Posts Tagged ‘dog’

Can dogs sniff out COVID-19?

Posted: April 11, 2020 in Uncategorized
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by MARY JO DILONARDO

In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, dogs might soon be on the front lines.

Researchers in the U.K. believe they can train dogs to detect COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Dogs with a heightened sense of smell may be able to sniff out patients who have the disease even if they aren’t showing symptoms.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) are working with Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University to prepare a team of canines to help diagnosis the virus quickly and in a hands-off way.

“It’s early days for COVID-19 odor detection,” James Logan, head of LSHTM’s Department of Disease Control, said in a statement. “We do not know if COVID-19 has a specific odor yet, but we know that other respiratory diseases change our body odor, so there is a chance that it does. And if it does, dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic tool could revolutionize our response to COVID-19.”
The three groups recently collaborated to show that dogs can be trained to detect malaria.

“In principle, we’re sure that dogs could detect COVID-19. We are now looking into how we can safely catch the odor of the virus from patients and present it to the dogs,” said Dr. Claire Guest, CEO and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs.

“The aim is that dogs will be able to screen anyone, including those who are asymptomatic, and tell us whether they need to be tested. This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited [National Health Service] testing resources are only used where they are really needed.”

Specially trained canines have been taught to sniff out various conditions ranging from cancer to Parkinson’s disease. Their noses are built for that kind of work. Dogs have about 300 million olfactory receptor cells in their noses, compared to only about 5 million in humans.

Dogs are being trained to search for COVID-19 in the same way they’ve been taught to hunt for these other diseases. They sniff samples in a training room and alert their handlers when they’ve found the virus. Researchers say dogs can be trained to discern slight changes in skin temperature, so there’s the potential to detect if someone has a fever. The diagnosis would then be confirmed with a medical test.

The dogs must have a very acute sense of smell to be trained to sniff for medical conditions.

“We have four or five dogs ready to go into training right now,” Logan told CityLab. “If we were able to deploy them within a month or two, we could screen maybe 4,000 to 5,000 people per day. In the short-term, there are some locations where dogs might be appropriate to use, such as screening medical or care staff, or people going into schools and other community areas.”

The team expects the training to cost about £1 million ($1.2 million U.S.). As of April 8, about $3,800 had been raised in crowdfunding to help support the project. They hope to have the dogs trained in the next six to eight weeks.

The dogs will not come in direct contact with people, but will only sniff the air around them, according to Medical Detection Dogs. Infectious disease experts and human and animal health organizations agree there’s no evidence the pets spread the virus to people. There have been a handful of cases where dogs, a cat and a tiger tested positive for the virus, but in all instances researchers believe the animals contracted the virus from people.

“If the research is successful, we could use COVID-19 detection dogs at airports at the end of the epidemic to rapidly identify people carrying the virus,” said Professor Steve Lindsay from Durham University. “This would help prevent the re-emergence of the disease after we have brought the present epidemic under control.”

https://www.mnn.com/family/pets/stories/can-dogs-sniff-out-covid-19?utm_source=Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d91c69bb97-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_FRI0410_2020&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fcbff2e256-d91c69bb97-40844241

by Gege Li

Dogs pay much closer attention to what humans say than we realised, even to words that are probably meaningless to them.

Holly Root-Gutteridge at the University of Sussex, UK, and her colleagues played audio recordings of people saying six words to 70 pet dogs of various breeds. The dogs had never heard these voices before and the words only differed by their vowels, such as “had”, “hid” and “who’d”.

Each recording was altered so the voices were at the same pitch, ensuring that the only cue the dogs had was the difference between vowels, rather than how people said the words.

After hearing the recordings just once, 48 of the dogs reacted when either the same speaker said a new word or the same word was said by a different speaker. The remainder either didn’t visibly respond or got distracted.

The team based its assessment of the dogs’ reactions on how long they paid attention when the voice or word changed – if the dogs moved their ears or shifted eye contact, for example, it showed that they noticed the change. In contrast, when the dogs heard the same word repeated several times, their attention waned.

