Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Smart collar tracks our pets' behavior for improved health
There are all sorts of high tech pet gadgets out these days, many which seem a little unnecessary. Do we really need a QR code or USB stick identification tag? Beyond the novelty factor, they're a little impractical in an actual emergency, unless used in conjunction with a more traditional method. At first I thought the same about the new "smart collars" on the market, but the more I read about them, the more I can see how the technology could provide valuable information on our pets' health. Whistle just launched a dog collar that wirelessly tracks data about your dog's activity throughout the day. It uses an accelerometer to determine if your dog is being active (walking or playing), resting, or sleeping. The information can then be viewed with a smartphone or web app to see the length of time your pup spends engaged in each of these behaviors. The app also features charts that let you look at behavior change over time and allow you to compare your dog's statistics to their breed average. The data can be used for everything from identifying deviations to monitoring effects of a new food or medication. I think that the collar is particularly handy for identifying changes in behavior during peiods of time when you're not home or in the middle of the night. Whistle was inspired by founder Ben Jacobs' childhood German Shepherd. When Ben was eight years old, the dog unexpectedly died from an intestinal problem that the family didn't know about. Since then, Ben has been focused on getting better care for pets. Being familiar with your dog's normal behavior, and when they deviate from that baseline, is indispensable for early detection of health problems. Animals are very good at hiding illnesses, so it's up to us to notice small changes in behavior. Veterinarians rely on us to describe the symptoms we're observing on a day-to-day basis to help make an accurate diagnosis. Last year my dog, Nemo, started refusing certain foods and was slightly more lethargic than normal. I brought him to the emergency room because I knew he wasn't acting like his usual self. The emergency room vet said it was probably an upset stomach and sent us home with some medicine. I knew it couldn't just be an upset stomach--Nemo would enthusiastically eat dirt if you offered it to him--so I brought him to another vet who ended up finding pieces of a leash stuck in his intestine. If I hadn't known what was normal behavior for Nemo, I might not have gotten a second opinion and might have even waited until it developed into a much more serious condition. So if the Whistle collar encourages more people to pay closer attention to their dog's behavior, it's definitely a good thing. Even if people don't end up buying the collar, just reading about the functionality may inspire someone to be more observant. The collar is certainly very cool, but for now I think I'm going to spend my $100 on more treats and tug toys to play with my pups! Are you using any high tech gadgets for your crew?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Supporting guardians of dogs with medical issues
My facebook news feed is full of dog jokes, stories, news, and pictures. Lately, it has also had an unfortunate number of medical scares on the canine health front. I’ve seen everything from joyous “It’s benign!” posts to “It’s broken, but at least she won’t need surgery,” to the more somber, “We appreciate your prayers and thoughts now that we know how serious her condition is.”
Anyone who has received bad news about a dog’s health is suddenly faced with many issues at once. There are obviously medical decisions and financial issues, both of which are beyond my areas of expertise. But people faced with serious medical problems in their dogs need other kinds of support and help that anyone can offer.
Sometimes the biggest help is just acknowledging that a friend is facing real heartache because of an ill family member. It’s also useful to bring in food (for the people!) because it can be so hard to care for yourself when you are busy attending to a sick dog, and sometimes people feel too upset to eat unless food is literally put in front of them. Caring for other members of the family—walking other dogs, picking kids up from school or bringing them to a play date at your house, filling in for a shift at work—frees up time and energy for a caregiver who may be overwhelmed both physically and emotionally.
Visiting for a strictly social call or just to listen to the latest on treatment and prognosis is often appreciated. This is especially true if the appointments and various care requirements mean that the guardian’s social life has been affected by having an ill dog. Offering to run errands may be just what a friend needs to ease the burden. Many people also appreciate help around the house such as yard work, cleaning, or even laundry, especially if the care has resulted in round-the-clock duties that have them seriously sleep-deprived and facing the challenge of attending to basic tasks.
