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A new study conducted by animal behavior scientists from the United Kingdom and Brazil found that dogs who show fear or anxiety when faced with loud or sudden noises, such as those produced by vacuum cleaners, could actually be in pain.

The researchers were particularly interested in dogs who developed a sensitivity to loud noises over time. Researchers discovered that those dogs weren’t just afraid of loud noises—they also had associated musculoskeletal pain.

The researchers believe that the pain could be exacerbated when a sudden loud noise makes the dogs tense up or jump, placing extra stress on already inflamed muscles or joints, causing even more pain.

The study suggested that a dog’s fear or anxiety about noise could mean he’s learned to associate loud noise with pain—like a dog who didn’t used to run away from vacuum cleaners, but now he does.

Other noise triggers included fireworks, thunderstorms, airplanes, gunshots, cars, and motorcycles. The dogs with musculoskeletal pain also started to be triggered by noises much later in life than the control group.

According to the researchers, veterinarians should give any dog with a noise-related behavior issue a thorough physical exam to determine if pain is a factor.

Once that pain is diagnosed and treated, the behavior issue can be addressed.

And the vacuuming can resume.


Theories abound: They’re bored; they have enzyme deficiencies; it’s a problem with the pancreas; they do it for attention (if so, it’s working, but maybe not the way they were hoping); they like the taste (ugh); and, most annoying of all, they’re just really, really, hungry.

But so far, there hasn’t been a lot of convincing evidence for any of these answers. Now, new research suggests that dogs might eat their own poop for the most counter-intuitive of reasons:

To keep from getting sick.

Technically, eating feces is called coprophagy, and it’s normal behavior among many animals. According to the survey, 16% of dogs regularly eat feces, either their own or another animal’s. And while eating feces isn’t necessarily good for dogs, it isn’t necessarily harmful either. The biggest problem with coprophagy is that people get upset by it.

Research has discovered that coprophagous dogs were much more likely to be “greedy eaters.” They were more likely to be found in multidog households, where you would also expect to find a greater concentration of stools, i.e., more targets of opportunity. And there was a slight association with breed group, showing terriers and hounds as the most likely to eat feces, and poodles the least.

More significantly, better than 80% of coprophagic dogs preferred their feces fresh. Less than two days old, in most cases.

Older than that, and most of the dogs weren’t interested. And this freshness finding supports the researchers’ main hypotheses: that coprophagic behavior in dogs is an adaptive evolutionary mechanism that dates back more than 15,000 years.

Wolves did it (and still do).

The researchers point out that wolves usually defecate away from their dens, in part because their feces contain intestinal parasite eggs. But if a wolf was too sick or injured to move and had to defecate at home, those parasitic eggs became a potential problem. But because parasite eggs don’t typically hatch into infectious larvae for a couple of days, the feces wouldn’t necessarily be dangerous right away.

So, what to do with the poo?

The researchers theorize that wolves would eat the feces to get rid of it and protect the pack. And while that might sound extreme, remember that it’s not like those wolves had a pooper scooper handy. Or the opposable thumbs necessary to use one if they did. And if they ate it fresh, right away, before the larvae eggs hatched, it would be safe to eat.

Smart wolves.


It’s like the paleo diet, only for pets.

Grain-free, all-meat, and raw-food diets are hugely popular with pet owners who like the idea of feeding their cats and dogs a diet that’s closer to what their ancestor ate in the wilds.

The problem is, there’s no hard, scientific evidence that raw meat–based diets (RMBDs) are any healthier than traditional dry or canned pet foods.

Grain-free foods are one of the fastest growing segments of the pet food market. They’re often marketed as being more natural (read: healthier) for pets than grain-based diets.

Even though they are vastly popular, you must be careful!

Researchers at Utrecht University in The Netherlands tested 35 frozen pet-food products from eight different brands. All the products contained some combination of raw meat, bones, and animal byproducts from beef, duck, chicken, lamb, and horse, plus additional ingredients. The researchers were looking for any trace of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens—specifically, infectious bacteria and pathogens that could sicken not only pets, but potentially people, too, through contact with contaminated food or feces.

What they found is enough to make you sick. Literally.

They found potentially deadly E. coli bacteria in 28 products, or 80% of all the pet foods tested. More worrisome, they found E. coli 0157:H7 in 8 products, or 23% of the total. 0157:H7 is a particularly virulent strain of E. coli responsible for an infectious outbreak that’s killed two people and hospitalized more than 50 in the United States and Canada over the past seven weeks. In those cases, contaminated romaine lettuce rather than meat is believed to be the culprit.

There’s more.

Listeria monocytogenes was present in 19 products, or 54%, and other listeria species were found in 15, or 43%. Researchers wrote that the results of the study clearly demonstrate the presence of potential zoonotic pathogens in frozen RMBDs that may be a source of bacterial infections in pet animals and, if transmitted, pose a risk for human beings.

Of course, it’s not just handling raw pet food that can make people sick—people should thoroughly wash their hands after handling raw meat, including the meat they buy to feed their families.

The researchers added, “If nonfrozen meat is fed [to pets], parasitic infections are also possible.”

So what is a holistic pet owner supposed to do who wants to feed a raw diet. Wash your hands well, and treat the raw food first before having your pet consume it!

For more information on how to do this, please call our office and schedule a consultation.

Fact Vs. Fiction regarding Grain Free Pet Foods

The good news—pet owners are increasingly focusing on their pets’ nutrition. The not-so- good news—they are reading about niche diets on the internet.

According to US Bureau of Labor and Statistics data, the pet food market is on a growth trajectory, with $29.5 billion spent on pet food in 2015, including in some growing niche markets such as grain-free diets.

Many pet owners believe grain-free diets are better for their pets because they assume they are more natural, carbohydrate-free, and less likely to result in health problems such as allergies, but this is notthe case.

Better for Pets?

No credible evidence has been found showing grain-free diets are better for pets, nor do any nutritional foundations support this claim. Therefore, veterinary healthcare teams need to educate pet owners about the definition of nutrition and the difference between nutrients and ingredients.

The Misperceptions

Pet owners frequently encounter misinformation about grains in pet foods. Here are some of the most common misperceptions:

  • Whole grains may be fillers in pet foods:

Filler implies the ingredient has little or no nutritional value, but whole grains do contribute vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids to pet foods.Various grain products also provide protein, which may be easier for the pet to digest than some proteins from meat. Most dogs and cats (>90%) can utilize and digest nutrients from grains normally found in pet foods.

  • Grain-free pet foods are carbohydrate-free:

Grain-free pet foods typically contain carbohydrates from other sources such as sweet potatoes, which have a higher carbohydrate level than corn. Grains are carbohydrates, which are an important energy source, and one of the 6 basic nutrients (ie, water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals).

Veterinary teams must remember that the variety of grain-free diets on the market means a variety of nutritional profiles, which affects not only carbohydrates but also protein, fat, and other nutrients. Grain-free diets lower in carbohydrates may indicate a higher amount of fat and calories. Some grain-free diets merely substitute grain with highly refined starches (eg, potatoes, cassava) that may deliver fewer nutrients and less fiber than whole grains and are not considered cost-efficient.4 In other grain-free products, the grains are replaced with beans, peas, or lentils, which may provide carbohydrates but are not necessarily any better for pets than grains and may lead to GI upset.

  • Grains cause food allergies: Food allergies and insensitivities are abnormal responses to a normal food or ingredient.5 Food allergies in pets are uncommon (ie, <1% of skin disease, <10% of all allergies6,7) and grain allergies are even more uncommon. The significant factors in the few pets diagnosed with a food allergy are more likely animal protein (eg, chicken, beef, dairy),8 which reflects the commonality of ingredients in pet foods rather than their increased tendency to cause allergies.
  • Grains cause gluten intolerance: Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease seen in humans that has been associated with hypersensitivity to gluten proteins in wheat and related grains such as barley and rye. Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in dogs and nonexistent in cats. Only one inbred family of Irish Setters is known to have manifested GI signs from consuming gluten.


The growing grain-free category of the expanding pet food market is perpetuating the misperception that grain is bad for pets. Also, pet owners increasingly consider their pet’s diet as important as their own. Consequently, various human food trends have found their way into the pet food market, especially those believed to center on pets’ wellness. Remember, grain-free diets offer no more health benefits than a diet with grains, and each diet should be considered based on the overall nutrient profile rather than individual ingredients. However, some owners will adamantly believe their pet should eat only grain-free food.

Cannabis and Pets.

Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and in Washington, DC.

Legal for people, that is, not pets.

As far as the medicinal benefits of marijuana for pets go, the jury is still out. In fact, there hasn’t even been a trial.

California was the first state to legalize pot for medicinal use in 1996 and in January is slated to become one of the latest states to legalize the sale of pot for recreational use. Peyton said that between increasing use of medical cannabis nationwide and the upcoming launch of recreational use in the Sunshine state, interest in using marijuana medicinally for pets is growing.