Until now, it was thought that only humans could detect vowels in words and realise that these sounds stay the same across different speakers. But the dogs could do both spontaneously without any previous training.

“I was surprised by how well some of the dogs responded to unfamiliar voices,” says Root-Gutteridge. “It might mean that they comprehend more than we give them credit for.”

This ability may be the result of domestication, says Root-Guttridge, as dogs that pay closer attention to human sounds are more likely to have been chosen for breeding.

The work highlights the strength of social interactions between humans and dogs, says Britta Osthaus at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK. “It would be interesting to see whether a well-trained dog would react differently to the command of ‘sat’ instead of ‘sit’,” she says.

Journal reference: Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0555

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2225746-dogs-have-a-better-ear-for-language-than-we-thought/#ixzz679cb3PFN

By Ashley Strickland

Dogs and their sensitive noses are known for finding people during search and rescue efforts, sniffing out drugs and even diseases like cancer. But the powerful canine nose can also act like radar for other things that are hidden from our sight.

Now, they’re acting like watchdogs for endangered species and assisting with conservation efforts.
Organizations like Working Dogs for Conservation train dogs to identify the scents of endangered animals and their droppings, which helps scientists track species that may be declining.

Tracking animal scat, or fecal matter, can reveal where endangered species live, how many of them are living in an area and what might be threatening them. And it’s a less stressful way of monitoring species than trapping and releasing them.

Previously, conversation dogs have successfully tracked the San Joaquin kit fox, gray wolves, cougars, bobcats, moose, river otters, American minks, black-footed ferrets and even the North Atlantic right whale, according to a new study published Wednesday in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

In the new study, scientists trained conservation dogs to focus on a new kind of animal: reptiles. They wanted to track the elusive and endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard in the San Joaquin Valley. The experienced conservation dogs, including one female German shepherd and two male border collies, were trained to detect the scent of the lizard’s scat.

Then, the scientists could retrieve the samples and determine the gender, population genetics, diet, hormones, parasites, habitat use and health of the lizards. Humans have a difficult time identifying such small samples by sight because they are hard to distinguish from the environment. They can also be very similar to other scat.

The blunt-nosed leopard lizard is a fully protected species in California. It’s endangered because its habitat has been destroyed. Surveying the species and their habitat can help scientists to understand if existing conservation efforts are helping.

Over four years, scientists took the dogs out to the desert to detect and collect samples. The dogs would signal their discovery by laying down next to the scat. Then, they would be rewarded by a toy or play session.

Working between one and two hours a day, the dogs went out with survey teams from the end of April to mid May, when the lizards would emerge from brumation, otherwise known as reptile hibernation, according to the study. The dogs were trained not to approach the lizards if they saw them.

Over four years, they collected 327 samples and 82% of them were confirmed as belonging to blunt-nosed leopard lizards.

The researchers believe this method of tracking has potential and now they want to refine the method to see if it will work on a larger scale.

“So many reptilian species have been hit so hard,” said Mark Statham, lead study author and associate researcher with the Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “A large proportion of them are endangered or threatened. This is a really valuable way for people to be able to survey them.”

https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/30/world/conservation-dogs-endangered-lizard-scn/index.html?utm_source=The+Good+Stuff&utm_campaign=91b09c3d68-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_10_30_05_15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4cbecb3309-91b09c3d68-103653961

Dog ownership was linked to improved outcomes after a major CV event and with a lower risk for death in the long term, according to two studies published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

“The findings in these two well-done studies and analyses build upon prior studies and the conclusions of the 2013 American Heart Association Scientific Statement ‘Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk’ that dog ownership is associated with reductions in factors that contribute to cardiac risk and to cardiovascular events,” Glenn N. Levine, MD, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, director of the cardiac care unit at Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center in Houston and chair of the writing group of the AHA’s scientific statement on pet ownership, said in a press release. “Further, these two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality.”

