Dogs and COVID-19
Coronavirus is a large family of viruses which are generally species specific. Coronaviruses in humans cause one third of what is generally diagnosed as common cold and upper respiratory infections. Rarely species specific coronaviruses will jump the species barrier and infect humans. This is what happened with SARS, MERS and is suspected in the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses, such as the canine respiratory coronavirus which is responsible for 9.8% of cases generally known as kennel cough (Wikipedia article Kennel Cough). These types of the virus do not affect humans.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said that infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations, all agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
That being said, there have been two cases of dogs testing positive for the COVID-19 virus, both from the same residence in Hong Kong. Neither of these animals showed any symptoms of the virus and are believed to have been infected by their owner who did have the disease.
Veterinary diagnostic company IDEXX laboratories report they have tested thousands of dogs and cats and have not found a single case of COVID-19.
The American Veterinary Medical Association Chief Veterinary Officer Gail Golab says, “We’re not overly concerned about people contracting COVID-19 through contact with dogs and cats.” And there’s science behind that: “The virus survives best on smooth surfaces, such as counter tops and doorknobs,” Golab says. “Porous materials, such as pet fur, tend to absorb and trap pathogens, making it harder to contract them through touch.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States says "At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States." But there is always a chance and we don't know to much about the virus yet, so just make sure you are watching that your dog isn't coughing more then normal or have a fever. Our dogs, as always, are a source of comfort and calm for us and especially in this stressful time. So at this time there is no need to practice physical distancing from our dogs, unless you yourself are infected and need to protect your dog.
References: American Kennel Club, Can Dogs Get Coronavirus, posted March 20, 2020
Centers for Disease Control, Animals and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), updated March 16, 2020
MarketWatch, Second Dog Tests Positive for Coronavirus as owners warned not to abandon pets, March 21, 2020
WebMD, What are common symptoms of coronavirus,
January 22, 2020
Wikipedia, article Kennel Cough
"Roses are grey, violets are a different shade of grey, let's go chase cars.", this old joke by Bo Burnham perpetuates the myth that dogs are totally colour blind, they're not.
Animals including humans have light receptors in the back of the retina called cones. Humans have three distinct types of cones each of which is tuned to a different frequency of light. In our case, with our some 6 million cones in each eye, we can detect frequencies in the blue, green and red range, giving us the vibrant view we have of the world.
Dogs have far fewer cones and only two types, those for blue and green, and are lacking any detector for red. This results in a different perception of the colour spectrum than humans as seen in this chart. So that bright red ball we just thru for our ball crazy friend will be seen as the greyish green at the top of the chart, almost camouflaged on the yellow grass in the middle of the chart. Even at that, the much lower density of cones renders the colours much less vibrant so buddy's bright red ball may be almost invisible.
However, we don't need to feel to bad for them, since what they lack in colour perception they make up for in low light acuity. Another structure around the outside of the retina, called rods, are sensitive to low light levels but not colour. The ratio of rods to cones is about 2.5 times higher for dogs than humans, meaning they can detect objects in low light much better than humans. Another adaptation contributing to low light acuity is the larger pupil, allowing more light to reach the retina.
Still another adaptation, called the tapetum is a reflective layer behind the retina which reflects light back into the rods and cones. This is what causes animals eyes to shine in the dark when illuminated (this is different from red eye in flash photos of humans which happens because the iris cannot close quick enough to filter the light and we see the reflection of the blood rich retina). Humans do not have a tapetum.
So it turns out dogs do see colours, although not as vibrantly nor as many hues as we do but have built in night vision.
References: Are Dogs Colorblind? Elizabeth Palermo
Live Science June 27, 2014
Can Dogs See Colors, Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC
Psychology Today, Oct 20 2008
Do Dogs Actually Use Color Vision?Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC
Psychology Today, July 22, 2013
Doggone: Your Best Friend Is Red-Green Colorblind,Laura Geggel
Live Science Nov 8, 2017
Puppy Dog Eyes
Ahh. So cute. We've all seen those "puppy dog eyes" and usually with the same reaction. But why do dogs give us this endearing gaze?
Studies have shown that eye contact is an important aspect of human bonding and is associated with increased levels of oxytocin, the feel good hormone.
In a study documented in Live Science, researchers found elevated levels of oxytocin in both humans and dogs after they spent some time just gazing at each other.
It has been well documented that dogs as we know them evolved from more social wolves hanging around human encampments and scrounging for food.
So have dogs actually developed this trait as a way of weaseling more food from us?
Since dogs do not generally use eye contact in intra-species communication, the same study surmised that this endearing trait developed strictly to communicate with humans.
Indeed, in a study documented in Current Biology, a group of wolves that had been socialized to humans were unable to locate food treats pointed out by the humans by either touching or pointing to the same degree of success as dogs. In a second part of the same study the animals were given an insolvable task such as getting to food in a jar. The wolves in this case would eventually give up and leave, however the dogs, presented with the same dilemma, tended to turn to the humans for help, engaging eye contact.
This behavioral development actually led to a physical evolutionary development in the facial muscles of dogs. The excellent PBS program Nova looked into this and documented studies showing that wolves lack two sets of facial muscles required to manipulate the facial expression we know as puppy dog eyes. One set of these muscles is used to lift the eyebrows up, while the other, pulls to the outside resulting in the wide, expressive eyes that remind us of human babies, or a person on the verge of tears, generally resulting in an emotive response from the subject human.
