DEAR READERS: All dog owners and trainers should read this research article by Sarah Krichbaum, et al: “No bones about it: The effect of chewing on cognition in dogs,” published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, November 2023. It can be read here: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159123002502.
Here is the article's abstract:
“No work to date has examined the possible enriching effect of chewing on cognition in dogs despite strong relationships shown in other species. In the current study, we examined whether the provision of chew toys affected dogs' performance on two memory tests and if this relationship was influenced by dogs' fearfulness. Kenneled working dogs were assessed on a working memory and maze test on separate days directly after being provided with a chew toy for a five-minute period. We compared chewing audio, extracted from video footage taken during the chew period and quantified using a convolutional neural network (CNN), and fearfulness as measured by a validated behavioral survey (Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire), to performance on each task. We found that in dogs with high levels of fearfulness, a higher frequency of chewing resulted in better working memory performance, while in dogs with low levels of fearfulness, a higher frequency of chewing resulted in poorer working memory performance. We also found that dogs with a higher maximum bite intensity displayed better performance on the maze test. These results are the first to suggest that chewing may have positive benefits on cognition in dogs and that this relationship may be pronounced in dogs with high fearfulness.”
Dr. Fox here: In my opinion, chewing on a safe product such as a rubber Kong, or ideally Earth Animal’s No-Hide dog chews, helps dogs relax, may alleviate separation anxiety and, as this research shows, improves working memory performance. I do not advise giving dogs rawhide chews, dried pigs' ears or bull penises, which can make them ill. Nor should they have hard bones or deer antlers, which can crack their teeth and could fatally penetrate the intestines if swallowed. Many dog chews on the market are made from compressed, shredded rawhide, which can be quickly chewed and swallowed, causing digestive problems.
AVMA DELEGATES ADDRESS RAW FOOD DIETS FOR PETS
During its winter session last month in Chicago, the House of Delegates of the American Veterinary Medical Association amended several AVMA policies on a range of issues. Topics included raw diets for dogs and cats; dog and cat population management; animal loss support services; and safe, noncommercial transport of pets in motor vehicles.
The revised policy by the AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee, “Raw Diets for Cats and Dogs,” emphasizes that in addition to cooking and pasteurization, alternative methods that reduce or eliminate the risk of illness due to pathogenic contaminants be considered. The policy also advises that apparently healthy dogs and cats can develop subclinical infections from pathogenic organisms contained within raw or undercooked animal-sourced protein. Pets with such infections could pose a risk to other animals and people, especially young, elderly, pregnant and/or immunocompromised individuals.
REMINDER: CLEAN PET FOOD AND WATER BOWLS DAILY
Just 12% of 400 people surveyed said they wash their pet’s food bowl daily. The rest are potentially leaving bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella in the bowls to sicken animals or people in the home. The study found that participants could vastly reduce bacteria by following the FDA’s advice: Wash bowls every day, and wash hands before and after serving food. Just 8% of those who learned best practices for hygiene said they would keep up those habits.
The report also advises hand-washing after handling pet food, especially dry kibble. Always remove uneaten wet food, which can quickly spoil at room temperature, after your pet is finished eating.
When you pass your fingers around the inside of an unwashed bowl (never use plastic), you will feel slime. This is a biofilm of particles including dead skin cells, bacteria and mold spores from the surrounding air, and bacteria and food particles from the animals’ mouths. So keep them clean!
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