Study on Swedish patients

Mwenya Mubanga, MD, PhD, assistant undergoing research training in the department of medical sciences, molecular epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden, and colleagues analyzed data from 181,696 patients with MI (mean age, 71 years; 64% men) and 154,617 patients with stroke (mean age, 73 years; 55% men) between 2001 and 2012 from the Swedish National Patient Register. Patients were aged 40 to 85 years and did not have an event between 1997 and 2001. Information on dog ownership was collected from two dog registers, as dogs are required to be registered in Sweden since 2001.

Death was the main outcome that was assessed in this study. A secondary outcome included rehospitalization for the same event after 30 days.

Dog ownership accounted for 5.7% of patients with MI and 4.8% of those with stroke.

During 804,137 person-years of follow-up for patients with MI, dog owners had a reduced risk for death after hospitalization, which was seen in those who lived alone (adjusted HR = 0.67; 95% CI, 0.61-0.75) and those who lived with a partner or child (aHR = 0.85; 95% CI, 0.8-0.9).

Similar results were seen for patients with ischemic stroke during 638,219 person-years of follow-up. The adjusted HR for patients who owned a dog and lived alone was 0.73 (95% CI, 0.66-0.8) and 0.88 for those who owned a dog and lived with a partner or child (95% CI, 0.83-0.93).

Dog ownership was also associated with a reduced risk for hospitalization for recurrent MI (HR = 0.93; 95% CI, 0.87-0.99).

“One mechanism may be an increased motivation for engagement in consistent physical activity in dog owners, a factor regarded important in post-event recovery of cognition, arm function, balance and gait,” Mubanga and colleagues wrote. “Another explanation is reduced risk of depression, an important risk factor for death after myocardial infarction.”

Systematic review, meta-analysis

In another study from the same publication, Caroline K. Kramer, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at University of Toronto, and colleagues performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of data from 3,837,005 participants from 10 studies published between 1950 and May 24, 2019.

Studies were included if they included original data of prospective observational studies, included patients older than 18 years, reported CV mortality or all-cause mortality and evaluated dog ownership at baseline.

During a mean follow-up of 10.1 years, there were 530,515 deaths.

There was a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality in participants who owned a dog compared with those who did not (RR = 0.76; 95% CI, 0.67-0.86). Six studies showed a significant reduction in the risk for death in participants who owned a dog.

Participants with prior coronary events who lived in a home with a dog had an even more pronounced reduction in the risk for all-cause mortality (RR = 0.35; 95% CI, 0.17-0.69; I2 = 0%). When the analyses were restricted to studies that evaluated CV mortality, there was a 31% risk reduction for CV death in participants who owned a dog (RR = 0.69; 95% CI, 0.67-0.71; I2 = 5.1%).

“Taken together, our meta-analysis suggests the need for further investigation of the potential for dog ownership as a lifestyle intervention that may offer significant health benefits, particularly in populations at high risk for cardiovascular death,” Kramer and colleagues wrote.

https://www.healio.com/cardiology/vascular-medicine/news/online/%7B32f1f7e0-a796-4e8b-8a0d-75c32fa1de7d%7D/dog-ownership-may-improve-outcomes-reduce-mortality-risk-after-cv-events?utm_source=selligent&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=cardiology+news&m_bt=1162769038120


The teeth and jaw from the younger dog in the grave: This pup likely had canine distemper.

By Laura Geggel

Ancient people likely cared for a sick, domesticated pup for weeks on end before it died about 14,000 years ago during the Paleolithic era, a new study finds.

After it died, the dog was buried with the remains of another dog and an adult man and woman — making it not only the oldest burial of a domestic dog on record, but also the oldest known grave to contain both dogs and people, the researchers said.

This discovery suggests that even though the dog was young, sick and likely untrained as a result, ancient people still had an emotional bond with it, the researchers wrote in the study. This may explain why the people buried the animal with two of their own, the researchers said.

The grave itself was found in 1914 in Oberkassel, a suburb of Bonn in western Germany. Until now, however, researchers thought the burial contained two humans and just one dog. But a new analysis of the canid bones and teeth revealed that two dogs were in fact buried there: an older dog and a younger dog, which likely had a serious case of morbillivirus, better known as canine distemper.

The younger dog was about 28 weeks old when it died, the study’s lead researcher, Luc Janssens, a veterinarian and doctoral student of archaeology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said in a statement. A dental analysis showed that the pup likely contracted the disease at around 3 to 4 months of age, and likely had two or even three periods of serious illness, each lasting up to six weeks, Janssens said.

Canine distemper is a serious illness that has three phases. During the first week, infected dogs can show signs of high fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, tiredness, diarrhea and vomiting, the researchers wrote in the study. Up to 90 percent of dogs with distemper die during the second phase, when they can develop a stuffy nose, laryngitis and pneumonia. In the third phase, dogs experience neurological problems, including seizures.

There is now a vaccine for canine distemper, but unvaccinated dogs, as well as tigers and Amur leopards, can still die from the virus.

Given the severity of the disease, the ancient pup would have likely died right away unless it received intensive human care, the researchers said. “This would have consisted of keeping the dog warm and clean [from] diarrhea, urine, vomit [and] saliva,” as well as giving the pup water and possibly food, the researchers wrote in the study.

“While it was sick, the dog would not have been of any practical use as a working animal,” Janssens said. “This, together with the fact that the dogs were buried with people, who[m] we may assume were their owners, suggests that there was a unique relationship of care between humans and dogs as long as 14,000 years ago.”

The humans buried with the dogs had medical problems of their own. The roughly 40-year-old man had two healed bones, one on his arm and the other by his clavicle. He and the roughly 25-year-old woman also had moderate-to-severe dental disease, the researchers noted.

The grave also contained several artifacts, including a bone pin, a sculpture of an elk made from elk antlers, the penis bone of a bear and a red-deer tooth.

Although this finding is the oldest known domestic dog burial, it’s not the only ancient one. Other dog burials have been dated to about 11,600 years ago in the Near East, and archaeologists have found others dating to about 8,500 to 6,500 years ago in Scandinavia and about 8,000 years ago at the Koster Site in Illinois, the researchers said.

The study was published online Feb. 3 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

https://www.livescience.com/61717-oldest-dog-burial.html

by David Moye

Talk about exceeding expectations: A former runt of the litter has grown up to be the tallest dog in the world.

Guinness World Records declared Freddy, a 4-year-old Great Dane in Leigh-on-Sea, U.K., the world’s tallest living dog in December.

Claire Stoneman, his proud owner, announced the news on Dec. 20.

Freddy is officially 40.75 inches tall and a whopping 7 feet, 5.5 inches when standing on his hind legs, according to the International Business Times.

He comes close to the measurements of Zeus, a Great Dane from Otsego, Michigan, currently recognized by Guinness as the tallest dog to ever live. Zeus, who died in 2011 at the age of 5, measured in at 44 inches tall and 7 feet, 4 inches on his hind legs.

Freddy’s honor is especially amazing considering how tenuous his first weeks of life were, Stoneman said.

“I got him a couple of weeks earlier than I should have done because he wasn’t feeding off mum, so he was pretty poorly” she told IBT. “He was half the size of [his sister] Fleur when he was tiny so I had no idea he was going to be this big at all.”

As you might expect, Freddy has a big appetite.

Stoneman figures she spends about $123 a week on food, mostly whole roast chickens and peanut butter on toast, according to UPI.com.

Naturally, Freddy attracts a big crowd whenever he is out in public.

“If we go out in the daytime we get interrupted every five seconds,” she told the BBC. “Cars brake and stop to look at him.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/freddy-great-dane-tallest-dog_us_5866d251e4b0de3a08f877e9

By Jacqueline Howard

Whether you call them gray hairs or stress highlights, world-renowned animal scientist and autism advocate Temple Grandin wants you to know that dogs may get them prematurely, too — possibly when stressed, such as being left at home alone.