According to UC Davis, very little is known about what role or use cannabis may play in the health and wellbeing of companion animals. Currently, no states allow veterinarians to prescribe or recommend cannabis products for pets. Some questions veterinarians want to know.

  • Why does your pet need a cannabis product?
  • What is the name of the hemp/cannabis product?
  • Is the amount of Cannabidiol (CBD), Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or other cannabinoids in product listed?

CBDs and THCs are the major players in the composition of marijuana, and the main difference between the two is that THCs will get you high while CBDs won’t. CBDs also have significant medical benefits, which is why they’re of such interest to both researchers and pet owners.

In states that have legalized recreational marijuana, pet owners can buy biscuits and other products containing nonpsychoactive cannabinoid compounds (e.g., CBD), and anecdotal reports indicate that some find cannabis products helpful for pain, arthritis, seizures, or anxiety in both dogs and cats.

No wonder pet owners are interested. And wary.

According to a 2016 study on marijuana toxicity in pets conducted in Colorado, a state where both medicinal and recreational marijuana use is legal, two dogs that ate baked products made with medical grade marijuana died. But THC, not CBD, was the active cannabinoid in both cases.


And they’re letting you know they know. Just look at those puppy dog eyes.Scientists at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Center have found clear evidence that dogs change their expressions in direct response to human attention.

Previous studies have suggested that the facial expressions of non-human primates like orangutans and gibbons vary more when people are around, especially during play, indicating that those expressions are not necessarily an automatic response but a direct response to having an audience. But the Portsmouth study is the first to find a link between dogs’ facial expressions and the presence of people.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Juliane Kaminski, said, “The findings appear to support evidence that dogs are sensitive to humans’ attention and that expressions are potentially active attempts to communicate, not simple emotional displays.”

They discovered that the dogs produced more facial expressions when the humans were facing them than when they turned away, with or without holding food.

Eye contact was the key.

Which means that when a dog makes a face at you, she may be trying to communicate.

The most common expression produced by the dogs during the study was brow raising. Brow raising makes the eyes look bigger, producing the effect of so-called puppy dog eyes.

In humans, puppy dog eyes can resemble sadness. In dogs, it can make their eyes appear larger and more baby-like. That could tap into human’s preference for child-like characteristics, making us especially responsive to that expression in dogs.

After all, people make puppy dog eyes at you when they want something. So it’s no surprise that puppies do it, too.


Walking your dog can save your life, depending on how long your walk is.

Just 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week, can prevent one in twelve deaths. That’s the conclusion drawn from one of the largest studies ever done of the benefits of moderate physical activity.

And you don’t even have to break a sweat.

The study published last week in the British medical journal The Lancet, analyzed data from more than 130,000 people in seventeen countries across all income levels over an average of seven years.

Past research has shown that physical activity has a protective effect against cardiovascular disease (CVD) in high-income countries. In those countries, that physical activity is mainly recreational. In the new study, researchers wanted to find out if that same protective effect could be observed in lower-income countries, where physical activity is mostly nonrecreational—countries where people didn’t necessarily work out or belong to a gym, but got their physical activity in during the course of a regular day, like walking to work or simply being active around home doing chores.

During the course of the study, researchers found that people who reported two-and-a-half hours of physical activity per week were much healthier than their sedentary counterparts. They were less likely to have heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular disease.

In fact, they were less likely to die from any cause.

Getting 150 minutes of weekly exercise was associated with a 28 percent reduction in premature death and a 20 percent reduction in heart disease.

If you’re a dog owner, it’s likely you’re already seeing the health benefits. Dog owners typically walk an average of 300 minutes a week or around 43 minutes per day. So, if you’re like most dog owners, you’re ahead of the game by150 minutes a week.


Many studies have studied the behavior of dogs and their connections to people but not all attempt to explain the genetic basis for this behavior.

A new study published on July 19 in the online journal Science Advances suggests that it has located one genetic marker that reveals hypersociability in dogs. Using the genetic markers in people who have Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS), a genetic disorder that makes

? people? friendly and trusting, researchers found the same marker in dogs showing that they had variations in the same kinds of genes that wolves did not possess.

Researchers noted that dogs continue to display hypersociability into adulthood and set them apart from wolves, even wolves who have been hand-raised by people. The study described hypersociability as “a multifaceted phenotype that includes extended proximity seeking and gaze, heightened oxytocin levels, and inhibition of independent problem-solving behavior in the presence of humans.”

Overall, dogs spent a greater amount of time gazing at humans and sought proximity to people more than wolves did. By developing an idea of the sociability of the dogs and wolves, researchers could then determine whether the genetic findings had any relation to their behavior.

As a result, the study proposes that one aspect of domestication is that individuals with hypersocial tendencies were favored under selective breeding leading to adult dogs that show exaggerated motivation to seek social contact unlike adult wolves.

David A. Gordon, DVM
Oceanside Veterinary Hospital
Advanced Care Veterinary Hospital


A cat who looks particularly grumpy or sweet doesn’t seem to be more likely to get adopted. But a cat who rubs up against toys or furniture is more likely to get a home.

Researchers wanted to see whether cat facial expressions had been subjected to selection during domestication. The study was published in the April 2017 issue of Applied Animal Behaviour Science. A study published looked at whether the facial expressions of dogs had an influence over people and discovered that dogs who raised their brows more frequently were adopted more quickly than other dogs. The researchers concluded this was because the act made dogs look more like puppies and theorized the early domestication of dogs could have been influenced by facial expressions.

After categorizing facial expressions, researcher concluded that cat facial movements were not related to the speed with which they were adopted, but their behaviors did have an effected. Cats who frequently rubbed their bodies on toys and furniture were adopted 30% more quickly than cats who didn’t.

The researchers concluded that the study’s finding suggest people are more influenced by prosocial behaviors than facial expressions. This could mean that domestication of cats was not related to facial expressions like the domestication of dogs probably was.


While ancient Egyptians might not have been the first to domesticate cats, they could be the reason behind the spread of cats across Europe and Asia.

Ancient Egyptian culture and artwork has shown us time and again how popular and revered cats were in their society. For that reason, it was believed for many years that they must have been the first to domesticate cats. However, in 2004, researchers discovered a 9,500-year-old cat buried with human remains on the island of Cyprus.

This new study shows that while Egyptians were not the first to domesticate cats, they likely lent to the popularity of the domestic cat.

The researchers performed ancient DNA analysis from bone, teeth, skin, and hair samples of 352 ancient cats. The cat remains tested covered Europe, north and east Africa, and southwest Asia. Samples spanned about 9,000 years, going back to before 6,500 BCE all the way up to the twentieth century CE.

The expansion of cats with this lineage is clear when looking at the progression from 400 CE to 1200 CE. The way Egyptians bred cats and developed the human-animal bond could account for this popularity.

Early depictions of cats in ancient Egyptian art often show them in a working setting—hunting rats, for example. But as time went on, those depictions changed to show domesticated cats living near and among people, like the famous depiction of a cat sitting under a woman’s chair from around 1500 BCE.

One other interesting aspect of the study looked at cats’ coat colors to see if human breeding played a hand in how cats looked as they have with dogs. They found that the blotched-tabby pattern does not appear in cats before the Medieval period. This suggests that ancient Egyptians bred cats for personality traits rather than looks.

And, without ancient trade routes and an Egyptian affinity for cats, maybe the domesticated breeds we know today wouldn’t be as widespread as they are.


Not everyone who hears a dog growling assumes they are being threatened.

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary tested whether people can identify the context of a dog’s growl. They used three different natural situations: dogs at play, dogs guarding food, and dogs faced with a stranger. Participants were able to identify the contexts for the growling at levels higher than chance, although they had a more difficult time distinguishing growls for guarding food and threatening a stranger.

Previous studies have suggested people have more difficulty differentiating between playful and threatening growls. The researchers hypothesized that the length of the growls in those studies, which were restricted to 1.2 seconds, caused confusion as that is shorter than an average aggressive growl and longer than an average playful growl.As a result, this study aimed to give the context of natural growling situations without modifying the frequency or time of the growls.

There were 40 participants, 14 men and 26 women. For the first set of growls, they received a scoring sheet for emotional scaling, choosing from five inner states: aggression, fear, despair, happiness, and playfulness. Rather than just choosing the emotion, however, they had a visual analogue scale and placed the mark along a line, allowing them to rate how strongly the growl associated with a particular emotion.

While the participants’ demographics had no effect on how they scored the growls emotionally, women and dog owners were more likely to correctly recognize the context of growls. Because these results differ from previous studies, the researchers concluded that the length and rhythm of the growls likely helped the listeners to correctly identify growls.

Exposure to household pets from birth could reduce a child’s risk for allergies and obesity.

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Alberta looked at infant gut microbiota to see whether pre- or postnatal pet exposure would have a significant effect.

Mothers were given questionnaires and the infants were split into four categories based on exposure: no pet exposure in the pre- or postnatal periods; only prenatal pet exposure; both pre- and postnatal pet exposure; and only postnatal pet exposure.

More than half the infants had some exposure to pets—8% were exposed in pregnancy alone and 46.8% had exposure during both time periods.

To control for other factors, comparisons were conducted for specific groups with or without siblings, non-exclusively breastfed infants, as well as non-exclusively breastfed infants without siblings.

Pre- and postnatal pet exposure enriched the abundance of the bacteria of Oscillospira and/or Ruminococcus. It was determined that infants with high levels of Oscillospira and Ruminococcus would be at a lower risk for allergies and obesity.

Some of the benefits of pet exposure applied to infants who had prenatal exposure but not postnatal exposure, indicating that the microbiome exchange could take place before birth. The researchers concluded that further research is needed to link the microbiota changes with the health outcomes of infants in this study as well as children in other cohorts.

Stressed owners lead to stressed dogs.

Owners might be able to influence their dogs’ ability to adapt to stressful situations.

Researchers from the University of Vienna conducted a study to see how owners and dogs might influence each other in adaptation to stressful situations. They wanted to see whether human and dog personalities might make the other more or less able to handle stress. In order to test this, researchers took samples of dog and human saliva after various testing situations and measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The researchers also used questionnaires to analyze the personalities of owners and their dogs.

Extended exposure to stress and anxiety can affect a person’s cortisol levels. If exposed to continued stress over time, the levels won’t vary much, even in reaction to extra stressful situations, indicating a more constant state of anxiety. For this reason, the researchers hypothesized that dogs and people with high cortisol variability were better able to adapt to stressful situations. They believe testing these levels of cortisol “may be an informative measure of stress coping, with a high amplitude between arousal peaks and relaxation lows reflecting healthy regulation.”

The study focused on 132 human-dog pairings. Owners completed questionnaires to assess their personality and their dog’s personality. Questionnaires evaluated the owner’s personality in five categories: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. They also considered the attachment between the owner and the dog.

Results showed that female owners with male dogs had the lowest cortisol variability of all owner gender-dog sex combinations. Owners who scored high in Agreeableness had higher cortisol variability as did owners with dogs who were cool and friendly.

Owners who scored high in Neuroticism had dogs with low cortisol variability. Neuroticism, according to the researchers, is linked to low expectations of social support, major depression and anxiety. As a result, dogs who are sensitive to their owners’ emotional state “may mirror the anxiety and negative expectations of neuroticistic owners in their cortisol variability.” Dogs who were insecure in attachments to owners also had low cortisol variability.


Using the high-pitched “dog voice” toward pets works better for puppies than adult dogs.

Researchers decided to look into this pet-directed speech, which is similar to the tone of voice used for human babies “known to engage infants’ attention and promote language learning.” In the first investigation of “potential factors modulating the use of dog-directed speech,” the research also aimed to determine its immediate impact on behavior.

To find out how dogs reacted to human speech, researchers had 30 female volunteers read a script while looking at pictures of dogs—both puppies and adults. The script included common phrases like, “Who’s a good boy?” They also recorded as if speaking to another person.

Analysis of these recordings found that the human speakers used dog-directed speech no matter the age of the dog in the photo, but that when speaking to puppies, the pitch of their voice did go up.

The recordings were then played for 10 puppies and 10 adult dogs. 9 out of the 10 puppies reacted strongly, barking and running toward the loudspeaker even when the recording had been made for an older dog. The adult dogs, meanwhile, did not react to speech directed at puppies, older dogs, or humans.

Adult dogs seemed to ignore dog-directed speech at least when the voice is from an unfamiliar person.

To find out whether speaking to puppies this way could help them learn words, like speech directed at infants does, more studies will have to be done.


In research conducted by Leeds Beckett University, researchers interviewed dog walkers about their relationships with their dogs on their walks. The aim was to examine how humans share space with their pets and how they negotiate the walking experience.

Lead researcher Thomas Fletcher explained in press release, “The study reveals that humans walk their dogs in large part because they feel a deep-rooted emotional bond with them and hold a strong sense of obligation to ensure they stay fit and healthy. Perhaps more interestingly, humans also walk their dogs because they believe their dogs have fun and are able to be more 'dog-like' while out on a walk.”

The study found that people thought of the walk as something they did for their dog and that characteristics of the walk, including timing, length, and place were determined by the dog’s personality and what the people thought the dogs liked and disliked the most.

Many walkers indicated, for example, that they would avoid high-trafficked areas if they thought being around other people and dogs would be stressful for the dog on their walk.

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