Maui Turtles


So, as you might have guessed from the leaking of marine life into my pet science blog, I have a great interest in all things under the sea. This blog has some beautiful photos, I especially like the humpback whale pictures.

Douglas J. Hoffman Photography

One of the things I love about diving in Hawaii are Green Sea Turtles.  The are so graceful and majestic.

Se more turtle photographs here/



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The 2nd of January kick starts Assistance Dogs Week, a week of posts celebrating the invaluable role of the assistance dog in society. Of particular interest are the guest posts we have planned, I won’t give to much away at this stage, but if you can’t wait, why not check out the following blogs:

Training a Service Dog

Safe and Sound

If there is anything relevant that you would be particularly interested in reading, or you are interested in guest posting an article, don’t hesitate to get in touch!


Tail docking in dogs has always been a controversial practice, and as of 2007, a banned one in the UK. However, there are exemptions to the ban and so the practice continues, fanning the flames of the debate.

The exemptions are for medical reasons, or for dogs that are likely to be ‘worked’, where evidence to prove these ambitions can be provided to a registered veterinary surgeon. The prooceedure must be carried out no later than 5 days of age by a vet, and with appropriate anaesthetic and sterilisation. For more information on the details go to DEFRA’s website

The objections to the ban often come from show dog owners who are used to having their dogs look a certain way, or working dog owners who are convinced that undocked tails will  become entangled in brambles and the like during work.

To the first group of people I wouldn’t bother arguing, as to put it bluntly, logical argument must elude them. To submit a dog in the early stages of life to unnecessary cosmetic mutilation is backwards. It impairs the dogs ability to communicate in later life and is a serious procedure in terms of possible complications.

To the second group, I always wondered why long haired dogs were selected to work- yet long locks aren’t trimmed to prevent ensnaring the legs. If it were such a problem as to demand such a ruthless resolve, I wonder why the long haired trait wasn’t selected against in breeds such as the springer spaniel?

Too little space to cover all sides of both arguments here, so if you have any thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.

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Who are all girls! (or castrated males). Males loose their antlers in early December, at the end of the mating season. Not to worry though! The girls have it, as reindeer are the only deer species in which both genders have antlers. (I always wondered how Santa was able to deliver all those presents without getting lost!)

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Between 3 weeks and 14 weeks, your puppy is learning all about the world, and the experiences it has at this time will shape what it considers to be normal. For example, a puppy born into an apartment in New York will become quickly habituated to traffic noise, but will probably be terrified if it ever meets a sheep.

Using this knowledge, puppy owners and breeders can minimise the risk of phobias in their dog in later life. A good technique is to write a list of things you will expect the puppy to live with when it matures. Examples are vacuum cleaners, prams, loud bangs, trains, other puppies/dogs/animals, wearing a collar, people- and the list goes on! Remember to introduce these things in a gradual and positive manner, so that the puppy doesn’t learn to become frightened of them.

Rescue/older dog? Don’t worry, you can still habituate the dog to things, but it will be a longer process, especially if your dog has learned a fear response!


Looking for something a bit different to do with your dog this year? Dogs for the Disabled are offering insiders tips on trick training this christmas. Check it out at

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Animal Testing


In the UK it is illegal to test cosmetic products on animals. In the UK its is also ilegal to sell a synthetic cosmetic product if it has not been tested on animals. Just thought I’d point that out.

Horse Vices?


The ‘vices’ I’ll be discussing today are of the equine kind. Specifically, wood chewing, wind sucking, wood licking etc. These are sometimes known as ‘equine oral sterrotypies’. They develop as a means to an end. And here’s news, that end isn’t to reduce boredom.

Those of you that read ‘Something to Digest‘ will know that horses naturally graze most of the day. Their stomachs secrete acid in a continuous fashion, but saliva is only secreted in response to chewing. In this way, the pH in the stomach of a horse at grass is kept under control by the buffering and flushing action of the saliva.

The problem comes when we cut down on the forage portion of the horses diet in favour of concentrates. The acidity in the stomach rises as it is not being capped by saliva production, which is presumably quite uncomfortable and can eventually lead to stomach ulcers.

And so the horse learns these ‘vices’ to reduce its discomfort, as it can mimic the effect of chewing grass on non edible substrates. Over time they become habit, and can be seen in a horse that has been out at grass for some time, but has been fed a high concentrate diet in the past.

So why don’t synthetic pheromones work all the time? We can only speculate, little independent research has been conducted on their efficacy.

Problem 1 : the synthetic products do not mimic the animal’s individual scent that is deposited in conjunction with the pheromone mark. A little like if I was to write in your diary- the handwriting would be different and you would be confused as to why the entries were there.

Problem 2 : the animal may become more fearful as you disrupt its emotional navigation system.

Unfortunately synthetic pheromones are marketed as a ‘fix all’ for behavioural problems. They are used by well meaning owners indiscriminately.

Extra note: The picture demonstrates the flehmen response, performed by all animals that are capable of actively processing pheromonal information. It functions to draw air over the vomeronasal or ‘jacobson’s’ organ, located between the oral and nasal cavities.

Stomachs come in all shapes and sizes, from pigs and dogs, who have simple monogastric stomachs like ourselves, to ruminants with their intricate four chambered stomachs. The gastric structure evolves to suit the usual diet of the species in question.

Grass is a fairly unyielding foodstuff in terms of energy- the animals that subsist upon it have adapted to do so in fascinating ways. For the cow, as an example of a ruminant, one of their chambers functions as a fermentative vat. In the horse, fermentation occurs in the caecum, a large blind ended adjunct to the colon.

Even with the fermentative capacity of the gut, specialised dentition and selective feeding, grazing animals still need to eat for most of their day to obtain enough energy to live. This causes behavioural complications when a grazing animal is fed concentrated food in discrete meals.  See tomorrows post!

If the topic of digestion has you ruminating (excuse the terrible pun, I couldn’t resist!) drop me a line for more information.