Premature graying in dogs may be an indicator of anxiety and impulsivity, according to a study published in this month’s edition of the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, in which Grandin served as a co-author.

Camille King, an animal behaviorist and owner of the Canine Education Center in Denver, noticed a few years ago that many impulsive and anxious dogs seemed to be prematurely turning gray. When King told Grandin about her observations, Grandin said she encouraged King to lead the research.

“The first thing I thought of when she told me that were the presidents, and how they age and get prematurely gray,” said Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University, referring to American commanders in chief.

“The fact that presidents turn prematurely gray was one of the things that made me encourage her to do the study,” Grandin said. “Basically, (the study findings) validated what she had seen in years of doing dog behavior work.”

The study, conducted at Northern Illinois University, involved 400 dogs, 4 years old or younger, with non-white-colored hair so the researchers could adequately determine degrees of graying.

“Normally, dogs wouldn’t be gray at age 4,” Grandin said.

The study, conducted at Northern Illinois University, involved 400 dogs, 4 years old or younger, with non-white-colored hair so the researchers could adequately determine degrees of graying.

“Normally, dogs wouldn’t be gray at age 4,” Grandin said.

Next, the researchers compared the survey responses with how much gray hair appeared on the dogs’ muzzles in their photos.
Grandin helped the researchers build a scoring system to measure the degrees of grayness: A score of 0 is “no gray;” 1 is for gray on the front of the nose only; 2 is for gray hair halfway up the muzzle; and 3 is “full gray.”

It turned out that a high grayness score was significantly and positively predicted by survey responses that indicated both high anxiety and impulsivity.

“Essentially, the results indicate that for each standard deviation increase in the measured trait, either anxiety or impulsiveness, the odds of being in a higher rating category of muzzle grayness increase 40% to 65%,” said Thomas Smith, a professor at Northern Illinois University’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, who was a co-author of the study.

Smith added that he was initially skeptical that a dog’s premature muzzle grayness might be linked to anxiety and impulsiveness.

“However, when we analyzed the data, the results actually were striking,” he said. “I was surprised.”
A similar association between stress and premature graying possibly could be found in other mammals, outside of humans and dogs, but more research is needed, Grandin said.

The new study appears to extend what has been previously seen in people — the relationship between stress and gray hair — to dogs, said Matt Kaeberlein, a professor and co-director of the University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project, who was not involved in the new study.

“There are a few things about this study that I really like. One is that it nicely illustrates another way in which dogs and humans are similar, specifically in this case, the way we interact with our environment to experience stress. I like the innovative approach of applying facial image recognition to dogs,” Kaeberlein said.

“I do think it’s important to keep in mind that while hair graying is a useful ‘biomarker’ of aging and experienced stress, it is not particularly precise. We should avoid interpreting causation from correlation,” he said about the study. “Many dogs and people get gray hair for reasons unrelated to their perception of stress or anxiety, so while anxiety (or) stress appears to cause hair graying, gray hair is not necessarily caused by anxiety or stress. In other words, just because your dog gets gray hair doesn’t mean she or he is stressed out.”

For instance, more research is needed to determine how much genetics might play a role not only in premature graying in young dogs but also how a dog might respond to stress, Grandin said. She added that additional research could also determine how much of the study results were influenced by anxiety and impulsivity, respectively.

“There’s probably some genetic influence where some dogs that are impulsive and anxious don’t turn gray. You see, that would be your genetic interaction, but when you take a big population of dogs, it statistically comes out that anxious and impulsive dogs are more likely to start turning gray before age 4,” Grandin said.

“Genetic factors are important, but genetic factors also can be modified by experience, so you can’t just say an animal’s hard-wired genetics, it’s not. It’s both. Both genetics and the environment are important,” she said.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/23/health/stress-dogs-gray-hair/index.html