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JoAnna Lou

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JoAnna Lou participates in agility, rally obedience and therapy work with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She supports her canine hobby with a career in professional training and development at a New York financial firm. JoAnna has a diverse background working with animals that includes researching birds at the Bronx Zoo and helping a friend run a rat rescue group (yes, rats!). Her writing has appeared in The Bark, DogSport, New York Tails and New York Resident.

Jealousy in Dogs
Study shows the desire to protect social bonds between humans and canines.

Do our dogs get jealous? My pups definitely react when I pay more attention to one over the other, but is it right to call it jealousy? While scientists have long wondered whether the emotion requires complex cognition, two researchers at UC San Diego believe that dogs may exhibit a more basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds.

For the first experiment of jealous behaviors in canines, Psychology professor Christine Harris and student Caroline Prouvost adapted a test used with 6-month old human infants. The team worked with 36 dogs in their own homes, running through different scenarios with their owner's attention--having the person show affection to a plush dog (that barked, whined, and wagged its tail), engage with a plastic pumpkin pail, and read a book that played music.

The researchers took note of aggressive, disruptive, and attention-seeking behaviors. They found that the dogs were more likely to exhibit behaviors like snapping, pushing, and getting between their owner and the other dog when the interaction was with the plush pup as opposed to the plastic pail (as high as 78 percent to 42 percent). The dogs were even less likely to exhibit the behaviors with the book reading (22 percent).

Christine believes we can label these behaviors as jealousy and that the study suggests the dogs were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a rival to protect an important social relationship. Because the majority of research is on jealousy between human mates, this study is an interesting insight into the dynamic between siblings, friends, and even people and dogs.

Do you think that your pup exhibits jealousy?

 

Shelter Pets at the Emmys
Award show swag booth promoted homeless animals.
Jorja Fox of CSI at the Emmy Awards swag booth benefiting The Shelter Pet Project.

Award shows are known for celebrity sightings and elaborate swag bags, made up of free products fishing for endorsements from the rich and famous.

This year, the Emmy Awards featured a gifting suite that also benefited homeless animals. Part of the proceeds from Secret Room Events' Red Carpet Style Lounge went to The Shelter Pet Project, a collaboration between Maddie's Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Ad Council to increase adoption rates.

The Red Carpet Style Lounge didn't just raise money for a good cause. It also featured pets for adoption, photographed celebrities proclaiming their love for shelter pets, and hosted a “yappy hour” with canine gifts.

The Shelter Pet Project's presence at the Emmys was a great way to use the celebrity gathering to get the word out about adopting an animal in need. I also hope that some of the dogs and cats found a new home in the process! Check out The Shelter Pet Project web site for more celebrity photos form the event.

Making Tumors Glow
Human and canine doctors team up increase successful surgeries.

Between 20 and 50 percent of human cancer patients will experience a local recurrence due to malignant cells left behind after tumor removal surgery. Surgeons (for both animals and humans) typically rely on sight and touch, which can be difficult.

Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made progress on a technique that will increase successful tumor removals and decrease the likelihood of recurrence.

The collaboration between the veterinary and medical school explored using an injectable dye (indocyanine green or ICG) that accumulates in cancerous tissues more than normal tissues. This concentration occurs because the blood vessels of tumors have “leaky walls” from growing so rapidly. When a near-infrared light (NIR imaging) is shined, the tumor glows making removal easier.

The technique was first tested on mice, and then on eight dogs and five people at the University's hospitals. The surgeries were successful in making the process easier. In one of the human patients, NIR imaging revealed glowing areas that were thought to be healthy areas of the lung. The patient went on to receive chemotherapy and survived, thanks in large part to the new technique.

So far the limiting factor has been that ICG also absorbs into inflamed tissue, which can complicate its use. To avoid this problem, the researchers are working to identify an alternative targeted contrast agent specific to a tumor cell marker.

Glowing tumors are very impressive, but it's even cooler to see animal and human medicine come together to develop mutually beneficial advancements!

