Category: Science

Visiting the Vet – Ruby’s Urine Culture

At last we have the details.

On September 1st, I published an update on Ruby’s condition with regard to her UTI. This was because Ruby had had a re-occurrence of blood in her urine. Dr. Jim took an xray and also wanted Ruby’s urine sent across to Three Rivers Hospital for a culture. As I explained in that post, using information found online:

A urine culture is a test to find germs (such as bacteria) in the urine that can cause an infection. Urine in the bladder is normally sterile. This means it does not contain any bacteria or other organisms (such as fungi). But bacteria can enter the urethra and cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).

A sample of urine is added to a substance that promotes the growth of germs. If no germs grow, the culture is negative. If germs grow, the culture is positive. The type of germ may be identified using a microscope or chemical tests. Sometimes other tests are done to find the right medicine for treating the infection. This is called sensitivity testing.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the Clinic rang to say that the full results were in.

So yesterday morning, the air still heavy with the smoke from the forest fires, we called in to Lincoln Road.

The report from Rogue Regional Medical Center, as in Three Rivers Hospital, offered the following:

VET URINE CULTURE

SPECIMEN SOURCE: URINE

COMMENTS TO MICRO: URINE

CULTURE RESULTS: 20,000 CFU/ML PROTEUS MIRABILIS

REPORT STATUS: FINAL 09/02/2017

(My emphasis)

That translated into Ruby’s medicine being changed from her present course of Amoxicillin antibiotic to Enrofloxacin (Two 136 mg tablets by mouth every 24 hours for 10 days.)

A quick web search produced this (in part):

Enrofloxacin (ENR) is a fluoroquinolone antibiotic sold by the Bayer Corporation under the trade name Baytril. Enrofloxacin is currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of individual pets and domestic animals in the United States.

Jeannie reading the details on the label.

Onwards and upwards!

Returning to diet!

Another fabulous guest post.

Just a few days ago I was contacted by June Frazier who offered me (and all of you!) a couple of topics for a guest post to be written by June. The two topics were 5 Common Winter Illnesses in Dogs (And How To Treat Them) and Why Now Is The Right Time To Change Your Dog’s Diet.
Of course I said ‘Yes’ and chose the second one thinking it was a tad too early for a post about Winter illnesses.

Here it is.

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Why Now Is The Right Time To Change Your Dog’s Diet.

3 Critical Signs That You Need To Change

by June Frazier.

Today, 96% of all dog owners in the world feed their dog’s commercial pet food. A good number of this population believes that the dried pet food is all their dog needs to stay healthy. Hence, the dogs are fed one type of food all the time.

In fact, they never consider introducing their dog to the many homemade dog food recipes available. Many dog owners are unaware of the fact that as a dog’s body changes, it requires different diets to stay healthy. If you are one of these dog owners, it is time to change your dog’s diet.

Three major reasons why now is the right time to change your dog’s diet:

1. The Age of the dog

As your dog ages, he needs extra diet considerations to stay nimble. At the age of 5, your dog is considered to be middle aged. You need to change their diet at this point as they need fewer calories and more fiber. This is because middle aged dogs are less active and their new lifestyle does not require the same diet they were on when they were younger. In addition, high calorie foods may do them more harm than good. Also, avoid giving your dog too much protein since it can damage his liver and kidneys.

Feed your dog with the right food that will benefit his joints to stay stronger, or foods that have plenty of antioxidants. Your middle aged dog may also need supplements to keep his joints and organs working optimally.

2. Obesity

Most dog parents do not realize that even in moderation, some food types contribute more to their pet’s weight than others. When your dog starts to put on a few extra pounds in their midsection, this is a clear indication that you need to change his diet.

The additional weight can easily slow down your dog. Obesity in dogs also opens them up to a variety of potential health problems. Change his diet to foods that can give them all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals without adding some extra kilos.

There are special diets for dogs that are specially designated for weight loss. These diets take advantage of the latest research in pet weight management, to ensure your dog leads a healthy, happier life. If your pet dog is extremely overweight, you are advised to consult with your veterinarian for a detailed and therapeutic nutritional solution.

3. Allergies and Skin conditions

On average, an itchy dog is an allergic dog. Most times, the reason behind their allergy and skin condition is their food or environment. You need to switch your dog’s diet to something a little simpler or less processed food.

