You may have missed… pedigree cat genetic mutations, dogs imagine their toys and doggie dates de-stress students.

Dogs think of their toys using multiple senses

It’s every dog owner’s dream to know exactly what’s going on in their fur baby’s mind. Well, a new study published in the journal Animal Cognition has found that when dogs are thinking about an object – like their favourite toys – they imagine its different sensory features, such as the way it looks or smells.

“If we can understand which senses dogs use while searching for a toy, this may reveal how they think about it,” explains co-lead author Shany Dror, from the Department of Ethology in Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary.

“When dogs use olfaction or sight while searching for a toy, this indicates that they know how that toy smells or looks like.”

In a previous study, the team had found that a few uniquely gifted dogs can learn the names of objects, so they investigated how four Gifted Word Learner dogs searched for and recognised a target toy (amongst four other toys), both when the lights were on and off.

They found that though the dogs’ success rate didn’t differ in the dark or light, their search behaviour did: dogs relied mostly on vision and switched to other senses (including their sense of smell) when searching in the dark.

This reveals that, when dogs play with a toy, they pay attention to its different features and register the information using multiple senses.

Genetic variants linked to disease in pedigree cats

The largest ever DNA-based study of domestic cats has found 13 genetic mutations associated with disease in cats are present in more pedigree breeds than was previously thought.

Researchers genotyped over 11,000 domestic cats (including 90 pedigree breeds and breed types and 617 non-pedigree cats) to detect the small differences in genes that are associated with known diseases, blood type, and physical traits in cats.

They identified 13 disease-associated variants in 47 pedigree breeds or breed types in which the variant had not previously been documented. However, they also found that these variants are declining in frequency in breeds that are regularly screened for the genetic markers.

These findings highlight the need for comprehensive genetic screening across all cat breeds and have been published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Ginger cat sitting on a lap
Over 11,000 domestic cats were genotyped in this study for blood type, disease and traits variants through Wisdom Panel’s commercial DNA testing of owner-submitted cheek swab samples. Credit: Kinship Partners, Inc., Anderson H, et al., 2022, PLOS Genetics, CC-BY 4.0

An update on the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

The Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is the most extensive prospective study in veterinary medicine. Researchers are following and observing a group of more than 3,000 golden retrievers in the US long-term to investigate the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other common diseases in dogs.

Every year owners and veterinarians complete online questionnaires about the health status and lifestyle of the dogs. Biological samples also are collected, and each dog has a physical study examination.

As the study now approaches its 10-year anniversary, researchers have published a paper in the journal PLOS One to review the findings so far. To date, 352 dogs have died and 70% of these deaths were attributed to cancer.

The primary objective of the study is to document and collect data on 500 dogs diagnosed with the primary endpoint cancers: hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, and high-grade mast cell tumours. So far, they’ve obtained 223 and found hemangiosarcoma to be the most common (n = 120), followed by lymphoma/leukemia (n = 85). There have also been fewer diagnoses of high-grade mast cell tumours (n = 10) and osteosarcoma (n = 8) than expected.

“The study data and samples are a legacy of these special dogs, that will continue to impact scientific discovery for decades to come,” says co-author Dr Janet Patterson-Kane, chief scientific officer at the Morris Animal Foundation in the US.

Graph of the cumulative incidence of the four primary endpoint cancers in golden retrievers
Graph of the cumulative incidence of the four primary endpoint cancers in Golden Retrievers. Credit: Labadie et al. (2022)

Doggy dates de-stress students

Primary school children in the UK were less stressed after spending just 20 minutes with a dog twice a week, compared to kids who spent the same time doing a relaxation session involving meditation and those who did neither, according to a new study in PLOS One.

Researchers tracked cortisol levels in the saliva of 150 children aged eight to nine years of age over four weeks – cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” because it is released by the body during times of stress.

Comparing their average cortisol levels before and after the four-week intervention revealed lower stress levels in children in the dog-intervention group, whereas cortisol levels increased in the two other groups.

Immediately following their doggy dates, both neurotypical children and children with special education needs also showed significant stress reduction, whereas no change in cortisol levels were found in children who meditated or had no intervention.

A group of children patting a dog
Credit: FatCamera/Getty Images

England may outlaw English bulldog breeding

UK veterinarians are warning that the breeding of English bulldogs could be banned unless urgent action is taken to change breeding standards towards more moderate features, according to a new study in Canine Medicine and Genetics.

They assessed the veterinary records of a random sample of 2,662 English bulldogs and 22,039 other dogs using the VetCompass database, and found that English bulldogs were twice as likely to be diagnosed with at least one disorder than other breeds.

The bulldogs also had increased risk of breathing, eye and skin conditions due to their extreme physical features – including shortened muzzles, folded skin and a squat body.

And only 9.7% of English bulldogs in this study were more than eight years old, compared to 25.4% of other breeds.

“These findings suggest that the overall health of the English bulldog is much lower than that of other dogs,” concludes lead author Dr Dan G O’Neill, associate professor of companion animal epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, UK.

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