3-D Printed Dog Cart
Design company helps a tiny handicapped pup.

There seems to be no limit to what 3-D printers can create, with people making everything from costume props to guns. I've even heard that printing human organs may be next! In the meantime one Chihuahua puppy is benefiting from this new technology as he learns to navigate the world with two legs.

Back in July, TurboRoo (Turbo for short) was brought to The Downtown Veterinarian in Indianapolis after being born with a genetic defect that left him without front legs. His former family assumed that the pup would have to be euthanized, but the mobility issue aside, Turbo was perfectly healthy. Ashley Looper, a vet tech at the clinic, ended up adopting Turbo and the staff rallied together to make a makeshift dog cart using a Fisher-Price toy helicopter, a toy welding kit, and a ferret harness. The contraption allows Turbo to use his back legs to push the front wheels in order to move around.

The team's invention was successful, but it's hard to keep up with a puppy's growth spurts. Turbo can be fitted for a professional cart once he is full grown, but Team Turbo needed a solution until then.

As pictures of the tiny pup in his cart made the internet rounds, people from all over the world contacted the veterinarian clinic with their support. One of those Turbo fans included Mark Deadrick, owner of San Diego-based design company 3dyn, who contacted Ashley about making a cart via 3-D printer.

Ashley barely had time to say yes before Mark sent over two miniature dog carts created by estimating Turbo's measurements from photos. Both 3-D printed designs worked, but the sizing wasn't exactly right. Ashley has since sent a mold of Turbo's body so they can get to work on the perfect fit. Turbo's impact has also inspired Ashley to start a charity raising money to buy carts for dogs in need.

I'm certainly eager to see the future of 3-D printing and what it has in store for helping both canines and humans!

New Sport: UpDog
Disc dog/agility hybrid makes for a more accessible activity.

Anyone who participates in a dog sport, like agility or rally obedience, knows that there are numerous benefits. Not only do you get fun exercise, but you develop a deep bond with your pup. However, it can be hard to "get into" activities like agility. As much as I've tried to get my non-"dog competition" friends into the sport, it's difficult because the time, cost, and skill required.

Five disc doggers in Florida set out to minimize the barrier to entry by making their favorite sport more accessible. Kat and Jack Fahle, Andrea and Jason Rigler, and Babz Mahony created UpDog because they found that disc dog was largely limited to extremely athletic pups and handlers that were good at throwing discs long distances (if you've seen me throw a ball, you'd know why I don't participate!).

Their goal was to design a sport that was more beginner friendly. UpDog, which incorporates elements of both agility and disc dog, features games that allow for short tosses, a wider range of disc types, and playing with multiple discs. This helps open the games up to more diverse participation. For example, for dogs that will only return a disc if you have another one in your hand, UpDog has games that allow multiple discs to be in play. If you can't throw more than six feet away (like me!), there are games where you only have to throw discs shorter distances. UpDog also allows the rolling of discs to let people without throwing skills work on distance tricks.

Unlike in disc dog, winning is not necessary to advance. In UpDog, you work towards your own personal best by earning points to move up in level (similar to agility). Each level brings new skills to learn and master. However, the UpDog team emphasizes that extensive training in agility or disc dog is not required. If your pup can catch a disc (even one rolled on the ground) and can do simple agility jumps and tunnels, you can have a great time at an UpDog event.

UpDog classes have only been offered since the spring, but events are already filling up all around the country. Look for competitions, which are open to spectators, in Illinois, New Hampshire, and even Canada. I hope that this activity gets more people to discover the wonderful world of dog sports!

For more information on this budding sport, visit the UpDog web site.

Dog Friendly Car Service in N.Y.C.
App connects pet lovers with transportation in the Big Apple.

There are many challenges to having a dog in New York City. In most of the Big Apple, patches of grass for potty breaks are few and far between. Off leash play areas are reserved to small fenced dog runs or parts of Central Park for early bird pups with reliable recalls. But one of the most annoying parts of sharing city life with a pup is finding transportation, especially if you have a non-handbag sized dog.