In a case of an allergy, vets prescribe non-allergen diets or foods that do not trigger your dog’s allergic reaction. Homemade dog food recipes are ideal as you can mix the ingredients on your own as well as do an easy control experiment to figure out which foods cause his allergy. Also, make sure to alter one food ingredient per time until you get the culprit.

Although the transition may take a long time before you figure out what your dog is allergic to, the diet you end up with will be far healthier and nutritional to help him lead a better life. You can also take your dog to the vet to find out more about their allergy and skin condition.

Sometimes, the reason behind your dog’s skin condition may be due to a deficient diet. If your dog has a dull, matted coat, make sure you feed your dog foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids to help improve their coat quality and gastric health.

Choosing the right food for your pet is essential for your dog’s long-term health. However, it is not a substitute for medical care.

Make sure you visit a veterinarian on a regular basis to ensure your pet is healthy and happy. Along with your new diet, make sure your dog has plenty of fresh, clean water available at all times.

It is also advisable that you change your dog’s diet gradually and systematically. Substitute a little of the new diet with the old food. Swap out a little more of the old with the new until your dog is comfortable with the new diet.

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No question in my mind that this was a useful and informative article. I did ask June to offer a little about herself and this is what she wrote me:

June is the founder of the blog Toby’s Bone where she shares her passion for writing and love for dogs. She wants to help you deal with your dog’s behavior issues, grooming and health needs, and proper training. Through her blog, you can find informative and reliable posts, tips and tricks, and a lot of interesting reads that will help you maintain a close bond with your furry companion.

Well this gets my vote and I sincerely hope this isn’t the last time we hear from June.

Visiting the Vet – More on Ruby

A need to re-check Ruby.

On Tuesday the Visiting the Vet post was about our Ruby. As was explained in the early part of that post:

Back on the 11th August Jean and I took Ruby into Lincoln Road Vet because there was blood in her urine. Ruby is one of our six dogs that we have at home. Ruby is the last of the Mexican ex-rescue dogs and is an eleven-year old Sharpei mix.

Dr Jim thought that Ruby had a straightforward Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and that a course of antibiotic would fix that.

All of that was reported in my previous post and, indeed, it did look as though it was all resolved.

Then on Tuesday night we discovered a pee in the house that had blood in it. Repeated yesterday. Although we hadn’t caught Ruby in the act, so to speak, we were pretty sure that it was her with the blood in her urine (again).

So yesterday morning back we went to Lincoln Road Vet Clinic to be seen by Dr. Jim.

Jim and his assistant, Cianna, first took Ruby through to a lab at the back of the clinic to take an X-ray and draw some of Ruby’s urine directly from her bladder.

That urine was going to be cultured by Three Rivers Hospital in Grants Pass for that was the only reliable way of seeing what might be the cause of the infection. A quick web search found more information about a urine culture:

A urine culture is a test to find germs (such as bacteria) in the urine that can cause an infection. Urine in the bladder is normally sterile. This means it does not contain any bacteria or other organisms (such as fungi). But bacteria can enter the urethra and cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).

A sample of urine is added to a substance that promotes the growth of germs. If no germs grow, the culture is negative. If germs grow, the culture is positive. The type of germ may be identified using a microscope or chemical tests. Sometimes other tests are done to find the right medicine for treating the infection. This is called sensitivity testing.

In no time at all the images from the X-ray were available to be viewed.

Jim was delighted to report that there was no sign of stones or a tumor. Ruby is an eleven-year old dog and what Jim did see on the X-ray was ‘bridging’ along parts of Ruby’s spine. The technical term for this is spondylosis and, again, a quick web search found more:

Spondylosis in dogs, also called spondylosis deformans, is a degenerative condition that usually occurs most along the spine in older dogs. There, degenerative disks cause bone spurs to develop. These bone spurs can form bridges from one vertebrae to the next, limiting flexibility and range of motion.
Most cases of spondylosis require minor pain relief, and dogs can live out healthy, comfortable lives with this condition.

It’s not a very good image but here is an enlargement of that first X-ray picture (or rather my photograph of same) showing that bridging.

Jim offered some general information regarding idiopathic cystitis that is more commonly seen in female cats but can also be seen in dogs. In cats the cause is more likely to be stress but in dogs the more likely cause is an infection; as in a UTI. In both cats and dogs the signs are frequent peeing but cats are more likely to incur some pain when urinating compared to dogs.

Back to Ruby.

The second X-ray image (below) did nothing to change Jim’s mind that Ruby might have a UTI that requires a change of antibiotic to accurately combat the infection.

