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.

Picture from http://www.coloribus.com

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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!)

Picture from www.communicatescience.eu

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.