Since most New Yorkers don't own a car, animal lovers have to rely on the subway (where dogs have to be in a carrier, which is difficult, if not impossible, for big dogs) or a taxi. And it's not always easy getting a cab driver to stop when you have a large-by-New-York-standards pup. As if hailing a taxi wasn't hard enough in a city of over eight million people!

Enter yet another life changing app. Whisk, which launched in New York City last October, lets riders hail livery cabs with their smartphones. Earlier this month they added a new feature that connects people with animal friendly drivers. Users simply click the pet icon in the Whisk app to activate a search of eligible cars. Once Ride Now is clicked, a driver will show up with yummy treats to share and a blanket for the dogs to sit on in the backseat (animals are also welcome to ride in their own crate if they bring one).

Whisk CEO Michael Ibrahim was inspired to create the new feature when his Rhodesian Ridgeback Bafana broke her leg after being hit by a bicyclist in Manhattan. It was nearly impossible to find a cab that would take Bafana, so they ended up carrying her the 20 blocks to the veterinarian.

There is a $10 additional fee for riders traveling with pets, but it's seems like a convenient option for dog lovers with limited transport options. I hope that Whisk's new service will encourage other travel companies to consider adding pet friendly features too. If there's anything that New York City animal lovers can agree on, it's that having a pet here is expensive!

Vending Machine for Stray Dogs
Solar powered box dispenses kibble and recycles garbage

Homeless animals and garbage are just two of the many problems cities grapple with. Last month a Turkish company unveiled an ingenious machine that targets both of those issues, combining recycling and feeding stray dogs.

The Pugeon Smart Recycling Box releases kibble in exchange for trash, reminiscent of the machines at grocery stores that give you a nickel for cans and plastic bottles.

Located around Istanbul, anyone can walk up to the solar powered gadgets and insert an empty plastic bottle at the top. This activates the machine to dispense a small amount of kibble in a dish at the bottom. The bottles, which are later recycled, cover the cost of the food.

Istanbul is home to more than 150,000 stray dogs and cats, so the rations are gobbled up quickly. The city has struggled to manage the overpopulation problem over the years. In 2004, Turkey introduced an animal protection law centered around neutering homeless animals, but it is not well enforced.

While the Box helps hungry pups, it doesn't help solve the overpopulation problem. But besides providing food and disposing of trash, the machine plays a third important role--getting people to think and talk about homeless animals. Hopefully the Box will inspire people to take an active role towards a lasting solution for the stray pups.

Studying Behavior to Save Dogs
New organization aims to use research to keep pets out of shelters.

According to the Simon Foundation, behavior is the number one killer of dogs under the age of three. Challenges such as barking and aggression result in millions of dogs to be surrendered at animal shelters around the world each year.

This sad reality inspired the creation of their Center for Canine Behavior Studies. The Center aims to use behavioral science to advance our understanding of dogs and to strengthen the human-canine relationship to be proactive against the homeless pet problem.

Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, founder of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University, is serving as their Chief Scientific Officer.

One of his first studies will look at how owner personality influences the behavior of their dogs.

Past studies have shown that higher rates of behavior problems (sexual mounting, destructiveness, attention-seeking, separation anxiety, and aggression) in dogs were associated with people that were emotionally unstable (measured using tools such as the Eysenck Personality Inventory).

A study of search and rescue dogs deployed at the World Trade Center and Pentagon following the 9/11 terrorist attacks found that the handler's PTSD and depression symptom scores (one year later) predicted the development of behavioral problems, such as sepration anxiety and aggression, in their dogs.

Dr. Dodman and Professor James A. Serpell, Director of the Center of Interaction of Animals and Society at UPenn, are furthering this research by embarking on the largest owner-dog personality-behavior study ever conducted to establish the how a person's personality and psychological status can affect pet behavior.