While waiting for the results of the urine culture, Jim recommended putting Ruby on a second course of Amoxicillin.

When we get those results I will add the details to this post.

Visiting the Vet – Ruby’s UTI

This one is closer to home!

Back on the 11th August Jean and I took Ruby into Lincoln Road Vet because there was blood in her urine. Ruby is one of our six dogs that we have at home. Ruby is the last of the Mexican ex-rescue dogs and is an eleven-year old Sharpei mix.

Here she is staring up at me to the right of Oliver in the picture below .

In clockwise order: Oliver; Sweeny; Ruby; Pedy.

Because of Ruby’s age and background and the fact that there was significant blood in her urine we were bracing ourselves for some bad news.

Once checked in it wasn’t too long a wait before we were shown in to Dr. Jim’s room.

There Jim took some urine for analysis and then started examining Ruby. Jim was worried that Ruby might have kidney stones.

However, and thankfully, the urine test revealed an infection, nothing worse! A urinary tract infection or UTI.

Therefore, the first move would be to start Ruby on a course of Amoxillin.

Jim explained that Amoxillin was an antibiotic that he thought would be good for Ruby and would quickly determine whether or not Ruby had a simple urinary tract infection (UTI) or if it was something more challenging (my words).

Wikipedia offers a good description of Amoxicillin, from which I offer the opening paragraph.

Amoxicillin, also spelled amoxycillin, is an antibiotic useful for the treatment of a number of bacterial infections.[2] It is the first line treatment for middle ear infections. It may also be used for strep throat, pneumonia, skin infections, and urinary tract infections among others.[2] It is taken by mouth, or less commonly by injection.[2][3]

Maybe my initial reluctance to publish this Visiting the Vet post was down to me not wanting to do that before the results of the antibiotic treatment were clear.

Ergo, Jean and I are overjoyed to report that the Amoxicillin course did sort everything out and that Ruby is over her UTI and back to being her normal, healthy, happy self.

When Jim called us at home a week later he was just as pleased to hear the good news!

The day of the eclipse!

The day has arrived! Listen carefully!

Listen??  Yes, and thanks to The Smithsonian, if you are blind or visually impaired!

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What Does an Eclipse Sound Like?

A new app will allow blind and visually impaired users to experience the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21.

By Nathan Hurst
smithsonian.com  August 14, 2017

How would you describe an eclipse to a blind person? The moon moves in front of the sun, yes. But what does that look like? Someone trained in illustrative description of images might say, “The moon appears as a featureless black disk that nearly blocks out the sun. The sun’s light is still visible as a thin band around the moon’s black disk. To the upper right, at the moon’s leading edge, a small area of sunlight still shines brilliantly.”

That’s just an example of how such an event could be described. Bryan Gould, director of accessible learning and assessment technologies at the National Center for Accessible Media, a non-profit working to make media experiences accessible to people with disabilities, is hoping to offer oral descriptions of the eclipse in an app. Paired with other features, like a tactile diagram and audio from the changing natural environment as the eclipse darkens the sky, the app is designed to make the event more accessible to blind or visually impaired people who want to experience it.

Gould is working with Henry Winter, a solar astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, to develop the app, called Eclipse Soundscapes. As the August 21 solar eclipse darkens a path across the United States, Eclipse Soundscapes will release descriptions, timed—based on the user’s location—to match the progress of the eclipse.

Winter conceived Eclipse Soundscapes after a conversation with a friend who’s been blind since birth. She asked him to explain what an eclipse means.

Such an event might provide an interesting representation of the eclipse, thought Winter, so he partnered with the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds program, which preserves and catalogs sounds from the parks. Helpers stationed at national parks along the route will record audio during the eclipse, to hear the change in the “bioacoustical chorus” of the animals.

This can’t happen in real time, of course, so the National Center for Accessible Media is providing illustrative descriptions, based on a previous eclipse. The sounds of crickets, frogs and birds becoming active on the day of the eclipse will be added to the app later.

Last, with the help of an audio engineer named Miles Gordon, Winter is trying something completely new. Gordon developed a “rumble map” of the eclipse: The app places images of different stages of an eclipse on your smartphone’s screen, and as you trace your finger across the eclipse’s image, the vibration increases or decreases based on the brightness of the image.

“It does give you the impression that you’re actually feeling the sun, as you move your finger around,” says Winter.

“I realized I didn’t have the vocabulary to answer that question for her,” says Winter. “Every way I thought about it was visual in nature, and I didn’t know how to explain it to somebody … light, dark, bright, dim, flash. All these different words have no meaning to somebody that’s never seen.”

