CITIZEN K-9 SCIENCE: How you and your dog can contribute to scientific knowledge from the comfort of your sofa | Lifestyles


Whenever I’ve had a free minute in the past few days, I’ve filled out online questionnaires about my dog ​​Harper. We signed up for the Dog Aging Project, a long-term study that looks at how dogs age, how long they live, how their surroundings affect aging, and more.

Harper has just turned 14 – thanks to some exceptional medical interventions over the past four years – and I would like to see her have a few good years left. The information gathered by DAP researchers over the next few years could tell us a lot about not only how we can improve health margins – the time of their lives dogs generally spend in good health – but our knowledge of aging and the like, too Health margins in humans.

Approximately 32,000 dogs from all states are currently enrolled for the project, and the DAP is recruiting more. Co-director Daniel Promislow, Ph.D., hopes the attendance will eventually rise to 100,000. Any dog ​​of any size, breed, mix, gender or age can join the so-called “pack”.

“All you have to do is nominate your dog, create your personal portal and fill out the long survey,” says Promislow. “We can do science with it.”

The categories covered by the long form survey include behavior, environment, diet, medication, preventive measures, medical history, owner’s background, and more. Sections can be completed at any time, in any order, and each takes between 5 and 30 minutes. Overall, the Health and Life Experience survey, with hundreds of questions, takes about two hours to complete.

About half of the pack members were able to have their vets upload their dogs’ electronic medical records. These provide deeper information than owners can usually provide about diagnosis and treatment, Promislow says. Individuals who upload their dogs’ records can be assigned to one of the study’s “sampled cohorts”: groups of dogs that can be selected for DNA sampling or other additional testing.

Pack members can also connect with one another on a private online site and join groups focused on their breed, location, various diseases of their dogs, or other interests. “Seeing the community we built with these tens of thousands of dog owners across the country was really worth it,” says Promislow.

The DAP team has almost 100 members, including scientists, students, postdocs and academic administrative staff. They are already working on papers based on the information gathered in the first two years of study.

“A lot of these are about the basics that happen to dogs as they age,” says Promislow. “I am working with two students on a piece of work that we are about to present, on various measures of activity – reported by the owner, intensity, duration, how many hours a day the dog is outside, etc. – and how these patterns are related to dog size, dog age , Age of ownership. The age of the owner is actually a very important factor that affects how active the dog is, or at least how active the owner says the dog is. “

In addition to studying dog aging, DAP researchers have received funding to study cancer and dementia in dogs. The scholarship for all of their work runs until mid-2023. That means they are already working on extending the scholarship and are planning the next stage of five more years of research.

For those of us who love dogs, this research is fascinating to follow, but what good is it for people who don’t have dogs?

For one, dogs can be watchdogs for environmental risk factors for cancer, aging, and humans.

“We’re going to learn a lot of things that are relevant to people,” says Promislow. “So what we learn about dogs is in many cases a lesson for ourselves as well.”

questions and answers

Easy way to

Find a cat?

Q: My cat runs out the front door before we can stop it and then hides in the bushes. It’s really hard to find. Is there something we can wear to help her track her down? How about a microchip?

A: Let’s answer the question about the microchip first. It’s not a tracker, it’s an identifier. When someone finds your pet and takes it to a shelter or veterinary clinic, a microchip can be scanned for it. If they have one, and you’ve listed the microchip in a registry, they’ll see your contact information, they’ll call you, and bingo! You are reunited with your cat or dog.

This is why it is so important that you microchip your pet and keep your contact details up to date with the registration. Include more than one phone number so that you can be reached quickly. Consider providing your pet’s veterinary clinic phone number as well as your cell phone number.

To track your runaway cat, there are smart collars that offer GPS location monitoring, safe place settings and escape warnings. They are suitable for dogs weighing 5 pounds or more. So depending on the size of your cat, it can’t hurt to ask if a particular collar can also be used on cats. We know one person who put a Tile key fob tracker that connects to an app on their door-storming cat’s collar. She poked a hole in a silicone rubber case and wrapped it on the cat’s collar. “With the app, we can see roughly where the tag is and have it ‘sing a song’ so we can find them by ear,” she says. “It has made our lives so much easier as this cat escapes about once a week and would do so more often if we weren’t vigilant.” Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to [email protected] or visit


Tips on how to be safe

go on a leash

– Retractable leashes can seem like a good idea, but in the hands of an inattentive person or on an untrained dog, they can be an accident. Dogs can run in front of cars, pull people off their feet, handlers fall, break bones or injure themselves if hit the end of the leash at full speed. It is also difficult to teach dogs not to pull on a regular leash when they are used to the freedom of a retractable leash. People who don’t have instant reflexes or are not careful can only watch in horror as their runaway dog ​​chases after a cat, squirrel, or other dog, or runs in front of someone and trips them up. For safer outings, work with a trainer to learn how to teach your dog to walk on a regular loose leash.

– Adopt a cat? Consider a couple. Shelters often have difficulty accommodating a bonded pair of adult cats, but there are benefits in giving them a home, such as a dog house. B. No stressful introduction and no kitten training. In addition, you give two well-deserved pets a second chance at a happy coexistence.

– The Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced show-low-eetz-kweent-lee – or take the easy route and just say show-low) comes from Mexico, where it was considered a guide to the underworld. The name is a combination of the words “Xolotl” – an Aztec god – and “itzcuintli”, the Aztec word for dog. These days, they like to be family members and like to cuddle up with their people when they’re not playing, walking, or doing dog sports. The hairless dogs (sometimes called the Mexican hairless dogs) are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so keep them warm with a coat or sweater during the winter. Some are not hairless but have short, sleek fur. – Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is managed by a team of animal care professionals led by veterinarian “The Dr. Oz Show “Dr. Marty Becker, founder of Fear Free and author of many bestselling books on animal care, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell. produces Thornton. They are joined by Fear Free Pets behavior consultant and head animal trainer, Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is with and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is with and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.


About Clayton Arredondo

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