FDA Issues Updated Warning About Dog Bone Treats

The US Food and Drug Administration has recently issued a revised warning about giving your dog packaged “bone treats.”  While there are also dangers in giving your dog real bones you get from the butcher, the FDA is emphasizing the health risks of processed and packaged bone treats.

These bone treats are sold at many brick and mortar and online retail outlets.  They may be labelled as pork femur bones, ham bones, rib bones, or smoked knuckle bones.  The bones are dried by smoking or baking, and contain preservatives and flavorings.

What are the health risks of bone treats?  The FDA has received reports from veterinarians and pet owners on the following issues:

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Choking
  • Cuts and other wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Risk of death (15 cases of dogs dying after eating bone treats have been reported)

Other problems with the treats themselves, such as mold and splinters, have also been reported.

The FDA recommends these common-sense tips to keep your dog safe around bones and bone treats:

  • Keep dishes of your food scraps that contain bones (especially small bones like chicken) out of reach of pets.
  • Monitor your dog around the trash if you throw away bones or poultry carcasses.
  • Talk to your vet about safe chew toy options (like Kongs) as a replacement for bones and bone treats.
  • Remember to supervise your dog around all chew toys and treats to prevent accidental ingestion.

 

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Scientists Study Wolf Puppies to Learn About the Domestication of Dogs

Experts agree that dogs evolved from a now-extinct species of wolf over 15,000 years ago.  The move from wild predator to human companion began with a practical realization on the part of a few of those wolves…that if they overcame their fear and hung around our settlements they’d get an easy meal of leftover food scraps.

But how did the first wolves understand that living near people would be beneficial to them?  And how did they pass that knowledge on to subsequent generations?  An intensive study of modern wolf puppy behavior is providing scientists with evidence on the keys to domestication.

An in-depth article and accompanying video in The New York Times about a wolf puppy study taking place in Canada describes some important clues to how wolves became dogs.

Researchers working with wolf pups discovered that if the pups experience close human contact when very young, they can overcome their natural fear response, which kicks in as they mature.  There is a critical period in a wolf puppy’s development that determines if a pup is afraid or curious when exposed to new things.

The researchers are studying the puppies’ DNA as well as their behavior to better understand the genetic basis for the development of anxiety vs. sociability in wolves.  The research could ultimately lead to a greater understanding of dog (and human) development as well.

Check out the informative — and adorable! — video here:

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000005162472

 

Humane Society of Utah Says “No Thank You” to Food Donation from Pet Store

A recent news story from the Salt Lake Tribune will have animal advocates cheering for the Humane Society of Utah!   Like many animal welfare organizations, Utah Humane is opposed to pet stores selling puppy mill-bred animals for profit.  So, when they found out that a donated pallet of dog food came from a pet store called the Puppy Barn, they said “Thanks, but no thanks.”

According to the article, the Humane Society discovered that the donation came from a pet store after the owners of the Puppy Barn posted a self-congratulatory video of the food purchase and donation on their social media accounts.

Administrators at HSU promptly sent the pet store a check for $900 (the estimated cost of the food) and informed them that they do not accept donations from companies that don’t share their mission.  They also asked the Puppy Barn to take the video down.  A Humane Society employee accepted the donation, not realizing the donors were pet store owners.  After finding out, she was “upset” to have been shown in the video, thanking them for the food.

HSU notes that many animals sold as babies via pet stores often end up in animal shelters as they grow into adults, lose their cuteness, and become harder to handle for inexperienced owners.  As officials at HSU say, “We don’t want to promote buying puppies when we deal every day with trying to find them homes.”

 

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!

 

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.