But the project goes well beyond audio descriptions. It includes two further elements: audio of the changing soundscape caused by the eclipse, and a tactile exploration of the eclipse’s image (which means that people who are blind or visually impaired can “feel” the eclipse using vibrations on their smartphones).

Many creatures become active as the sun sets, and many of them use darkness as an indicator of time of day. During an eclipse, crickets will chirp and frogs will chorus, thinking night has fallen. These habits were noted as far back as 1932, in a Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences article titled “Observations on the Behavior of Animals During the Total Solar Eclipse of August 31, 1932.”

Scientists around the world will be using the eclipse as an opportunity to study solar astronomy in a way they usually can’t, measuring the ultraviolet light emitted from the sun’s corona, which Earth-based observers can’t normally see, as it is overpowered by the normal sunlight. It’s also rare for an eclipse to cover this much land — it traverses from Oregon to South Carolina — and Winter points out that it is a particularly good opportunity for education and outreach.

Though education is important, for Wanda Diaz Merced, a visiting scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who is completely blind, there’s a lot more to the eclipse than that. Merced, who has consulted on the Eclipse Soundscapes project, studies human-computer interaction and astrophysics, and to do her research, she needs assistance translating data into a format she can interact with. She’s been building tools to help with that translation, and sees elements of Winter’s project that could contribute.

“It’s still not a prototype that I may use, for example, to study elements of the photosphere. It is not on that stage,” says Merced. “But hopefully one day we will be able to not only hear, but to touch.”

The eclipse will occur on August 21, starting around 10 a.m. in Oregon and finishing by 3 p.m .in South Carolina. The Eclipse Soundscapes app is available for iOS now, and the team is working on an Android app as well.

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I can’t imagine there’s anyone still pondering on whether or not to view the eclipse.

But that still doesn’t stop me offering you this recently presented TED Talk.

On August 21, 2017, the moon’s shadow will race from Oregon to South Carolina in what some consider to be the most awe-inspiring spectacle in all of nature: a total solar eclipse. Umbraphile David Baron chases these rare events across the globe, and in this ode to the bliss of seeing the solar corona, he explains why you owe it to yourself to witness one, too.

This talk was presented to a local audience at TEDxMileHigh, an independent event. TED editors featured it among our selections on the home page.

About the speaker: David Baron David Baron writes about science in books, magazines, newspapers and for public radio. He formerly served as science correspondent for NPR and science editor for PRI’s The World.

Enjoy it, good people. And protect your eyes!!!

Or better still allow NASA Television to show the eclipse to you.

NASA Television will air a four-hour show – Eclipse Across America – which will include live video of the event, along with coverage of activities in parks, libraries, stadiums, festivals and museums across the nation, and on social media. NASA’s show begins at 15:00 UTC (11 a.m. EDT; translate to your time zone), or later (we’ve seen this time waffle around a bit). Check the website for changes or further details.

Enhancing the life of our dogs!

We truly do want our dogs to live to a grand old age.

In recent posts I have included photographs of Cleo and Brandy. (As I will now do again!)

Cleo, the listening dog par excellence!

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Brandy – as pure as it gets!

However, one of the sad aspects of our bigger dogs is that their lifespan is usually shorter than our smaller dogs.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could live longer lives.

That is the reason that I didn’t hesitate for a moment in wanting to share an essay that was recently published on the Care2 site.

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Want Your Dog to Live to 30? Add This to Their Bowl

a Care2 favorite by Lisa Spector

About Lisa Follow Lisa at @throughadogsear

As I watched pet nutrition blogger Rodney Habib’s TedX video below, I found it simultaneously jaw-dropping and not surprising. After his dog, Sammie, was diagnosed with cancer, Habib went on a mission to find out why canine cancer is a growing epidemic. Currently, one out of every two dogs will be diagnosed with cancer at sometime in their life, mostly between age 6 and 12.

I have a 13-year-old Labrador. Admittedly, I’m obsessed with my awareness that he’s approaching the end of his life. But, what if he weren’t? What if he could live until he’s 30 like Maggie, the Kelpie, from Australia. Maggie was possibly the world’s oldest dog.

During Habib’s trek around the world, he spoke with researchers and scientists. He learned that dogs have a higher rate of cancer than any other mammal. In the ’70s, dogs lived to age 17; today the average life span is 11. Why?