If you have dealt with a serious health crisis with your dog, what have your friends and family done that was the most helpful to you?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kabang is celebrated for saving the lives of two girls in the Philippines
Last week one brave dog returned home to a hero's welcome in Zamboanga, a city in the southern Philippines, after a whirlwind year in America. About a year and a half ago, Kabang jumped in front of a motorcycle to save the lives of two young girls. Dina Bunggal, who lives with the mixed breed pup, and her cousin, Princess Diansing, were playing with the dog when a motorcycle headed their way showed no signs of stopping. Kabang threw herself in front of the moving vehicle, protecting the girls and loosing half of her face in the process. Local authorities advised Dina's father, Rudy, to euthanize Kabang, but he refused. However, the severe injuries were not treatable in the Philippines. After word got out about Kabang's story, a nurse from Buffalo, N.Y. spearheaded a fundraising campaign to bring the pup to the United States for treatment. Care for Kabang raised over $20,000 from 22 countries to cover the cost of surgeries, visas, and airfare. Veterinarian Anton Lim accompanied Kabang to California where she spent seven months in the the University of California Davis veterinary hospital. They were unable to reconstruct her snout and jaw, but the hospital was able to successfully care for her extensive wounds. Kabang's treatment was complicated by heartworm, which had to be treated before the wound on her face was closed, and a cancerous tumor, which is now in remission after six weeks of chemotherapy.
Kabang finally returned home to her family last week, riding in a motorcade through streets filled with local fans. The final destination was Municipal Hall, where Mayor Celso Lobregat bestowed the title "Pride of Zamboanga" on the pup.The medical side of Kabang's journey alone is pretty amazing. Her veterinarians say that she remained upbeat throughout all of the endless treatments. But the best part of Kabang's story is the loyalty--how a little mutt saved the lives of two girls and how the world came together to get Kabang the treatment she needed.
Is he up for it?
For the next three months John Oliver will be temp hosting “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” while Stewart is off making a movie. Last year when I had the good fortune to be invited to do a behind-the-scenes feature about The Daily Show’s dogs, I talked with Oliver about his Golden Retriever pup Hoagie, his first-ever dog. I asked him about imagining having her on the show with him, perhaps playing the “straight woman” to his more biting, take-down persona that he assumes as a “news correspondent” on the show. He replied that just wouldn’t work because “fundamentally” she would “humanize” him. And that Hoagie wouldn’t let him “do my job, it would bring up too much compassion whenever she is around.”
We were reminded of that seeing a recent interview with the New York Times when Oliver noted that “all of my interview training is built around trying to take someone down.” But he recognizes that has to change now that he is sitting in Stewart’s chair, and he goes on to say that “When you have, say, Seth Rogen in front of you, the point is not to destroy him and the construct of beliefs he’s built up over his lifetime. It’s going to be talking to him about his new movie. It will be nice just to have a broader conversation where jokes can occur, but the primary focus is to have an interesting interview. It’ll be nice to be nicer to people.”
So can we suggest to Oliver that if he finds it challenging making the leap into jocular “nice host” affability that he look dogward to his Hoagie who can “assist” him to play the part. Or as Jon Stewart told us “there is nothing better than dogs, and they bring on the best in us too, nothing better.” Being a Golden, she definitely would be a natural and have the guests eating out of her hand, or vice versa.
Either way, we’ll be rooting for Oliver. He really is a hilarious guy who kept us in stitches and howling throughout our chat.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Similar brain abnormalities in both species
A new study has found that Doberman pinschers with canine compulsive disorder (CCD) have abnormalities in brain structure that are much like the ones in humans who have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The study, conducted by eleven researchers, is called “Brain structural abnormalities in Doberman pinschers with canine compulsive disorder” and was published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
The research suggests that more research about anxiety disorders in dogs may be a promising avenue for developing new ways to treat them in people. It also stands to reason that more research about anxiety in people may prove fruitful in finding new ways to alleviate suffering for dogs with similar problems.
Canines with CCD and humans with OCD typically perform repetitive behaviors. In humans, excessive hand-washing and endless checking that appliances are off or that doors are locked are common. In dogs, common behaviors are flank-sucking, blanket-sucking, licking and tail chasing. In both species, anxiety disorders can interfere with quality of life and daily routines, and can also cause injury as skin is chafed and rubbed raw by licking, washing, or sucking.
It’s no big surprise that the brains of affected individuals have similarities. After all, it has been known for a long time that members of both species exhibit related symptoms and respond to the same medications, and that there’s a genetic basis for these disorders in dogs as well as in humans. Still, the discovery that brain abnormalities are also alike adds to our understanding of the parallel nature of anxiety disorders in us and in our best friends.
New Order, William Wegman and Fay, the adroit dog
The “gotta-dance-to-it” song “Blue Monday” by New Order was originally released on March 7, 1983 and went on to be the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. We are late in mentioning the 30th anniversary of its release, but it still stands out as one of the favorite tunes of Bark’s editors and staff. We have another great excuse to write about it because in 1988 the Manchester group asked William Wegman (one of our favorite dog photographers and artist) to produce this four- minute-long video starring—besides the band members—Wegman’s young Weimaraner-muse, Fay.
