DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 3-year-old female German shepherd/whippet mix who rushes to my husband’s side every time he sneezes! She appears to be concerned about him when he sneezes. -- M.S., South Bend, Indiana
DEAR M.S.: Thanks for sharing how your dog responds to a sneeze. She may interpret the sound as a sign of distress -- many dogs are highly empathic.
Animals can get confused around humans making different sounds, some of which mimic the “paralanguage” of animal sounds indicating various emotional states and intentions. I know of dogs who bark when their human companion coughs or sneezes, possibly thinking the human is barking at something and giving a warning.
Many dogs give a deep sigh or two when they lie down to rest, much like we do; when I lie down and sigh next to our dog, she will often sigh in response. A baby crying in the crib often upsets dogs and cats living in the same home.
One sound in particular that can upset animals is the screaming of excited children, which I never allowed my children to engage in, especially around animals. Such high-pitched sounds can upset animals, since they are analogous to primal alarm signals. These sounds could make them more defensive and likely to snap, scratch or flee if the screamers get close.
There are reports of cats and dogs who have been stressed during this pandemic with children being at home all day. Many animals seek refuge away from these insensitive noisemakers, whose parents are either oblivious or think loud children are cute and spirited.
On a more humorous note, I am allergic to our local newspaper, and have several sneezes soon after I open the pages. The only one to complain is my wife. Our cat and dog ignore me!
WHY MANY DOGS ARE FEARFUL
A recent essay was published in Scientific Reports by University of Helsinki researcher Dr. Jenni Puurunen and her colleagues, entitled “Inadequate socialization, inactivity and urban living environment are associated with social fearfulness in pet dogs.”
Data were collected on almost 6000 companion dogs, varying in age from 2 months to 17 years, using a behavioral survey completed by their humans to assess how they responded to unfamiliar dogs and humans. It was found that fearful dogs had been socialized less during puppyhood, were small in body size, tended to be female and/or neutered, and participated less frequently in training and other activities. They also found a novel association between the living environment of the dog and social fearfulness: Dogs living in a more urban environment were more likely afraid of dogs and strangers. There also were differences among breeds.
ANOTHER ZOONOTIC DISEASE TO WATCH FOR
Vesicular stomatitis virus primarily affects horses, donkeys and mules, but cattle, hogs and people are also susceptible. The disease can spread like wildfire if flies that spread it aren’t controlled, and animals that have it aren’t isolated.
An outbreak of vesicular stomatitis virus that reached Kansas in mid-June has now spread to 10 counties, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, and Missouri recorded its first case of the year this week. Cases have also been documented in Arizona, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Justin Smith urged horse owners to prioritize insect control to limit the further spread of disease. (Full story at agriculture.ks.gov)
CAT IN U.K. RECOVERS FROM CORONAVIRUS INFECTION
The U.K.’s Animal and Plant Health Agency confirmed a SARS-CoV-2 infection in a cat believed to have contracted the infection from its owners, who had confirmed cases of COVID-19, and both the cat and its owners have recovered. The cat’s preliminary diagnosis was feline herpes virus, but the cat was tested for infection with the novel coronavirus as part of a study. “The data overall continue to suggest that cats may become infected by their owners if their owners have COVID-19, but there is no suggestion that they may transmit it to owners,” said veterinarian James Wood, head of the University of Cambridge’s veterinary medicine department. (Full story at CNN.com)
DOGS TRAINED TO SNIFF CORONAVIRUS HIT 94% SUCCESS RATE
It took about a week to train eight scent-detection dogs to differentiate saliva and mucus samples from people with and without COVID-19, say scientists at Germany’s University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover. The dogs achieved about a 94% success rate when both types of samples were used in the pilot study. (Full story at dw.com)
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