Diabetes is up 900 percent in dogs in the last five years. Obesity is up 60 percent. While 10 percent of all cancer cases are genetic, 90 percent are the results of lifestyle and environmental influences, including stress, obesity, infection, sedentary lifestyle, toxins, pollution and most importantly diet.

Habib spoke with Norwegian scientist, Thomas Sandberg, who is conducting a 30-year-old study (the longest observational study to date). Sandberg is hoping to prove that poor quality food may cause cancer to develop in dogs and cats, mainly due to a compromised immune system.

Natural and dry dog's food

Here’s the part of Rodney’s TedX Talk that was jaw-dropping for me: Research shows that dogs on a diet of dry commercial pet food fed leafy green vegetables at least three times a week were 90 percent less likely to develop cancer than dogs that weren’t. And dogs fed yellow/orange vegetables at least three times a week were 70 percent less likely to develop cancer.

I feed Sanchez and Gina organic kale, spinach, green beans and carrots, along with many fruits. Personally, I wasn’t surprised by the benefits, but by the research showing that just a little bit of produce added to kibble could have such a profound effect on canine health.

Thomas Sandberg has Great Danes, who typically live only six to eight years. In a 6-year study of 80 dogs fed a completely raw diet with low amounts of carbs, only one dog developed cancer.

Another study at Purdue University showed a 90 percent decrease risk of cancer when they added green leafy vegetables to a bowl of processed food three times a week.

Remember Maggie, the world’s oldest dog? In addition to a diet that included raw fed grass milk, she also self fasted some days. She lived on a dairy farm and exercised all day long, often getting in 9 kilometers (5 1/2 miles ). Obesity is also now known to be a contributing factor to canine cancer, which is why exercising with your pet is so important.

We have dogs because we love them. We bring them into our human world and expect them to adjust. They do, because they want to please us. We expect them to follow our house rules, listen to the music we choose,  build their life around our schedules, and accept the food we choose for them. But, what if we knew more and chose differently for them? How long would they live?

Do your pets eat green leafy veggies?

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Now if you have read down to this point but not yet watched Rodney Habib’s talk then …. STOP!

Go back and watch that talk!

Then you can truly appreciate the value of looking at the diets of our beautiful dogs!

Love to hear your thoughts on this!

Oh, and both Brandy and little Pedy are great vegetable eaters. But we will be following the recommendations of Rodney Habib and will share our findings with you all later on.

 

Those deeper ways of listening

How humans and animals communicate with each other has more than an edge of mystery to it!

We sleep with our bedroom door open to the main run of the rest of the house. Generally, all six dogs sleep in our bedroom unless it is a very warm night when some of them may choose the cooler tiled surface of the kitchen floor.

Cleo, our female German Shepherd, has a bit of a sensitive stomach and it is not unknown for her to need to be let outside in the middle of the night. Just a couple of nights ago her need for a ‘poo’ break came at 02:40!

But the point of this is that no matter how deeply I am sleeping, all it takes is a short, quiet whimper next to my side of bed and I am instantly awake. I need no time at all to know that Cleo has to be let outside from our bedroom door that opens out onto the deck. A few minutes later I hear her feet padding along the wooden boards of the deck and she is let back in to the bedroom.

Thus this demonstrates how well I understand her and in turn how well she acutely listens to me.

Just look at this photograph.

The connection, the intensity, of her attention towards me. And this was just from me pointing the camera at her and ‘click, clicking’ my tongue.

Moving on!

My introduction today was inspired by an article that I recently read on the Care2 site and that I want to share with you. Here it is.

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Can Humans Understand When Animals Are in Distress?

By: Laura Burge   August 13, 2017

About Laura   Follow Laura at @literarylaura

Have you ever jumped at the sound of birds fighting or a squirrel screaming? Heard an animal make a sound somewhere nearby that made your heart race?

More than one hundred years ago, Darwin suggested that there was a universal understanding of certain animal vocalizations — a way of expressing emotion that went all the way back to the Earth’s earliest animals. Now, researchers are re-examining that theory, and they’re making some interesting headway.

In a study published in the journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,” researchers decided to explore the idea that animal vocalizations, including distress calls, might be recognizable across different species — and even into different animal classes.

Earlier research delved into whether or not humans could detect which emotion, or signal, another mammal was using, but this study is the first to examine other vertebrates as well. Amphibians and reptiles joined the club, and, perhaps surprisingly, humans did pretty well determining what these animals were trying to communicate.

