Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Pets

Why being ‘bird-brained’ may actually be a compliment

It has long been suspected that birds (and reptiles) were not very smart because they lack a neocortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for working memory, perception, problem solving, and conscious thought in mammals. In stark contrast to this idea, studies have repeatedly shown that several species of birds have very good memories as well as planning and problem solving skills (see examples below), which has […]

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Your dog’s internal compass

Apparently pooping is not the only thing dogs do that align with the Earth’s magnetic field. Hunting dogs are kind of like migratory birds in their ability to roam and find their way back to the same spot, while relying on the Earth’s magnetic field. In a new study published in eLife, the same researchers that discovered how dogs prefer to poop found that hunting dogs appear to use the […]

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Researchers explore why wild canids live longer than domestic dogs and why size matters

Ever wonder why some breeds of dogs live longer than others? Or why wild canids, such as gray wolves, live longer than similar sized domesticated dogs (20.6 vs 10-12 years)? Drs. Ana Jimenez (Colgate University, New York) and Dr. Cynthia Downs (State University of New York, Syracuse) teamed up to examine a common marker of aging in animals – oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when there is a build-up of […]

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Sex differences in eating after exercise

Diet and exercise are regarded as the most effective means to maintain weight as well as lose weight. But, there’s sometimes a catch as their effectiveness varies between individuals. Moreover, many people find it really difficult to keep the weight off. Researchers think this may happen in part because the body adapts to weight loss by increasing appetite and decreasing energy expenditure. Here is where exercise, in particular, is thought […]

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Feline drug may lead to new Covid-19 treatment

Researchers at Anivive, a pet health drug discovery and commercialization company, are seeking approval to test a new drug for Covid-19 that was originally developed to treat feline intestinal coronavirus. Similar to Covid-19, feline coronavirus is very contagious. In some cats, the virus mutates and leads to feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which is currently the top cause of death for young cats and kittens (~700,000 cats annually). The new drug, […]

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Yes, pets can contract coronavirus too

Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina have identified the first known case of coronavirus in a dog in the United States. Three human members of Winston’s family were known to have the virus and were participating in a study exploring treatments and vaccines. The research team discovered Winston had small amounts of the virus as they were collecting blood samples and nasal swabs weekly from members of his household […]

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Stressed out cat? Cat music may help

Do you have a stressed out cat? If so, try playing cat music, that’s right…music designed for cats. Researchers at Louisiana State University observed that music made specifically for felines can help them calm down during a visit to the vet. The special recordings (below) include cat vocalizations as well as sounds that are close to the vocal frequency of cats. The team found that cats who were exposed to […]

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Dogs may facilitate spread of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Alec Oliva, a graduate student at Midwestern University – Glendale campus, presented research examining the spread of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) at the 2019 Arizona Physiological Society conference this past weekend. With a mortality rate as much as 80% without treatment, the spread of this disease is quite concerning. Ticks are vectors for the Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria responsible for causing RMSF. Dogs are notoriously at risk for acquiring tick infestations […]

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Ultrasonic rats

Dr. Charles Schaefer, a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Tobias Riede at Midwestern University presented research at the conference examining how rats use deep breaths to produce ultrasonic vocalizations. Similarly, researchers have studied a variety of vocalizations in rats that signify positive as well as negative emotions and how their brains process this information. Did you know rats enjoy being tickled?

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Chronic stress impacts everyone around us

A new study examined how our stress impacts our best friend’s mental health.  The researchers studied Shetland sheepdogs, border collies and their owners and found that dogs living with people who had high levels of stress hormone (cortisol) in their hair follicles, similarly had high levels of cortisol in their fur. In contrast, canine anxiety does not appear to run off on people. That’s good news for those of us […]

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