As a sort of "missing link" in this evolutionary development, Nova reported that one species, the Siberian Husky, has only one set of these muscles, the ones used to pull the eyebrows up. This is because Siberian Husky's are more like their distant relative the wolves and have only developed one set of these muscles. So are our four legged friends master manipulators or just making use of an evolutionary response taught by eliciting a beneficial response from us. Either way those puppy dog eyes seem to benefit both species.
Why do dogs scratch the ground after peeing
Divots all over the lawn, gravel flying all over. Someone just had a pee. But why do dogs need to scratch the ground after peeing? Actually, only around 10 percent of dogs do it," said Rosie Bescoby, a clinical animal behaviorist with the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors in the United Kingdom and she says that it appears to occur equally in males and females, although it was observed that males that do it, do it more frequently than the females that do it, which may be why most people think it is a male thing.
A 2004 paper studied 12 female Jack Russels, 6 spayed and 6 intact and watched their urinary behaviors. They observed that these dogs were more likely to urinate more frequently and aim their urine at objects when away from home in comparison to when they were walked close to home and concluded that scent marking was an important function of urination, especially away from home area. Male dogs have also been observed to raise their legs more frequently to urinate when in the presence of another dog. We can corroborate this from observations in our boarding kennel where all the dogs are away from home and around strange dogs.
But still why the scratching? Most studies conclude that, given the marking functions explained above, the scratching is just a method of distributing that scent over wider territory. In addition, dogs have sweat glands in their paw pads and by scratching at the ground they are also adding that additional scent to the already lovely odour.
Most studies also hypothesize that the marks left on the ground contribute a visual component
to the marking function of the behaviour for passers by. Scientists who study this sort of thing call this a composite signal.
At any rate, ground scratching is not a behaviour we need to discourage, just stand clear when the dirt starts flying. Have fun and keep heading Duenorth, the right direction to a well trained dog.
Physiology Today, Ground Scratching by Dogs: Scent, Sight, and Ecstasy, Mark Bekoff PhD March 03, 2019
Eileen and dogs, Ground Scratching: Why Does My Dog Do It? Eileen Anderson, December 02, 2014
Live Science, Why do dogs scratch the ground after they pee? Emma Bryce, August 04 2018.
PetMD, 12 Dog Peeing Positions and What They Mean. Jennifer Coates DVM
Can Dogs feel guilty?
You’ve come home to find the counter cleared off and the empty bread bag on the floor with Fido nearby, head down eyes averted looking guilty as hell. But does she really feel guilt.
Seventy-four percent of dog owners believe that their dogs experience guilt. It sure looks like guilt. Psychologists label feelings like happiness and fear as primary emotions, that is a direct response to external events, and there is plenty of evidence of these emotions in dogs. But emotions like jealousy, pride, and guilt are termed secondary emotions and are feelings about feelings. There has been little evidence of secondary emotions in animal cognition literature.
That does not mean that dogs do not experience guilt but perhaps that hang dog look is really something else. Charles Darwin observed that the types of behaviours associated with guilt - keeping one's head down, and averting one's gaze - are also seen in other social non-human primate species. These behaviours have been interpreted as a means to mitigate retaliation for transgressions in social groups and as such are more pragmatic than emotion based. Indeed, anecdotally pet owners report that they chastise their pets less harshly when these displays of apparent guilt for transgressions are displayed. Is Fido, then, attempting to lessen the anticipated reprimand rather than actually feeling guilt?
A group of canine cognition researchers from Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, created an experiment to find out. Sixty-four dogs were selected and a normal greeting behaviour was established for each. Then the dogs were presented with an opportunity to misbehave when left alone in a room (stealing food from a table) and the greeting behaviour when their owners returned was recorded for both those that had misbehaved and those that had not. Keep in mind that they were all aware of the possibility that they may be in trouble.
The two groups were equally likely to display guilt type behaviours whether they had transgressed or not.
It seems like the guilt type behaviours are a means of mitigating an anticipated punishment and probably not an emotional response.
Reference: Scientific American By Jason G. Goldman on May 31, 2012
Business Insider: Dogs don't experience guilt. Ben Gilbert
The Dodo: Think Your Dog Has A "Guilty" Look? Think Again. Julie Hecht
Welcome to our new feature where each Sunday we will delve into the world of science as related to dogs. These posts will be our crude interpretation of recent scientific studies in the canine world. Today's topic:
Early Exposure to pets effect on mental health
It has been well know (to some) that some psychiatric disorders may be linked to environmental exposure to immune system disrupters in early life.
Dr Robert Yolken of Johns Hopkins Children's Center conducted a study investigating the relationship between exposure to a household pet cat or dog during the first 12 years of life and a later diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
The study found a statistically significant decrease in the prevalence of schizophrenia in those exposed to a dog early in life. Yolken found as much as 24% fewer schizophrenia diagnosis among those brought up with pet dogs before their 13th birthday.
Yolken did not find any such relationship between exposure to dogs and bi-polar disorder. More significantly, he found no significant relationship between exposure to cats and either schizophrenia or bi-polar, however there was a slight increase in risk of developing either disorder for those who were first in contact with cats between the ages of 9 and 12.
Multiple epidemiological studies conducted since 1953 have shown there also is a statistical connection between a person exposed to the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. Toxoplasmosis, is a condition in which cats are the primary hosts of a parasite transmitted to humans.
Some of our own thoughts on this are: