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Pet Research of 2013

posted October 13th, 2014 by
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Studies

From Funny, To Sweet, To Informational, Here Are 10 Of The Best Studies Of The Year

by Anna Holton-Dean

Our world changes so fast these days. One thing that doesn’t change is the constant advance of knowledge. Researchers gain new information all the time, and that includes news about the animals around us. With a myriad of studies out there, it would be hard to consume all the information.

Thanks to Pawnation.com, we have a handy list of the top 10 most interesting animal studies of 2013. We are happy to discover several of these studies reveal even more incentives to spay and neuter, and adopt rather than buy.

Lethal Cats

A recent Smithsonian study found domestic cats kill 3.7 billion birds and as many as 20.7 billion mice and other small mammals every year in the U.S. alone. This is not an isolated problem as other countries conducted similar studies with similar results.

The PawNation report says the result could be dire for the ecosystem. This only furthers our belief at TulsaPets that spaying and neutering is crucial for even more reasons than saving the lives of cats and dogs as the problems of overpopulation spill over to other areas.

Big Dogs, Shorter Lives

As a single species bred by humans over centuries into countless sizes   and shapes, researchers have been able to study how size affects life expectancy. They have learned that larger dogs age faster than their smaller counterparts. In the PawNation article, Cornelia Kraus, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Gottingen in Germany, says of larger breeds, “Their lives seem to unwind in fast motion.”

The supporting research shows that about one month of life expectancy      is lost for every 4.4 pounds a dog weighs. For example, “a 155-pound Great Dane has a life expectancy of about 7 years, while a 9-pound Poodle can live up to about 14 years.

“In addition to faster aging, bigger dogs also seem more susceptible to developing cancer than small dogs. This may correlate with size, because cancer is a disease of cell growth.”

So should you factor this information into your decision when adopting a new dog? Can you handle knowing your larger pooch may not be around in 10 years but a smaller choice more likely will be?

Dr. Pat Grogan with VCA Woodland East Animal Hospital in Tulsa says there’s even more to consider than length of years, but what is involved during those years. “It is true that the giant breeds of dogs have shorter life expectancies, but there are other factors that people should consider before getting a very large dog,” he says.

“Large dogs are more expensive to care for—they eat more, require larger beds and kennels, have higher preventive medication costs, and are more expensive when they become ill.  Also, large dogs, if destructive or aggressive can do more harm to property and people.  Having said this, I love large dogs; however, I don’t recommend they be the first dog you ever own.”

Spay/Neuter, Longer Life

It’s no secret spaying and neutering controls the pet population, but research from the University of Georgia shows the procedures can prolong dogs’ lives.

“Researchers looked at a sample of 40,139 death records from the Veterinary Medical Database from 1984–2004,” PawNation says. “They determined that the average age of death for dogs that had not been spayed or neutered was 7.9 years versus 9.4 years for dogs that had  been sterilized.”

Grogan says this research certainly falls in line with what is known about neutered versus intact dogs and can be attributed to a number of causes. “We know that un-neutered male dogs are hit by cars in disproportionately high numbers each year,” he says. “Intact male dogs are much more likely to roam from home, and that does not always work out well for them.

“Also, both male and female dogs can contract life-threatening diseases involving their reproductive organs, including infections and cancer. Female dogs that are spayed before their first heat cycle have been shown to have a significantly reduced risk of mammary cancer, and male dogs that are neutered rarely have disease in their prostate gland.”

Pet Store Puppy Problems

A University of Pennsylvania study found that pet-store puppies are more likely to display behavioral problems later in life. Many factors contribute  to this, including the fact that their mothers are under stress when breeding in puppy mills, PawNation reports. Additional concerns include unusual aggression toward their owners and other dogs, as well as an increased chance of running away.

It is relevant to note “neutered pet-store dogs were more well-behaved, but still more aggressive than neutered non-commercial dogs.” This study serves as more reason to continue doing what we already know is best—adopting shelter pets. Breeding is a no-win situation.

