Category: Science

Billy + Margot Dog Food Recall

Thank goodness for these recall notices.

Some may think that there are too many such dog food recalls but I would say thank goodness there is a system for reporting them.

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Real Pet Food Company Recalls Billy + Margot Dog Food

September 22, 2020 — Real Pet Food Company of Phoenix, Arizona, is voluntarily recalling Billy+Margot Wild Kangaroo and Superfoods Recipe because it may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

What’s Being Recalled?

The following product has been recalled:

  • Billy + Margot Wild Kangaroo and Superfoods Recipe
  • Package: 4-pound bag
  • Lot code: V 07 Feb 2022

This recall does not affect any other Billy + Margot products or those sold outside of the USA.

What Caused the Recall?

The recall is a result of a routine sampling program by state officials which revealed that the finished products contained the bacteria.

The company has ceased the production and distribution of the product.

The FDA and the company will continue their investigation as to what caused the problem.

About Salmonella

Salmonella can affect animals eating the products… and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products.

While no illnesses have been reported, healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.

Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms.

Owners exhibiting any signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare provider.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea, fever, vomiting and or abdominal pain.

Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans.

If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

What to Do?

Retailers who have received product from the affected lot code have been asked to remove this product from shelves immediately and dispose of the product with care.

If you have purchased Billy + Margot Wild Kangaroo and Superfoods Recipe in a 4 lb bag, with lot code V 07 Feb 2022 from any retail store nationally, please stop feeding the product to your dogs, dispose of this product immediately, wash your hands accordingly, and sanitize affected surfaces.

Consumers who have purchased the recalled products may call Real Pet Food between 8 am and 10 pm EST immediately for a refund or for additional information at : 1-800-467-5494.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 800-467-5494 during the above times.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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Please share this post if you are able to do so.

And please keep your dogs safe and sound!

 

The fate of the world!

Whichever way you look there are substantial challenges.

This post is largely a republication of a recent post from Patrice Ayme. Because when I read it I was profoundly affected. I thought that it needed to be shared with all you good people because if nothing is done then life as we know it is going to come to an end. Period! That includes our gorgeous dogs as well as us humans! So, please, please read it all the way through!

But before Patrice’s post is presented The Economist this last week came out with a special report entitled Business and climate change. I offer a small extract:


For most of the world, this year will be remembered mainly for covid-19. Starting in Asia, then spreading across Europe and America before taking hold in the emerging world, the pandemic has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands. And it has devastated economies even more severely that did the global financial crisis which erupted in 2008.

But the impact of covid-19 has also given a sense of just how hard it will be to deal with climate change. As economic activity has stalled, energy-related CO2 emissions have fallen sharply. This year the drop will be between 4% and 7%. But to have a decent chance of keeping Earth’s mean temperature less than 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels, net emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases must fall to more or less zero by mid-century. And such a drop needs to be achieved not by halting the world economy in its tracks, but by rewiring it.

The next section in the special report was A grim outlook and it was, indeed, a very grim read.

So onto Patrice’s article.

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Back To The Jurassic In A Hurry: 500 Part Per Million Of Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases (GHG) used to be 280 parts per million. Now they are around 500 ppm (including CH4, Nitrogen oxides, chlorofluorocarbons, etc.). This is more GHG than in at least thirty  million years, when the Earth was much warmer, and it is similar to CO2 densities during the Jurassic.

So we are presently transiting to a Jurassic climate. The transition to the Jurassic climate is happening at a rate many orders of magnitude faster than changes in the past. This implies that most forests of the Earth , desiccating and incapable to adapt fast enough, are going to burn… worldwide. This generalized combustion has a drastic potential consequence: generalized hypoxia.

So we should talk about climate catastrophe rather than climate change, and global heating rather than global warming: recent fires got helped by temperatures dozen of degrees higher than normal, in part from compression of the air due to record breaking winds. This is why parts of the Pacific Northwest which never burn are now burning. This will extend to Canada, Alaska, Siberia and already did in recent years. The catastrophic massive release of frozen methane hydrates could happen any time (it already does, but not as bad as it is going to get). It has up to one hundred times more warming power than CO2 (fires release it by billions of tons).

What is the way out? Well, hydrogen is the solution, in two ways, but has not been deployed as it could be. A decade ago, thermonuclear fusion, on the verge of becoming a solution, was starved for funding, and so was green hydrogen (the then energy secretary, Obama’s Steven Chu, prefered investing in batteries, it was more lucrative for his little greedy self).

Green hydrogen enables to store energy for renewables, avoiding blackouts which cut electricity to pumps to fight fires.

We, Spaceship Earth, went from 275 ppm of GreenHouse Gases (GHG) in 1750 CE to 500 ppm in 2020. That doesn’t mean we double the Greenhouse, because the main GHG gas is… water vapor (H2O). What we can guess the best at this point is the EXCESS radiative forcing since 1750 CE, and that’s already nearly 3 Watts per square meter… Equivalent to a million and a half nuclear reactors at full power…

Climate forcing is a fascinating subject, with vast areas without a high level of scientific understanding (LOSU). However we know enough to realize forceful mitigation has to be engaged in immediately.

Joan Katsareas from Philadelphia, PA wrote back: “Thank you @Patrice Ayme for sharing your knowledge of the causes and extent of the climate crisis. I will be seeking out more information on hydrogen as a solution.”

@Joan Katsareas Thank you for thanking me, that is much appreciated. Hydrogen is indeed the overall solution we need at this point. Actually Australia, in collaboration with Japan, is building a gigantic, 15 Gigawatts, project in north west Australia, AREH, the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, to convert renewables from sun and wind into hydrogen products which will then be shipped to Japan. The same needs to be done all over, it would collapse the price of “green hydrogen” (99% of the US hydrogen is from fossil fuels).

In the case of thermonuclear fusion, the  international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) being built in France was slowed down by ten years, from reduced funding, and uses obsolete magnets (superconducting, but not High Temperature Superconductors, which can now be engineered with more compact and powerful fields). A massive effort would bring a positive energy thermonuclear reactor within 10 years… But that effort has not been made… except in China, the usual suspect, where a project, the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR), aims at an energy gain of 12 and a total power equivalent to a fission nuclear reactor. Its detailed engineering has been launched for a while (it’s supposedly symbiotic with the European DEMO project, which will produced as much as a large power station and will be connected to the grid. That too has been delayed, to the 2050s, although it’s feasible now).  The USA needs to launch a similar project, right away.

We face ecological constraints incomparably more severe than those of the Roman state. Rome did not solve its paltry problems, and let them fester: they had to do mostly with a dearth of metals, and the Franks solved them readily. This hindered the Roman economy. The situation we are facing, the threat of a runaway greenhouse is a terminal existential threat.

Look at Venus, we can look at our sparkling neighbor when the forests have finished burning, and the smoke dissipates (we were told it could be months). Once Venus probably had a vast ocean, and probably, life. But it died from a brutal greenhouse generated by Large Igneous Provinces (LIP). The same happened on Earth, on a smaller scale, more than once, in particular with the Permian Triassic mass extinction, which destroyed 95% of known species..

Now the rumor has it that indeed some life may have survived in the atmosphere.  This is not a joke. Consider: Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds. The detection of a gas in the planet’s atmosphere could turn scientists’ gaze to a planet long overlooked in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Life on Venus? Ah, science, all those possibilities… We never imagined we would ever think possible.

Patrice Ayme

***

P/S: I argued in the past, before anybody else, that the dinosaur-pterosaurs-plesiosaurs extinction, and extinction of anything bigger than 20 kilograms was due to volcanism (I was at UC Berkeley when the two Alvarez were, and they seemed too full of themselves with the iridium layer, and I like to contradict certainties…)

How would LIP volcanism set forests on fire? Well, by the same exact mechanism as now: through a massive CO2 driven greenhouse, what may have terminated the Venusians…

In this perspective climate cooling, for millions of years, visible in the graph above, would have disrupted those species which were not equipped to generate enough heat, and then the LIP accelerated into a vast holocaust…

The end with general burning and acidic oceans is hard to duplicate with a bolide, so the impactophiles have argued that the bolide magically impacted the most CO2 generating rock imaginable… Maybe. But an enormous LIP does all that CO2 production/destruction of the oceans, effortlessly… A friend of mine who is the biggest of the big in this academic domain, he decides who publishes, replied to me that the 66 million year old Dekkan LIP is too small… To which I replied that we don’t know what lays below the ocean…

Doggie love?

We humans love to be loved and, especially, by our dogs.

I am certain that all of the people who read Learning from Dogs on a regular basis are dog lovers and, just as important, your love for your dogs means that they in turn love you.

But unfortunately not everyone thinks of dogs in such a beautiful manner. For example, not far from here on Hugo Rd are a group of dogs, 4 or 5 I think, that I cycle past, and they live in outside kennels.

If you are an uncertain owner or a new owner you may want to understand more about your dog’s behaviour, or more accurately, whether your dog loves you. This article on The Dodo explains this very well.

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Does My Dog Love Me?

How to tell what those happy wiggles really mean ❤️️

By DANIELLE ESPOSITO
PUBLISHED ON 8/19/2020

Humans loveeee love. Which means we want the people — or animals — we love to show us they love us back.

But it’s sometimes hard for us to tell whether or not our dogs truly, deeply, madly love us — especially if you’re a new pet owner.

Who doesn’t want to feel all warm, fuzzy and loved by our pets?

To help you get that confirmation you’re looking for, The Dodo turned to Dr. Vanessa Spano, a veterinarian at Behavior Vets in New York City, to understand how dogs show their love.

“It is so important to understand your pets’ body language, as that is their way of communicating with us,” Dr. Spano said.

Here are some of the most common ways to tell that your dog, in fact, abso-freakin’-lutely loves you.

Your dog has a relaxed, wiggly body

“When interacting with your dog, body language signs to look out for that may indicate comfort and positivity include a relaxed body (or wiggly body during times of excitement, like play or you coming home), soft, forward ears and soft, rounded eyes,” Dr. Spano said.

He wiggles his eyebrows at you

You read that right! Doggos in love are known to raise their eyebrows when they see their owner. In fact, a 2013 Japanese study used a high-speed camera to record dogs’ faces when their humans walked into the room. It found that dogs raised their eyebrows when they saw their owners, but not when strangers walked in. *happy cry*

He wants your attention

“It is also a good sign if your dog is soliciting attention from you, such as with a play bow,” Dr. Spano said.

