Video: Meet “The Dogist” – Instagram’s Most Popular Pet Photographer

Who doesn’t love browsing cute pet photos on the Internet?  If you love a good dog portrait, then chances are Elias Weiss Friedman, aka The Dogist, is your favorite pet photographer.  Elias has nearly 3 million followers on Instagram, as well as a website called The Dogist.  Elias has been traveling all over the world for the past several years, taking beautiful photographs of the dogs that he meets in cities on his travels.

Check out this video to learn more about the man who just might have the world’s best job!

 

Advertisements

Efforts Underway to Help the Pets of Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

The citizens of Puerto Rico are facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  Damage from the hurricane as well as shortages of clean drinking water, food, and fuel are creating huge challenges for both residents and aid workers.  What about the animals of Puerto Rico?  The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently posted an update on the situation via their blog, A Humane Nation.

HSUS and the Humane Society International (HSI) have been working in Puerto Rico for the past 3 years on the Humane Puerto Rico program, which is designed to support animal welfare on the islands of Puerto Rico and Vieques.  HSUS reports that Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares will be signing an executive order that facilitates collaboration between Puerto Rico, HSUS, and HSI on the care, transport, placement, and veterinary health of the island’s at-risk animals.

HSUS is preparing to transport homeless pets from Puerto Rico to the mainland U.S., where they will be placed with approximately 400 Emergency Placement Partners and prepared for adoption.  In addition to working with U.S. shelters, they’ll also be partnering with other organizations like Wings of Rescue to coordinate the transfer of animals.

While assessment of the situation for Puerto Rico’s pets and shelter animals is still in its earliest stages because of damage to communications and roads, preliminary reports suggest that the wild horse population of Vieques has suffered major casualties, and hundreds of race horses on the main island are also facing challenges.

As HSUS notes, “Puerto Rico is part of the United States. We will double down on our work there to help them through this great crisis, with our full focus, energy, and resolve. This was a 100-year storm, and there’s been so much loss. And to be sure, there is hardship ahead. If there’s ever been a time for the nation to rush in to help Puerto Rico, that time is now.”

 

How Your Pet’s Health Can Affect Your Own Well-Being

If you are living with a seriously (or terminally) ill dog, cat, or other companion animal, then you know how stressful that can be.  A recent study published in the Veterinary Record has found that your pet’s health problems have a very real impact on your emotional health.  Caregivers for sick pets are much more likely to suffer from stress, depression, and anxiety than the owners of healthy animals.

Research conducted by Kent State University scientists surveyed 119 owners of dogs and cats with a chronic or terminal illness and 119 owners of healthy pets.  Not surprisingly, the “caregiver burden” was much greater in the owners of the sick pets, who showed more symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression—as well as an overall lower quality of life and poorer psycho-social functioning—than the people who lived with healthy pets.

The researchers note that the concept of caregiver burden in pet owners needs to be better understood by veterinarians, so that they can recognize and help clients who show signs of stress and depression.  They suggest that vets can even partner with mental health professionals to support their clients.

In an editorial that accompanies the article, the authors note that the stress of caring for a seriously or terminally ill pet can be as substantial as that of caring for a very sick human family member.  But caregivers for ill humans have a significant support network (nurses, home health aides, hospice, etc.) that pet owners do not have.  The authors argue that this is why it’s so important for veterinarians to be well-trained in how to handle client distress in difficult situations.

 

Nutmeg, World’s Oldest Cat, Passes Away at 32

Many pet health experts consider cats to be “senior” after the age of 7.  If your cat has reached the age of 20, then he or she is definitely in the senior range.  But what about a 32-year old cat?  That’s roughly the equivalent of 144 human years!  One British cat named Nutmeg reached the ripe old age of 32 before passing on in late August.

According to Nutmeg’s owners, interviewed in a recent People Magazine article, this sweet guy enjoyed very robust health for most of his long life.  He lost most of his teeth and did suffer a stroke back in 2015, but he recovered and went on to live two more years.  His owners, a couple with no children, considered Nutmeg to be their child.  “We both feel like our hearts have been ripped out.  He was our little boy,” they said.  Anyone who’s ever lost a beloved pet, regardless of age, knows that feeling.

Here’s a video of Nutmeg from back in 2016.  His owner lovingly refers to him as a bit of a grumpy grandpa, but it’s obvious that he was a real sweetheart!

 

Image of Nutmeg from Westway Veterinary Group Facebook page.

Study Shows MRI Scans Help Find Best Service Dog Candidates

In the ongoing effort to understand what our pets are thinking, researchers have been performing MRI scans on dogs’ brains for the past several years.  A recent canine brain scan study conducted by scientists at Emory University may help determine which dogs will make the best service dogs.

43 service dogs in training with the organization Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) underwent MRI scans to determine what makes a successful service dog.  While all the dogs in the study had outwardly calm temperaments, the scans revealed that some of the dogs had higher levels of activity in the area of the brain associated with excitability.  These dogs were more likely to fail the training program.

Scanning potential service dogs early in the training process could be very beneficial for organizations like CCI, since it can cost as much as $50,000 to fully train one dog.  70% of dogs that start a training program will drop out due to behavioral issues.  Since there are always waiting lists for good service dogs, it would be efficient to weed out problematic candidates at the beginning.

Without the MRI scan, the early identification of dogs that would ultimately fail training had a 47% success rate.  With the scan, the predictability of failure went up to a 67% success rate.

How did researchers test the dogs?  While in the MRI machine, dogs were given hand signals for “treat” or “no treat.”  The successful service dog candidates did show activity in a part of the brain associated with rewards when given the sign for “treat” but they did not show excessive activity in the excitability area of the brain.  In contrast, the less successful candidates showed more excitability with the “treat” signal, including when signaled by strangers, a trait which trainers consider to be a red flag for service dogs.

Interested in learning more?  You can read the full text of the article on the website for Scientific Reports HERE.

 

Top image of some very good study participants:  Dr. Gregory Berns, Emory University.