New Order-Blue Monday from Resistol 5000 on Vimeo.
Back in 2011, William Wegman posted his remembrance about how this collaboration came about:
“About twenty years ago, Michael Shamberg (not the one that was involved with TVTV and later produced ‘Pulp Fiction,’ but the art world one, who was also involved with filming and producing) invited me and the fabled Robert Breer to collaborate on a video for New Order's song “Blue Monday.” The rough idea was that I would shoot video of the group performing and give it to Robert to work with his animation process.
I had just begun to work with my dog Fay who was about a year old at the time. Fay was obsessive about the tennis ball. Her eyes bulged in its presence. Some of the band members were Fay-like, I thought. (I’m not sure what I mean by that.) Nevertheless they got along well as I shot video of the group and Fay's hypnotic ball/pendulum involvement.
I liked the song but I have no idea what our video means to it.”
Hope you like this song and the video. For another memorable and very unique version performed in 2012 by the Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir from Wales. And to see a more current version by New Order and more of their music, see a great concert video of their 2012 Berlin appearance.
We think Blue Monday is a perfect song to get up and dance with your pup on Monday—or any day for that matter. Do you have a favorite song to dance to with your dog?
News: Guest Posts
Really need you
I’ve always had a soft spot for old dogs. The gray muzzles and cloudy eyes get to me every time. One of my own dogs, Rocky, a rescued Pug/Chihuahua mix, is quite elderly at around 14 years of age. He recently had a couple of major seizures and became completely paralyzed from the neck down. A day of intensive care at the vet gave a poor prognosis. He did not seem to be in pain so I made the sad decision to bring him home for the family to say good-bye and then have the vet come to our home the next day.
Strangely, Rocky was coherent and did not seem upset about his predicament. I turned him every few hours and offered water which he lapped with help. The next morning I propped him up and offered a little breakfast which he managed to eat. I then took him out and held him up by his favorite bush where he peed before I settled him back on his cushy bed. I held off on calling the vet since he seemed comfortable. To my great joy, over the next several weeks he regained most of his function and returned to his previous frisky, happy self, even racing on the beach again.
Each day with Rocky is a blessing but I see many elderly dogs, in the course of my work as an animal control officer, who are not so lucky. They sit in shelters, unwanted and unloved. It’s heartbreaking to see these old souls peering through the chain link at the world or sleeping the day away alone.
Old dogs deserve to spend their last days snug in a cozy bed, getting their ears scratched and having walks and playtime with someone who loves them. I often foster shelter dogs who need some care before going to a forever home. Usually these are moms with litters, orphaned pups or dogs needing some behavior modification. I recently fostered two darling seniors who were left behind in a foreclosed home. Maggie the Beagle and McKenzie the Chihuahua sat forlornly at the shelter, day after day. They had a heated floor, cushy blankets and good food but they were depressed and overlooked on the adoption floor.
Maggie at maybe 10 years old, was overweight and grouchy with dogs other than McKenzie. Little McKenzie, who was probably closer to 15 years old, was tiny, underweight and very frail. She was also prone to nip if startled. The volunteers and staff adored them and I promoted them shamelessly to my friends and on Facebook but still no takers.
Finally I packed up the two old girls and took them home to foster. I have four dogs of my own so it was a challenge with Maggie’s dog issues and I worried about fragile McKenzie in my busy household. One wrong footstep from my Great Dane would probably kill her. Still, I made it work.
I fell in love with the two sweet old girls and the judicious use of X-pens and separate dog yards kept everyone safe and happy. Maggie’s issues improved as she settled in and tiny McKenzie especially stole my heart. Had it just been her, I would have kept her in a heartbeat. The two were incredibly bonded though and after all they had been through I couldn’t bear to split them up. They were actually pretty easy and after a month or so I found a delightful home for them with a sweet woman who had seen them on the web. I dripped sappy tears of joy as I watched them drive away.
A month or two later I ran into them at the beach. Maggie and her adopter had both lost a few pounds and looked fabulous, while little McKenzie had gained muscle and was stronger. All three looked incredibly happy which made my day.
It’s on my life’s list to adopt an old dog someday, after Rocky passes and my younger dogs settle down. I want to bring in some old, neglected dog and pamper them for whatever time they have left. Sure they aren’t going to be around as long but people are starting to understand how much easier they can be and the rewards of adopting them. For some people who can’t make a 10 or 15 year commitment, it’s a perfect fit to give a dog the life they deserve for a few months to a few years.
I would love to hear from readers who have fostered and adopted old dogs. Share with us the joys and difficulties of bringing a senior pet into your home.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Research looks at the effects of pets on former drug abusers
Dog lovers know that our pets can cheer us up on a bad day, but new research shows that they may have a significant effect on our brain chemistry.
Lindsay Ellsworth, a doctoral candidate at the Washington State University, is using shelter dogs as part of a mood-boosting therapy program for teenagers recovering from drug and alcohol abuse at Excelsior Youth Center in Spokane, Wash.
To study the program's effects, Lindsay separates participants into two groups once a week for one hour. One group plays games, such as billiards or basketball and the second group interacts with shelter dogs.
Before and after the activity, participants identify 60 mood descriptors as part of a emotion scale called PANAS-X. Those who spent time with the dogs showed an increase in joviality, positive affect (a psychology term for the experience of feeling or emotion), attentiveness, and serenity. They also showed a decrease in overall sadness. This is important because many of the teens are also being treated for ADHD, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Even Lindsay was surprised at how calm the teens were around the dogs and at the overall decrease in outbursts and hyperactivity. She hypothesizes that the feel good chemical dopamine (the same chemical released when we clicker train our pups!) is released in the teens' brains as they anticipate the canine interaction and that social companionship with the pups may also stimulate opiod release, a chemical linked to calming and anti-depression.
Lindsay is hopeful that dogs could naturally help restore the normal function of these critical chemical messengers after the brain's chemistry has been altered through drug use.
Starting this summer, Lindsay will be expanding her research to look at how dogs can influence the teens' engagement in group therapy and cooperation in structured activities.
The prospect of a natural, low-cost behavior intervention is pretty exciting and even cooler that it gives shelter pups a job. I'm looking forward to hearing more about Lindsay's upcoming research!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Well-suited for fighting pollution
If ever there was a situation of a working dog doing what comes naturally, it’s Sable sniffing out sewage leaks. A dog whose job is to smell poop is about as natural a fit as a teenager whose job is to play video games.
Sable is a 7-year old rescue dog who is helping the people of Beckley, W. Va. by finding the source of sewage leaks that are polluting local waterways. She was hired through a state Department of Environmental Protection grant to the Piney Creel Watershed Association. Sable works for a group called Environmental Canine Services in Michigan.
The sewage system in the area where Sable has been sniffing out leaks is old and needs repairs in a lot of places. Because much of the system is buried, it is difficult for people to figure out where to put their efforts. When Sable catches a whiff of human waste, she barks to let her handlers know. By pointing out the areas of actual leaks, she is saving the community a lot of time and money so that they can focus on those areas that need immediate repair.
I’ve had several jobs that I truly loved and that really suited me, but I don’t think I’ll ever be quite as well matched to my work as Sable is to hers.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pesky bugs are now a year round problem
Ticks drive me crazy, especially since I spend so much time hiking in wooded areas. And these pesky creatures are persistent even outside of prime conditions. I try to avoid using chemical-laden tick preventatives year round, figuring the pups are safe in the winter, but this year one of my friends spotted a tick on her dog in January! Unfortunately this problem is only getting worse because tick populations have exploded in the past ten years--meaning more ticks and more affected areas (did you know that ticks can even be found in Antarctica?!). Scientists attribute this increase to mild winters, suburbanization (bringing people and wildlife in closer proximity), an increase in white-tailed deer, migratory birds that carry ticks to new areas, a movement towards preserving open space and trees, and the use of fewer insecticides. These factors have also made my habit of skipping winter tick preventatives a bit misguided. Dr. Michael Dryden, a veterinary parasitology professor at Kansas State University, says that it has to be at least ten degrees Fahrenheit for some time to kill a tick. If the temperature drops overnight then warms back up, that doesn't do the trick. Ticks can also survive under a blanket of snow, which actually provides shelter (go figure!). Additionally there are some species, like the Black-Legged Tick, found on the East Coast of the United States, that actually thrives in the winter months from October to February. In addition to being vigilant year round, a recent study out of Vienna's Institute of Parasitology discovered a significant different in the effectiveness of acaricide anti-tick treatments (a category that includes Frontline and K9 Advantix) in practice versus in the laboratory. They suspect this is due to people not applying the product consistently or according to the directions. Veterinarians often see new tick species and diseases before medical doctors, since dogs spend so much time outdoors, making our pups important to both human and canine health initiatives. After reading these studies, I'll certainly be checking for ticks and applying Frontline Plus no matter how cold it is outside!
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