short time, then goes back to his old position.

Last night, as I reached out to give his head a final pat, only to get a handful of butt, we fell asleep to the pitter-patter — I’m pretty sure I heard both pitters and patters — of a gentle rain falling on the trailer roof, only to be awakened an hour or so later by tremendous pelting thuds of hail on the roof.

A hailstorm can be disconcerting in a real house, but in a trailer — without the attic or the insulation — it’s a lot more personal; every thud seems amplified, and a heavy hail sounds like machine gun fire.

Those whacks were enough to get Ace anxious, and when thunder and lightning rolled through he left the bed in search of a more secure hiding place.

It was as if one roof over his head wasn’t enough, and he was looking for a back-up one. He tried under the dinette table, but that was too cramped. He came back to the bedroom and crawled under the tiny ledge the TV sits on, then decided that wasn’t good enough, either.

He went to the front door, but I assured him that — given the falling hail, though I didn’t see it, sounded about golf ball size — wasn’t an advisable option.

So I invited him back on the bed, where he was more than happy to snuggle up as close as he could possibly get, pointed the same way as me, for the duration of the storm.

I threw my an Indian blanket over him, and he seemed to like that even better. I put my arm around him, and that is how we woke up this morning.

I’ve yet to go outside to check my car and my the chiminea for damage, but looking out my window as the sun comes up, the sky looks like maybe it will finally clear up today, and maybe our last few days in Arizona will bring us more sweet sunshine.

On Monday, maybe Tuesday, we’ll start the trip back east, totally unexcited about, and totally unprepared for, a taste of real winter.

Getting your dog through thunderstorms

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With the thunder and lightning seeming to be nearly a daily occurence this week, here are some tips on helping your dog weather the storms.

Dogs’ fear of thunder can be a result of different factors. Some dogs may be genetically disposed to the problem, while others may have learned to be afraid of storms. Some may react mildly to them, some severely. Some — as with my dog Ace and fireworks — don’t develop the fear until they are 4 or 5 years old. As a result there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment, but here’s a look at some of them  remedies being touted on the marketplace.

For starters, good old fashion cotton stuffed in the ears helps some, but make sure you don’t stuff it in so tightly and deeply it becomes stuck.

Some veterinarians suggest trying to desensitize the dog to thunder by playing a tape or CD with storm sounds, turning it on for a few seconds at a time, then increasing the increments, until the dog becomes conditioned to it.

Many theorize that it’s the static electricity and changes in barometric pressure that disturbs some dogs, which explains why they might get upset before the storm actually starts, or why they might head for the bathtub.

The “Storm Defender” — one of the solutions featured in the video above — is a product that claims to keep your dog from becoming anxious and destructive during a storm by putting him in a cape made of metallic fabric. It’s makers say it disperses the static electricity that builds up before a storm and may make a dog feel unsettled.

Other versions of canine ”thunderwear” are available, ranging from earmuffs and head halters to swaddling attire that can help calm stressed-out dogs.

Other remedies include medication, such as anti-anxiety drugs — the canine versions of Xanax of Prozac — that are becoming increasingly prescribed by veterinarians. Some suggest the herbal form of Valium, valerian, or dog appeasing pheromones.

Beyond that, the advice is much the same as it is for the Fourth of July – turn on the television, stay home, play music, let the dog stay close, but don’t coddle , and above all, don’t scold.

For even more tips and background, check out this Associated Press story.

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