The researchers primarily looked into whether or not people listening to certain animal sounds would be able to detect the level of arousal — high or low — that an animal expressed vocally. High arousal indicates an animal in distress, expressing desperate or negative screams, who might be calling out because of a fight, a predator in the area or another perceived danger. Scientists believe that these sounds are part of an old signaling system.

Researchers asked 75 college-aged individuals to listen to sounds from nine different species. In order to account for language differences, these people included English, German and Mandarin speakers.

Scientists collected 180 recordings of animal vocalizations, reflecting high or low levels of excitement, such as “the sounds of frogs in competition for mates, monkeys reacting to danger or ravens confronted by a dominant bird,” and included humans in that list, instructing actors to react neutrally or with different, heightened emotions while speaking Tamil.

The 75 people were then asked to identify which vocalization out of paired sounds from the same species represented the higher level of arousal.

In this study, the results showed that people identified the correct “emotion,” roughly speaking, better than expected by chance. Here is how the accuracy broke down across species:

  • Humans: 95 percent correct
  • Giant panda: 94 percent correct
  • Hourglass tree frog: 90 percent correct
  • African bush elephant: 88 percent correct
  • American alligator: 87 percent correct
  • Black-capped chickadee: 85 percent correct
  • Pig: 68 percent correct
  • Common raven: 62 percent correct
  • Barbary macaque (monkey): 60 percent correct

It seems strange that people were less able to identify the distress call of a monkey than a frog, but Harold Gouzoules, a bioacoustician and animal behavior expert at Emory University, posits that the monkey calls may have sounded less extreme in intensity than those of the other species, making it harder to tell the difference.

“Our study shows that humans are naturally able to recognize emotional arousal across all classes of vocalizing animals,” said Piera Filippi, who studies the evolution of cognition and communication at the Vrije University Brussels in Belgium.

This doesn’t mean that humans should feel confident in interpreting animal emotions or body language in general, though. Those behaviors can vary greatly, and humans are prone to misinterpretation and anthropomorphism. You wouldn’t, for example, want to assume a wolf baring its teeth is simply smiling at you.

Naturally, much remains to be studied in the effort to understand a wider range of animal emotions. Filippi hopes to repeat the experiment, but with the black-capped chickadees taking the place of the college-aged humans in interpreting the distress calls. It will be interesting to see if this understanding between humans and other animals goes both ways.

Could there be a beneficial reason for animals to understand each other’s distress calls? What do you think?

Photo Credit: Valentino Funghi/Unsplash

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Just so long as too many different animals don’t all sound out distress calls at the same time around here!

 

Why Dogs Are Friendly

Yes, we know that they are but the science as to why this is nonetheless is fascinating!

Inevitably when you think about my cultural roots you would not be surprised to hear that I use the BBC News website as a key source of staying in touch with the world. But very rarely would I think of sharing a news item with you via these pages.

One of those rare exceptions greeted my eyes back on July 20th. It was an article published by Helen Briggs of the BBC under the Science & Environment news classification. I can’t imagine any reason why I can’t republish it here.

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Why dogs are friendly – it’s written in their genes

By Helen Briggs – BBC News, 20 July 2017

Some wolves are more sociable than others.

Being friendly is in dogs’ nature and could be key to how they came to share our lives, say US scientists.

Dogs evolved from wolves tens of thousands of years ago.

During this time, certain genes that make dogs particularly gregarious have been selected for, according to research.

This may give dogs their distinctive personalities, including a craving for human company.

“Our finding of genetic variation in both dogs and wolves provides a possible insight into animal personality, and may even suggest similar genes may have roles in other domestic species (maybe cats even),” said Dr Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University.

The researchers studied the behaviour of domestic dogs, and grey wolves living in captivity. They carried out a number of tests of the animals’ skills at problem-solving and sociability.

Captive wolves gave humans only brief attention.

These showed that wolves were as good as dogs at solving problems, such as retrieving pieces of sausage from a plastic lunchbox.

Dogs, however, were much more friendly. They spent more time greeting human strangers and gazing at them, while wolves were somewhat aloof.

DNA tests found a link between certain genetic changes and behaviours such as attentiveness to strangers or picking up on social cues.

Similar changes in humans are associated with a rare genetic syndrome, where people are highly sociable.

Dr Elaine Ostrander of the National Institutes of Health, who was a co-researcher on the study, said the information would be useful in studying human disease.

“This exciting observation highlights the utility of the dog as a genetic system informative for studies of human disease, as it shows how minor variants in critical genes in dogs result in major syndromic effects in humans,” she said.

Wolves playing at Yellowstone.

Dogs were domesticated from wolves between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

New story for domestication of dogs

This process began when wolves that were tolerant of humans sneaked into hunter gatherer camps to feed on food scraps.

Over the course of history, wolves were eventually tamed and became the dogs we know today, which come in all shapes and sizes.

The finding of genetic changes linked to sociability in dogs shows how their friendly behaviour might have evolved.

“This could easily play into the story then of how these wolves leave descendants that are also ‘friendlier’ than others, setting the path for domestication,” said Dr vonHoldt.

The research is published in the journal, Science Advances.

Follow Helen on Twitter.

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When it comes to sociability in dogs, try this one for size!

Brandy – as pure as it gets!

Return to Predators!

The critical value of predators.

Not so long ago there was some discussion about how important it was for the natural way of things to include predators. I mentioned how this had been the topic of a post published some time ago in this place.

It was back in February, 2014 and I have republished it today.

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The critical value of predators in our wild lands.

February 24th, 2014

The consequences of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

I have two people to offer my thanks to for today’s post: Suzann and Ginger. Both of them within hours of each other sent me an email recommending the following video. So, without further ado, here is that video. (Oh, would you believe this. The video was released on February 13th, 2014 and, at the time of me writing this post, has been viewed 1,453,345 times! Wow!)

Published on Feb 13, 2014

Visit http://sustainableman.org/ to explore the world of sustainability.

For more from George Monbiot, visit http://www.monbiot.com/ and for more on “rewilding” visit http://bit.ly/1hKGemK and/or check out George Monbiot’s book Feral: rewilding the land, the sea and human life: http://amzn.to/1dgdLi9

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.

Narration from TED: “For more wonder, rewild the world” by George Monbiot. Watch the full talk, here: http://bit.ly/N3m62h

B-Roll Credits:
“Greater Yellowstone Coalition – Wolves” (http://bit.ly/1lK4LaT)
“Wolf Mountain” (http://bit.ly/1hgi6JE)
“Primodial – Yellowstone” (https://vimeo.com/77097538)
“Timelapse: Yellowstone National Park” (http://bit.ly/1kF5axc)
“Yellowstone” (http://bit.ly/1bPI6DM)
“Howling Wolves – Heulende Wölfe” (http://bit.ly/1c2Oidv)
“Fooled by Nature: Beaver Dams” (http://bit.ly/NGgQSU)

Music Credits:
“Unfoldment, Revealment, Evolution, Exposition, Integration, Arson” by Chris Zabriskie (http://bit.ly/1c2uckW)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 106A-117 of the US Copyright Law.

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If you want to read more on a general level, then my post on the 11th January, 2014, An echo in the hills! may be worthwhile. It included this from William Ripple, of Oregon State University:

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Top dogs keep ecosystems in order

Many of these large carnivore species are endangered and some are at risk of extinction, either in specific regions or entirely. Ironically, they are vanishing just as we are learning about their important ecological effects, which is what led us to write a new paper in the journal Science to document their role.

From a review of published reports, we singled out seven species that have been studied for their important ecological role and widespread effects, known as trophic cascades. These are the African lion, leopard, Eurasian lynx, cougar, gray wolf, sea otter and dingo.

Based on field research, my Oregon State University co-author Robert Beschta and I documented the impact of cougars and wolves on the regeneration of forest tree stands and riverside vegetation in Yellowstone and other national parks in western North America. Fewer predators, we found, lead to an increase in browsing animals such as deer and elk. More browsing disrupts vegetation, reduces birds and some mammals and changes other parts of the ecosystem. From the actions of the top predator, widespread impacts cascade down the food chain.

Similar effects were found in studies of Eurasian lynx, dingoes, lions and sea otters. For example in Europe, absence of lynx has been closely tied to the abundance of roe deer, red fox and hare. In Australia, the construction of a 3,400-mile dingo-proof fence has enabled scientists to study ecosystems with and without dingoes which are closely related to gray wolves. They found that dingoes control populations of herbivores and exotic red foxes. The suppression of these species by dingoes reduces predation pressure, benefiting plants and smaller native prey.

In some parts of Africa, the decrease of lions and leopards has coincided with a dramatic increase in olive baboons, which threaten crops and livestock. In the waters off southeast Alaska, a decline in sea otters through killer whale predation has led to a rise in sea urchins and loss of kelp beds.