They hope to use the results of the study to help people understand the influence they are having on their pet's behavior and to be able to modify their interactions accordingly. They also would like to use the information gained to help predict which owner personality types are most compatible with a particular dog that they plan to adopt.

There is lots of exciting research coming out of the Center for Canine Behavior Studies and I can't wait to see the impact on homeless pets.

Xylitol Becoming More Common
The toxic ingredient is showing up in more household products.

It's widely known that xylitol, an ingredient in sugar-free gum, is toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia and liver failure. This has led me to be really careful about leaving packs of gum in handbags I leave around the house. I also keep gum packs (and chocolate) in a secure plastic bin in my pantry, just to be sure no hungry dogs get into the dangerous treats.

But I recently discovered that many more household products contain xylitol. In addition to other edible goods, like cookies, cough drops, and medications, the ingredient has been popping up in toothpaste, cosmetics, and mouthwash. The Pet Poison Hotline even found a line of clothing with xylitol embedded in it!

Clearly it's important to check the ingredients of the products you have lying around the house and keep them away from your pets. Xylitol is typically listed in the “Other ingredients” or “Inactive ingredients” section, but it's also been seen in the “Supplement Facts” box, so make sure you read the package closely. Sometimes the ingredients won't be listed as xylitol, but may be included as “sugar alcohols,” which encompasses many different sugar alcohols, like xylitol.

If your pet has ingested a product with xylitol in it, immediately call a veterinarian. The ingredient is so toxic that symptoms can show up within 10 minutes of ingestion. This includes weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, vomiting, and rapid breathing. Fortunately dogs can recover if treated promptly.

This just shows how important it is to know what's in the products in your home.

Refining the Office Dog Policy
SparkFun Electronics' journey to a canine culture.

I think it's every dog lovers dream to bring their pup to work. But as much as it'd be fun to have Nemo or Scuttle at the office, I realize that welcoming dogs at work comes with a lot of challenges.

So it was interesting to read the evolution of SparkFun Electronic's dog policy, which they recently shared on their blog. Employees started bringing dogs to the Boulder, Colorado office about six years ago when the company was much smaller, with no official policy. As SparkFun grew, bringing dogs became a documented perk and they had up to 30 dogs coming in each day. Managing the four legged members of the office became difficult.

At first SparkFun wanted to keep the policy casual, letting each department set and enforce their own guidelines, but fights broke out between pups, dogs bit delivery people, and poop was left unscooped. People became resentful because problems escalated and no one was held accountable in a consistent manner.

The dog policy became a hot topic of debate at the monthly directors meetings, but SparkFun  stayed remarkably committed to keeping their perk. They eventually came up with the “Dog Tribunal,” otherwise known as the idea that saved our dog privileges or the SparkFun equivalent of jury duty.

Employees are chosen at random to serve on the Dog Tribunal, which meets monthly to review dog complaints, issue warnings and punishments, and amend the Dog Policy on the company wiki as needed.

The Dog Tribunal isn't just about punishing offenders, but finding ways to make the canine culture work. For instance, they determined that the root of the poop problem was that people would forget bags needed to clean up. So poop bag dispensers were installed around the grounds, along with playful propaganda style signs. SparkFun also has a mass cleanup day every six months or so. These small changes  solved an issue once thought impossible to crack.

Now the dog problems have largely dissipated and dogs are firmly ingrained in the SparkFun culture. Dogs even factored into how their new office building was designed. The pups were mentioned as a joke in engineering meetings, but it turned out to be critical that they be added to the calculations because dogs can generate more heat than humans. Perhaps not important when you have one or two dogs, but at SparkFun, the 45 pups make up about a third of the workforce.

SparkFun has found a way to make their dog culture work by making their policy open and fair. Now their Dog Policy is posted online so that other companies can learn from what they figured out about office pups. It's open source so anyone can adapt it for their own use. They've even made their quirky poop bag dispenser sign available for download.