This can also be seen when he brings you one of his favorite toys.

He leans against you

A dog will lean on humans for a few different reasons — sometimes it’s because he’s anxious or he wants you to do something — but it’s also a sign of affection. And regardless — even if your dog is leaning against you because he’s nervous — it still indicates that he thinks of you as someone who can protect him and keep him safe.

Confusing body language to look out for

According to Dr. Spano, there are some things dogs do that humans typically consider to be signs of affection, but aren’t always.

“Confusing signs include wagging tails and exposed bellies,” Dr. Spano said. “A dog wagging his tail simply means he is aroused by the situation. This can be a good thing, but not necessarily; it depends on the context of the situation.”

This means that it’s good to notice the situations that cause each of your dog’s behaviors and begin to build an understanding of your individual dog’s moods.

For example, maybe you notice your dog always wags her tail when you walk into a room — you can equate that situation with her being happy in those moments. On the other hand, maybe you’ve also noticed she wags her tail just a bit stiffer when she sees a strange dog, and it’s almost always followed by raising her hair and growling. While she is wagging her tail in both of these situations, it’s not the same kind of tail wag.

“Similarly, a dog showing his belly may be asking for belly rubs, but it can also indicate fear,” Dr. Spano said. “Dogs do have the capability of trusting and loving you, but depending on their own fears, stress level and past experiences, it may take some time.”

So in general, look for those relaxed and wiggly bodies to know how happy your dog is to see you. Other behaviors you’ll learn over time — and it’ll just help your bond grow even stronger since you’ll be the only one who can truly detect your dog’s moods and emotions.

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Yes, it certainly takes time to really get to know a dog. Although one might think that having a number of dogs in the household makes it easier, and generally that is the case, even in a largish group one can have tensions that exist between a couple of the dogs. Knowing both dogs as well as you can enables one to adjust things so that the tension no longer exists or it becomes a very rare event.

But it is rare and, luckily, loving dogs is the normal!

I will close with a photograph of dear Oliver who is one of the most loving dogs I have come across.

Oliver. Taken at home, 17th May, 2020.

Dogs and understanding praise.

Life must go on!

I am referring to the smoke and fires in this part of the Western edge of the USA.

For a while it seemed as though evacuation was becoming closer but now, I hope, that we are nearing a change in the weather including some rain later on this week.

So time for another post.

This one about speech processing in the dog’s brain.

The article that I want to republish is in The National Geographic magazine but I do not have permission to reproduce it in full.

Luckily the video that is in the article is also available on YouTube.

So first some extracts of the article.

Dogs understand praise the same way we do. Here’s why that matters.

Dogs can’t speak, but their brains respond to spoken words, suggesting human language has deep evolutionary roots

By VIRGINIA MORELL, Published August 6th, 2020

Every dog owner knows that saying Good dog! in a happy, high-pitched voice will evoke a flurry of joyful tail wagging in their pet.

That made scientists curious: What exactly happens in your dog’s brain when it hears praise, and is it similar to the hierarchical way our own brain processes such acoustic information?

When a person gets a compliment, the more primitive, subcortical auditory regions first reacts to the intonation—the emotional force of spoken words. Next, the brain taps the more recently evolved auditory cortex to figure out the meaning of the words, which is learned.

Then later on the article goes on to say:

“It’s an important question, because dogs are a speechless species, yet they respond correctly to our words,” says Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary,and co-author of both the previous study and the new one, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports. For instance, some dogs are capable of recognizing thousands of names of individual objects, and can link each name to a specific object.

When the scientists studied scans of the brains of pet dogs, they found that theirs, like ours, process the sounds of spoken words in a hierarchical manner—analyzing first the emotional component with the older region of the brain, the subcortical regions, and then the words’ meaning with the newer part, the cortex. (Read how dogs are more like us than we thought.)

It’s much longer than I have presented so I do urge you to go to the article and read it fully; it’s fascinating.

And to close this post I insert the video that is in the article.

All the best to you!

Yet another dog food recall!

This time the same provider; Sunshine Mills.

Here’s me admitting that yesterday’s post was a little late and, bingo, into my email inbox yesterday came another food recall.

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Sunshine Mills Recalls Multiple Dog Food Brands Due to Aflatoxin

September 2, 2020 — Sunshine Mills, Inc. is issuing a voluntary recall of multiple dog food products due to elevated levels of aflatoxin that are potentially above the acceptable limit.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring mold by-product from the growth of Aspergillus flavus and can be harmful to pets if consumed in significant quantities.

What’s Being Recalled?

Here are images of the products affected by this recall:

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Here are the lot codes and dates of the products affected by this news:

What Caused the Recall?

The potential for aflatoxin levels above the acceptable limit in these products was discovered by routine sampling performed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry showing that a sample of a single 4-pound bag of one lot of the product contained elevated levels of aflatoxin.

No illnesses have been reported in association with these products to date, and no other Sunshine Mills, Inc. pet food products are affected by this announcement.

While no adverse health effects related to these products have been reported, Sunshine Mills, Inc. has chosen to issue a voluntary recall of these products as a precautionary measure in furtherance of its commitment to the safety and quality of its products.