Predators are integral, not expendable

We are now obtaining a deeper appreciation of the impact of large carnivores on ecosystems, a view that can be traced back to the work of landmark ecologist Aldo Leopold. The perception that predators are harmful and deplete fish and wildlife is outdated. Many scientists and wildlife managers now recognise the growing evidence of carnivores’ complex role in ecosystems, and their social and economic benefits. Leopold recognised these relationships, but his observations were ignored for decades after his death in 1948.

op carnivores, at work keeping things in check. Doug Smith
Top carnivores, at work keeping things in check. Doug Smith

Human tolerance of these species is the major issue. Most would agree these animals have an intrinsic right to exist, but additionally they provide economic and ecological services that people value. Among the services documented in other studies are carbon sequestration, restoration of riverside ecosystems, biodiversity and disease control. For example, wolves may limit large herbivore populations, thus decreasing browsing on young trees that sequester carbon when they escape browsing and grow taller. Where large carnivore populations have been restored – such as wolves in Yellowstone or Eurasian lynx in Finland – ecosystems appear to be bouncing back.

I am impressed with how resilient the Yellowstone ecosystem is, and while ecosystem restoration isn’t happening quickly everywhere in this park, it has started. In some cases where vegetation loss has led to soil erosion, for example, full restoration may not be possible in the near term. What is certain is that ecosystems and the elements of them are highly interconnected. The work at Yellowstone and other places shows how species affect each another through different pathways. It’s humbling as a scientist to witness this interconnectedness of nature.

My co-authors and I have called for an international initiative to conserve large carnivores in co-existence with people. This effort could be modelled after a couple of other successful efforts including the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, a non-profit scientific group affiliated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the Global Tiger Initiative which involves all 13 of the tiger-range countries. With more tolerance by humans, we might be able to avoid extinctions. The world would be a scary place without these predators.

William Ripple does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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The ConversationMan! We are a strange species at times!

Starting Out on The Meditation Journey

If meditation really works then we want to engage in it.

Those who watched the video that was the central component of yesterday’s post will not have missed the references by Ted Meissner that scientific, double-blind evidence shows that meditation offers benefits for us humans.

Both Jean and I are especially interested in learning more and, hopefully, finding an appropriate meditation group in our nearest town, Grants Pass.

We would also welcome feedback and advice from any of you good people who have trod this path before.

For example, when one conducts a quick internet search into the different forms of meditation there are dozens of websites that are returned in the search findings. Almost choosing one website at random, the Visual Meditation website declares there are 7 Types of Meditation.  As in:

  • Transcendental Meditation (TM)
  • Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM)
  • Kundalini
  • Guided Visualization
  • Qi Gong
  • Zazen
  • Mindfulness

To my uneducated eye, not one of those types seems to accord with the type supported by the American Meditation Society:

OUR MISSION

  • To provide instruction in meditation as taught by the founder of AMS, Gururaj Ananda Yogi.
  • To preserve and share the universal teachings of Gururaj with integrity and wisdom.
  • To provide a place where those who wish to unfold the inner self may do so in the company of other like-minded people.

Back to the plot! For this post is about the science.

The following video seemed worthy of sharing with you.

I watched the first 10 minutes before deciding it should be shared. By the time this post is published Jean and I will have watched it to the end. [20:45 yesterday evening. Jean and I have just finished watching the Bob Roth video below. It was both fascinating and very helpful!!]

The Aspen Institute

Published on Jun 26, 2016

Published studies have documented the many physical and mental health benefits of meditation, including decreased pain, better immune function, less anxiety and depression, a heightened sense of well-being, and greater happiness and emotional self-control. Google Scholar turns up almost 700,000 research documents on meditation, among them imaging studies that show increased activity in brain regions associated with attention, a higher volume of grey matter, and lessened amygdala response to emotional stimuli. What actually happens in the brain when we meditate? Why is meditation so nourishing to the mind, body and spirit?

Perri Peltz, Interviewer
Bob Roth

But a search of the YouTube website using the search term “meditation science” brought up many other links to shorter videos.

I selected the following (2:23 mins) because it is presented by Ferris Jabr who is an Associate Editor with Scientific American magazine.

Bottom line to my way of thinking is that this is something worth committing to once we know much more about engaging in meditation.

Your experiences most welcomed.

(And, of course, when it comes to chilling out for hours regularly each day then there’s another thing we can learn from our beloved dogs! No better demonstrated than by Brandy yesterday morning in the following photograph!)