Grogan says a puppy’s key socialization period is between 6 and 16 weeks of age—a time when puppies need a “broad range of good experiences with other pets and people.”

“Puppy mills and pet stores are not the ideal settings for pups in this age range, and truthfully some are more affected by bad circumstances than others,” he says. “I think that all pups deserve a loving home no matter from where they come.”

For anyone who finds this an area of concern, Grogan says seek advice from your veterinarian who can help assess the temperament of the puppy you may be considering before taking it into your home.

Cautions of Homemade Dog Food

In an effort to eat healthier, less processed whole foods, many folks have taken to making more foods at home, and that can include making food for their pets. However, research from the University of California Davis says homemade dog food may be worse than conventional as “it’s almost never nutritionally complete.”

Particularly, the nutritional deficiencies include choline, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin E, “which could result in significant health problems such as immune dysfunction, accumulation of fat in the liver and musculoskeletal abnormalities,” PawNation reports.

Emotional Creatures

“Dogs use specific facial expressions   to show emotion” a Japanese study published in the journal Behavioural Processes says. Each dog in the study displayed different facial expressions in reaction to a series of objects including its owner, a stranger, a toy and a non-desirable object.

The study found “the dogs raised their eyebrows in response to seeing a person, but raised them higher, especially their left eyebrows, when seeing their owners. When seeing a stranger, the dogs moved their left ears back slightly. Researchers believe the dogs’ facial movements reflect activity in the parts of the brain that control emotion,” PawNation says.

This serves as a good reminder to care for your pets responsibly. They aren’t objects, but living creatures with real emotions; research proves it.

Birds Sense Speed Limits

Ever wonder how birds escape near collisions with vehicles just in the nick of time? New research shows birds  are able to sense and react to posted speed limits. Birds reacted to average speed limits, not actual speed limits, PawNation says.

Pierre Legagneux, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Quebec in Rimouski, found the birds “associate road sections with speed limits as a way to assess collision risk. So strictly enforcing speed limits could reduce bird collisions.”

Being a bird brain might not be such a bad thing after all.

Cat Eyes

A general assumption may be that cats have an advantage over us humans regarding sight since they can see well in the dark. However, Photographer Nickolay Lamm produced a series of photographs displaying how cats see differently than humans—not better.

Cats see fewer colors, mostly in blues and yellows, and what they see appears washed out by comparison. “What cats may lack in color perception and focus compared to humans, they make up for with the ability to sense movement in darkness, a larger field of vision (200 degrees compared to our 180 degrees) and greater peripheral vision (30 degrees on each side compared to our 20),” PawNation writes.

Cats Domesticated 5,000 Years Ago

Researchers have discovered what they believe to be the earliest evidence of cat domestication unearthed from a Chinese village, dating back to the Stone Age. Bones, appearing to be more than 5,000 years old, found in the Central China village demonstrated a close interaction between cats and the people of the area. It’s believed they were the pets of farmers.

Yes, Your Cat Is Ignoring You… But He Still Loves You

A University of Tokyo study confirmed that cats understand us when we call but choose to ignore us most of the time. The study published in Animal Cognition observed 20 cats for eight months, responding to a series of audio recordings of five people calling each cat’s name.

“Very few of the cats could muster  up the gumption to respond at all to  being called,” PawNation reports. “Interestingly, the cats did display stronger responses when hearing their owners’ voices, which indicates they  do recognize the difference and per-haps have special relationships with their owners, but they still didn’t bother moving either way.”

The researchers commented in their study that the “cat-owner relationship is in direct contrast to that with dogs.”

The saying is true that cats are not small dogs, Grogan says. “Their solitary nature sometimes makes them seem stand-offish, but many cat owners will tell you of the great affection that their feline friends demonstrate. It’s easy for us to anthropomorphize the way that our cats or dogs interact, but by learning from behaviorists how they see their world, we can really appreciate the wonder that is the cat.”