About Aflatoxin

Pets that have consumed any of the recalled products and exhibit symptoms of illness including sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes or gums, or diarrhea should be seen by a veterinarian.

The affected products were distributed in retail stores nationally.

Retailers who received the recalled lots have been contacted and asked to pull these lots from their inventory and shelves.

There are no other Family Pet, Heartland Farms, or Paws Happy Life products or other lot codes of these products affected by this precautionary recall.

This is a voluntary recall being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What to Do?

Consumers who have purchased the recalled products should discontinue use of the product and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers may contact Sunshine Mills, Inc. Customer Service at 800-705-2111 from 7 AM to 4 PM Central Time, Monday through Friday… or by email at customer.service@sunshinemills.com for additional information.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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It was very kind of Emily Blunt to leave a message in response to yesterday’s post. This is what she said.

Thank you SOO much for posting this. I work in veterinary and there are recalls like this EVERY day and nobody knows.

That makes it all worthwhile! Thanks Emily!

Sunshine Mills recall

Yet another dog food recall!

This came in 9 days ago. I put it in my ‘blog’ file and then got waylaid by other stuff.

Here it is:

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Sunshine Mills Recalls Nature’s Menu Dog Food

August 24, 2020 — Sunshine Mills, Inc. is issuing a voluntary recall of Nature’s Menu Super Premium Dog Food with a Blend of Real Chicken and Quail because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

What’s Being Recalled?

The recalled Nature’s Menu dog foods were distributed in retail stores nationwideand can be identified with the following UPC 7015514363 and UPC 7015514365.

The product comes in a 3-pound bag with the following lot codes:

TE1 20/April /2020, TE1 21/April/2020, TE1 22/April/2020, TE2 20/April /2020, TE2 21/April/2020, TE2 22/April/2020, TE3 20/April/2020, TE3 21/April/2020, TE3 22/April/2020.

The product comes in a 13.5-pound bag with the following lot codes:

TB1 20/April /2020, TB1 21/April/2020, TB1 22/April/2020, TB2 20/April /2020, TB2 21/April/2020, TB2 22/April/2020, TB3 20/April/2020, TB3 21/April/2020, TB3 22/April/2020.

There are no other Nature’s Menu® products or other lot codes of the Nature’s Menu® Super Premium Dog Food with a Blend of Real Chicken & Quail affected by this precautionary recall.

No illnesses, injuries or complaints have been reported to date.

About Salmonella

Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.

Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms.

Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.

Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.

Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans.

If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

What Caused the Recall?

According to the company…

The potential for contamination was noted after the firm was notified by the Georgia Department of Agriculture when a sample of a single 3-pound bag of the product was collected and tested positive for Salmonella.

The firm conducted testing of multiple samples of the same lot which all tested negative for Salmonella.

Salmonella may not be evenly distributed throughout a lot which is why it could have been found on one sample and not on multiple other samples of the same lot.

However, out of an abundance of caution, Sunshine Mills, Inc. has chosen to issue a voluntary recall of the above-referenced lots of Nature’s Menu Super Premium Dog Food with a Blend of Real Chicken and Quail in furtherance of its commitment to the safety and quality of its products.

What to Do?

Retailers who received the recalled lots have been contacted and asked to pull these lots from their inventory and shelves.

Consumers who have purchased Nature’s Menu® Super Premium Dog Food with a Blend of Real Chicken & Quail from the recalled lots should discontinue use of the product and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers may contact Sunshine Mills, Inc. customer service at (800) 705-2111 from 7 am to 4 pm Central Time, Monday through Friday… or by email at customer.service@sunshinemills.com for additional information.

This is a voluntary recall being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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As always, please share this if you can!

That ‘D’ word

And I don’t mean dog!

Still continuing with another dog-free day because this is a supremely important topic: Dementia.

I’m well into my 75th year and have poor recall. I do everything to fight the loss of memory. We are vegan, or technically pescatarian, we both go to the nearby Club Northwest twice a week and I ride my bike every other day.

In the current issue of The Economist magazine there is a special report on Dementia:

As humanity ages the numbers of people with dementia will surge

The world is ill-prepared for the frightening human, economic and social implications

Recently we took delivery of a REDjuvenator because it holds out hope, and is claimed, to offset the more disastrous aspects of ageing.

It’s early days but there are indications that it is doing some good.

So it was with great interest that I read the other day the following article and even more grateful that it comes with permission to republish.

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Does forgetting a name or word mean that I have dementia?

Your medical team should determine whether you have dementia or just normal memory loss due to aging.
Fred Froese via Getty Images

Laurie Archbald-Pannone, University of Virginia

The number of cases of dementia in the U.S. is rising as baby boomers age, raising questions for boomers themselves and also for their families, caregivers and society. Dementia, which is not technically a disease but a term for impaired ability to think, remember or make decisions, is one of the most feared impairments of old age.

Incidence increases dramatically as people move into their 90s. About 5% of those age 71 to 79 have dementia, and about 37% of those about 90 years old live with it.

Older people may worry about their own loss of function as well as the cost and toll of caregiving for someone with dementia. A 2018 study estimated that the lifetime cost of care for a person with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, to be US$329,360. That figure, too, will no doubt rise, putting even more burdens on family, Medicare and Medicaid.

There’s also been a good deal of talk and reporting about dementia in recent months because of the U.S. presidential election. Some voters have asked whether one or both candidates might have dementia. But, is this even a fair question to ask? When these types of questions are posed – adding further stigma to people with dementia – it can unfairly further isolate them and those caring for them. We need to understand dementia and the impact it has on more than 5 million people in the U.S. who now live with dementia and their caregivers. That number is expected to triple by 2060.

First, it is important to know that dementia cannot be diagnosed from afar or by someone who is not a doctor. A person needs a detailed doctor’s exam for a diagnosis. Sometimes, brain imaging is required. And, forgetting an occasional word – or even where you put your keys – does not mean a person has dementia. There are different types of memory loss and they can have different causes, such as other medical conditions, falls or even medication, including herbals, supplements and anything over-the-counter.

Older people wonder and worry about so-called senior moments and the memory loss they perceive in themselves and others. I see patients like this every week in my geriatric clinic, where they tell me their stories. They forget a word, get lost in a story, lose keys or can’t remember a name. Details vary, but the underlying concern is the same: Is this dementia?

A doctor looks at images of a brain scan.
Your doctor may want to do a brain scan to determine if there are any issues.
Andrew Brookes via Getty Images

Normal memory loss

As we age, we experience many physical and cognitive changes. Older people often have a decrease in recall memory. This is normal. Ever have trouble fetching a fact from the deep back part of your “mind’s Rolodex”? Suppose you spot someone at the grocery store you haven’t seen in years. Maybe you recognize the face, but don’t remember their name until later that night. This is normal, part of the expected changes with aging.

What’s more of a potential problem is forgetting the name of someone you see every day; forgetting how to get to a place you visit frequently; or having problems with your activities of daily living, like eating, dressing and hygiene.

When you have troubles with memory – but they don’t interfere with your daily activities – this is called mild cognitive impairment. Your primary care doctor can diagnose it. But sometimes it gets worse, so your doctor should follow you closely if you have mild cognitive impairment.

You want to note the timing of any impairment. Was there a gradual decline? Or did it happen all of a sudden? This too you should discuss with your doctor, who might recommend the MoCA, or Montreal Cognitive Assessment test, which screens for memory problems and helps determine if more evaluation is needed.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists problems in these areas as possible signs of dementia:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Communication
  • Reasoning, judgment and problem solving
  • Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

More severe issues

When memory loss interferes with daily activities, see your doctor about what to do and how to make sure you’re safe at home.

There are numerous types of severe memory loss. Dementia tends to be a slow-moving progression that occurs over months or years. Delirium is more sudden and can occur over hours or days, usually when you have an acute illness. Depression can also cause memory changes, particularly as we get older.

A computer illustration of amyloid plaques, characteristic features of Alzheimers disease.
A computer illustration of amyloid plaques among neurons. Amyloid plaques are characteristic features of Alzheimer’s disease.
Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Dementia and other brain issues

Alzheimer’s dementia is the most common type of dementia, followed by vascular dementia. They have similar symptoms: confusion, getting lost, forgetting close friends or family, or an inability to do calculations like balance the checkbook. Certain medical conditions – thyroid disorders, syphilis – can lead to dementia symptoms, and less common types of dementia can have different kinds of symptoms. Alzheimer’s has a distinct set of symptoms often associated with certain changes in the brain.

Focusing on safety and appropriate supervision, particularly in the home, is critical for all people with dementia. Your doctor or a social worker can help you find support.

It’s also important to be aware of two other things that can lead to decreased mental functioning – delirium and depression.

Delirium, a rapid change in cognition or mental functioning, can occur in people with an acute medical illness, like pneumonia or even COVID-19 infection. Delirium can occur in patients in the hospital or at home. Risk for delirium increases with age or previous brain injuries; symptoms include decreased attention span and memory issues.

Depression can happen at any time, but it’s more common with aging. How can you tell if you’re depressed? Here’s one simple definition: when your mood remains low and you’ve lost interest or joy in activities you once loved.

Sometimes people have recurring episodes of depression; sometimes, it’s prolonged grieving that becomes depression. Symptoms include anxiety, hopelessness, low energy and problems with memory. If you notice signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, see your doctor. If you have any thoughts of harming yourself, call 911 to get help instantly.

Any of these conditions can be frightening. But even more frightening is unrecognized or unacknowledged dementia. You must, openly and honestly, discuss changes you notice in your memory or thinking with your doctor. It’s the first step toward figuring out what is happening and making sure your health is the best it can be.

And, as with any disease or disease group, dementia is not a “character flaw,” and the term should not be used to criticize a person. Dementia is a serious medical diagnosis – ask those who have it, the loved ones who care for them or any of us who treat them. Having dementia is challenging. Learn what you can do to support those with dementia in your own community.The Conversation

Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Associate Professor Medicine, Geriatrics, University of Virginia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Please, if you are of the age where this is more than an academic interest then read the article carefully and especially that piece of advice towards the end:

But even more frightening is unrecognized or unacknowledged dementia. You must, openly and honestly, discuss changes you notice in your memory or thinking with your doctor. It’s the first step toward figuring out what is happening and making sure your health is the best it can be.

As is said growing old is not for cissies.

None of us can put off the fateful day when we will die and in our case we do not believe in any form of afterlife, in other words we are confirmed atheists, so all we can do is to live out our remaining years as healthily as possible and loving each other and our precious animals.

But having said that I know that all of us want to live out our lives with healthy, active brains and it’s clear that we can’t leave it to chance.

In closing, I recently purchased the book Outsmart Your Brain written by Dr. Ginger Schechter (and others). It was just $9.99 and contains much advice regarding the best foods and exercise for a healthy brain. I recommend it!

Wonderful story of a reunited dog and its owner.

This is just a beautiful story!

Dog lovers have two fears in their hearts: their dog dying and their dog going missing.

I think in many ways a dog going missing is the more difficult of the two to handle. There are so many questions unanswered!

So when The Dodo published this story earlier this Summer I immediately put it in my ‘blog’ folder. Somehow I overlooked the story but that is remedied today!

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Dog Is Overjoyed To Reunite With His Mom After 2 Years Apart.

“[He] looked me straight in the eyes as if he was saying, ‘I gotta see that this is really you.’”

By Lily Feinn
Published on 7/1/2020.
Two years ago, Linda Harmon’s beloved dog Twixx went missing from her yard.

Twixx had been a bit of an escape artist, known for digging tunnels under the fence. That’s how he ended up with a little scar on the top of his head.

Harmon’s husband had recently installed metal posts around the fence making it impossible for Twixx to get out. After checking the gate and the fence, they couldn’t find any signs of tampering — it was as if Twixx had just disappeared.

Linda Harmon

Harmon began searching the neighborhood, making posters, posting on Facebook and checking with the local animal control. Then a woman who had been following Twixx’s story on Facebook reached out to Harmon via text.

“She said, ‘I’m so sorry to send you this, but I found your Twixx. He’s been hit on the side of the road and here’s his picture,’” Harmon told The Dodo. The woman sent Harmon a photo of the top of the dog’s head, and there was Twixx’s little scar.

Linda Harmon

Harmon reported Twixx as deceased to the microchip company, but still had difficulty accepting that he was really gone. “I never truly believed it in my heart,” Harmon said. “My husband said, ‘You’ve got to let this go. You’re grieving over him.’ But I said I would never get another dog and I didn’t for two years.”

Then, earlier this month, Harmon was sitting with her church group when a miracle happened — she received a call from the local animal shelter asking if she had ever owned a chipped pet.

“I just started bawling. I was crying endlessly, and I was around quite a few church members and they rushed to me, thinking I had bad news,” Harmon said. “But when they looked at me I was smiling.”

FACEBOOK/MOBILE COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER

After so long apart, Harmon worried that Twixx wouldn’t remember her. And the last thing she wanted was to make her dog feel scared or uncomfortable.

So the shelter came up with a plan: When Harmon came to pick up Twixx, they would hold him behind the gate while she called his name, and shelter staffers would watch the dog’s reaction.

FACEBOOK/MOBILE COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER

When Twixx arrived at the shelter gate, Harmon began to gently say his nickname — Tootaroota — and as soon as the dog heard her, he put his snout on the ground as if sniffing for his mom.

“Finally, when I bellowed out ‘Twixx’ he ran to the gate and stood at attention,” Harmon said. “And I heard the lady say, ‘Let him out because he’s trying to find her.’”

As soon as they opened the gate, Twixx turned the corner and ran straight to his mom. It was as if he remembered every minute they had spent together, and the two years apart faded away.

“He couldn’t stop wiggling — oh my goodness — and he just jumped on me,” Harmon said. “Then he laid his head in my arms and looked me straight in the eyes as if he was saying, ‘I gotta see that this is really you.’”

FACEBOOK/MOBILE COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER

Soon everyone watching the reunion had tears in their eyes — including Harmon.

Now, Twixx is home safe and sound with the family that loves him. And he hasn’t dug another hole since.

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Dogs store the scents of humans that have loved them forever. In a very real sense it is part of their memory system albeit it is very different to the memories that you and I have. For dogs have a scenting ability, call in a nose, that is 100 million times better than ours. It is impossible for us humans to truly comprehend what that means to a dog.

But Twixx demonstrated this superbly because the first thing he did was to “put his snout on the ground as if sniffing for his mom.

So many stories about our wonderful dogs!

 

The science of dog learning.

A very interesting article in The Smithsonian Magazine.

There are countless breeds of dogs and they represent thousands of years of breeding.

But recent work in determining the genetic background behind the many different features of dogs has revealed so much.

The Smithsonian Magazine published an article nearly a month ago and hopefully it is alright to share it with you.

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What a Crowdsourced Study Taught Us About How Dogs Learn

A new study looks at the genes that underlie traits from self control to communication

 

 

Three dogs sit at attention ( MediaProduction

By Viviane Callier, July 31, 2020

Thousands of years of selective dog breeding has created a fantastic diversity of domestic canine companions, from the workaholic border collie to the perky Pomeranian. In cultures around the world, humans bred different dogs to be good at tasks including guarding, hunting and herding. Later, in Victorian England, kennel clubs established breed standards related not only to their behavior, but also their appearance.

As genomic sequencing has become more affordable, scientists have begun to understand the genes behind physical features such as body shape and size. But understanding the genes behind dog cognition—the mental processes that underlie dogs’ ability to learn, reason, communicate, remember, and solve problems—is a much trickier and thornier task. Now, in a pair of new studies published in Animal Cognition and in Integrative and Comparative Biology, a team of researchers has begun to quantify just how much variation in dog cognition exists, and to show how much of it has a genetic basis.

To study canine cognition, the studies’ authors turned to publicly available genetic information from a 2017 study, and a large community science project, Dognition.com, in which dog owners tested their own pets. “These papers offer an exciting integration of two forms of big data,” says Jeff Stevens, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who was not involved in the study.

Previous studies often compared cognition in one breed against another using small sample sizes of dogs from each. This study, by contrast, is the first to examine the variation in cognition across three dozen breeds, and the genetic basis of that variation, explains Evan MacLean, a comparative psychologist at the University of Arizona who oversaw the pair of new studies. MacLean says dog breeds may be an ideal way to study the heritability of cognitive traits because breeds—all part of the same species—represent close genetic relatives with an incredibly diverse range of appearances and behaviors.

To gather a sufficient amount of data on how dogs reason and solve problems, the researchers looked to the Dognition.com portal. The initiative, created by Duke University dog researcher Brian Hare, started with tests in the lab. Researchers developed methods to understand how dogs think. They then stripped those methods down, and simplified them for dog owners to do themselves. In an earlier project, the researchers tested dogs in the lab and compared their results to those from owners testing the same dog at home. The results were the same, giving them confidence that the results from the citizen science project were reliable.

To participate in this project, dog owners tested their pups on 11 standardized tasks used by animal behaviorists on a variety of species that reflect four aspects of cognition: inhibitory control, communication, memory and physical reasoning. One task that measured inhibitory control, for example, involved having an owner put a treat on the floor in front of the dog and then verbally forbidding the dog from taking it. The owner then measured how long the dog would wait before eating the treat. In a task to assess communication skills, the dog owner placed two treats on the ground and gestured towards one of them. The owner then determined if the dog approached the indicated treat. To assess memory, the owner visibly placed food under one of two cups, waited for a few minutes, and then determined if the dog remembered which cup the food was placed under. To test physical reasoning, the owner hid food under one of two cups, out of view of the dog. The owner lifted the empty cup to show the dog that there was no food and then assessed whether the dog approached the cup with the food underneath.

The participating dog owners reported their dog’s scores and breed, producing a dataset with 1,508 dogs across 36 breeds. The researchers analyzed the scores and found that about 70 percent of the variance in inhibitory control was heritable, or attributable to genes. Communication was about 50 percent heritable, while memory and physical reasoning were about 20 percent heritable.

“What’s so cool about that is these two traits that are highly heritable [control and communication] are those that are thought to be linked to dogs’ domestication process,” says Zachary Silver, a graduate student in the Canine Cognition Center at Yale who was not involved in the study.

Dogs are better at following humans’ communicative cues than wolves, and this is something that seems to be highly heritable, explains Silver. In contrast, there’s some evidence that wolves are better than dogs at physical reasoning.

Some of these traits are also influenced by environment and how the dog was handled as a puppy, so there are both genetic and environmental components. In fact, there is so much environmental and experiential influence on these traits that Gitanjali Gnanadesikan, a graduate student in MacLean’s lab and lead author of the new studies, cautions against the idea that these findings support certain breed restrictions or stereotypes. “Even the highly heritable traits have a lot of room for environmental influence,” she says. “This shouldn’t be interpreted as, ‘each of these breeds is just the way they are, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.’”

In the same way that women are on average shorter than men, but there’s quite a lot of overlapping variation within each sex, dog breeds also show a lot of variation within each breed that overlaps with variation among breeds.

Previous work has linked differences in inhibitory control to the estimated size of dogs’ brains. Comparative studies across many different species, ranging from tiny rodents to elephants and chimpanzees, also show that some aspects of self-control are strongly related to brain size. The bigger the brain size, the more self-control the animals seem to have, MacLean says.

Stevens notes that a lot of things—not just inhibitory control—correlate with brain size across species. And brain size, metabolic rate, lifespan, home range size are all correlated with body size. When many traits are correlated with each other, it is not clear which of these factors may underlie the cognitive differences. So there are a number of questions remaining to be explored.

After showing the degree to which different aspects of dog cognition are heritable, Gnanadesikan and MacLean used publicly available information on the genomes of dog breeds to search for genetic variation that was associated with the cognitive traits of interest. The researchers found that, like many other complex traits, there were many genes, each with small effect, that contribute to dogs’ cognitive traits. That is in contrast to morphological features in dogs; about 50 percent of variation in dog body size can be accounted for by variation in a single gene.

One of the limitations of the study is that the researchers did not have cognitive and genetic information from the same dogs; the genomes were breed averages. In the future, the researchers are planning to collect genetic data from the very same dogs that are completing the cognitive tests, to get measures of cognitive and genetic variation at the level of individual dogs. “This gives us a roadmap for places that we might want to look at more carefully in the future,” MacLean explains.

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Now this is an article that deserves to be read carefully so if you are in a hurry bookmark this and wait until you can sit and absorb the messages the article contains.

I was minded to look up Gitanjali’s details and I am glad I did. These are the details:

Gitanjali Gnanadesikan
I am an evolutionary biologist and comparative psychologist who is interested in social behavior and cognition. I work with Evan MacLean in the Arizona Canine Cognition Center studying the development and evolution of behavior and cognition in dogs and wolves.

I think I will reach out to her and see if she has more information she would like to share with us all.

Magnetic rivers!

Yes, you heard that correctly.

There was an article on the website EarthSky News yesterday that, literally, took me out of this world. It described the role of magnetic rivers in newly forming star clusters.

There’s not a dog in sight but nevertheless I wanted to share this article with you.

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Magnetic rivers feed star birth

Astronomers have learned that the pull of gravity can sometimes overcome the strong magnetic fields found in great star-forming clouds in space. The resulting weakly magnetized gas flow can feed the growth of new stars.

See the lines – called streamlines by scientists – in this composite image of the Serpens South star cluster? They’re from magnetic fields in this great star-forming cloud. Notice the lower left, where magnetic fields have been dragged into alignment with a narrow, dark filament. In that area, astronomers say, material from interstellar space is flowing into the star-forming cloud and fueling star formation. Image via NASA/ SOFIA/ T. Pillai/ JPL-Caltech/ L. Allen/ USRA.

Astronomers have known for decades that stars like our sun form when giant clouds of gas and dust in space – sometimes called molecular clouds – collapse under their own gravity. But how does the material from interstellar space flow into these clouds, and what controls the collapse? The image above helps illustrate an answer to these questions. It’s a composite, made with data from SOFIA – an airborne telescope designed for infrared astronomy – overlaid on an image from the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope. This composite shows that the pull of gravity can sometimes overcome the strong magnetic fields found in great star-forming clouds in space. And it shows that, when that happens, weakly magnetized gas can flow – as on a conveyor belt – to feed the growth of newly forming star clusters.

A statement from the Max Planck Institute in Bonn, Germany, explained:

A major finding in the last decade has been that extensive networks of filaments permeate every molecular cloud. A picture has emerged that stars like our own sun form preferentially in dense clusters at the intersection of filaments.

Now look back at the image above, which shows the Serpens South star cluster, a star-forming region located some 1,400 light-years from Earth. In that image, you see a dark filament in the lower left. Now notice the “stripes” on the image, which astronomers call streamlines. They represent magnetic structures, discovered by SOFIA. The astronomers said these magnetic structures act like rivers, channeling material into the great star-forming cloud.

As you can see in the image, these magnetic streamlines have been dragged by gravity to align with the narrow, dark filament on the lower left. Astronomers say this configuration helps material from interstellar space flow into the cloud.

This is different from the upper parts of the image, where the magnetic fields are perpendicular to the filaments; in those regions, the magnetic fields in the cloud are opposing gravity.

Astrophysicist Thushara Pillai led the study showing that magnetic rivers feed star birth in the Serpens South star-forming region.

The scientists said in a statement from Universities Space Research Association (USRA) that they are:

… studying the dense cloud to learn how magnetic fields, gravity and turbulent gas motions contribute to the creation of stars. Once thought to slow star birth by counteracting gravity, SOFIA’s data reveals magnetic fields may actually be working together with gravity as it pulls the fields into alignment with the filaments, nourishing the birth of stars.

The results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Astronomy on August 17. The lead author of the new study is Thushara Pillai of Boston University and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

In 1835, the French philosopher Auguste Comte wrote of the unknowable nature of stars:

On the subject of stars, all investigations which are not ultimately reducible to simple visual observations are … necessarily denied to us. While we can conceive of the possibility of determining their shapes, their sizes, and their motions, we shall never be able by any means to study their chemical composition or their mineralogical structure … Our knowledge concerning their gaseous envelopes is necessarily limited to their existence, size … and refractive power, we shall not at all be able to determine their chemical composition or even their density…

He was, famously, wrong.

He couldn’t have envisioned the range of tools available to modern astronomers. It’s a beautiful thing that, nowadays, astronomers can not only learn about the compositions of stars via their studies of their spectra, but also probe the deeper mysteries, going all the way to the births of these colossal, self-luminous balls in space.

SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The HAWC+ polarimeter on board SOFIA was used for the observations of the magnetic field in the Serpens South star-forming region. Image via NASA/ C. Thomas/ Max Planck Institute.

Bottom line: Astronomers have learned that the pull of gravity can sometimes overcome the strong magnetic fields found in great star-forming clouds in space. The resulting weakly magnetized gas flow can feed the growth of new stars.

Source: Magnetized filamentary gas flows feeding the young embedded cluster in Serpens South

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Just read that paragraph just before the end of the article: “He couldn’t have envisioned the range of tools available to modern astronomers. It’s a beautiful thing that, nowadays, astronomers can not only learn about the compositions of stars via their studies of their spectra, but also probe the deeper mysteries, going all the way to the births of these colossal, self-luminous balls in space.”

What a long way we have come from just, say, 50 years ago.

It would be easy to get lost in the article in a scientific manner, and that would be entirely appropriate.

But there’s another beautiful way to get lost in the article; by dreaming of outer space and forgetting just for a moment or two this Earthly planet we all live on!