August 23, 2012

Having grown up in a world where temperature was routinely measured in Fahrenheit, a temperature reading in Celsius normally confounds me.  So when I took my young 10 month old girl’s temperature because she has been looking and behaving off-colour since yesterday afternoon, the reading on my Celsius thermometer of 40.7 degrees did not mean too much to me – only that it was above normal.  I had no idea by how much above normal.  Since it was too early in the morning to phone the vet for an appointment, I realised that I should at least know if a temperature of 40.7 was serious or not.

Once again, Google to the rescue.  With a click of a button you can convert temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit or Kelvin; you can convert anything measurable from one thing to another.  As easy as pie.  Much simpler than multiplying by 9, dividing by 5 and adding 32!

Of course, to get back to little Dash and her temperature, I soon found out that a temperature of 40.7 is, indeed serious and that a visit to the vet was definitely called for.  Because we often train on farms and come into contact with ticks fairly often the vet immediately though “Biliary”, took blood and after a lengthy examination of the smear under his microscope, could find nothing that pointed to the high temperature.  What he said though that there was definitely some sort of parasite that the body had detected and was calling up all its defensive forces – thus the high temperature.  He treated her for the temperature and gave me some medication and she is already feeling much better.

I can’t think that I’m the only ignoramus around (maybe I am!) but thought the following information might be useful to anyone in the same position as I was this morning.

First of all – if your dog is showing any or all of these signs, she probably has a fever.

  • Lethargy
  • Depressed mood
  • Shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge

Secondly, taking your dog’s temperature is not difficult with a digital thermometer.  Simply anoint the business end with petroleum jelly, Vaseline, or Baby Oil and gently insert it about 2 or 3 centimetres into the anus and wait for results. Most thermometers sold for this purpose will take less than 60 seconds to register.

Now, what does the read out actually mean in terms of your dog.  The following table gives you the conversions with the highlighted figures indicating the normal temperature range for dogs.

Deg Celsius Deg Fahrenheit
38.3 100.94
38.5 101.3
38.7 101.66
38.9 102.02
40.1 104.18
40.3 104.54
40.5 104.9
40.7 105.26

There are a variety of illnesses and conditions that may make your dog run a fever.  These include:

  • Infection and/or inflammation caused by any number of bacterial, fungal and viral diseases.
  • A low-grade fever for 24 to 48 hours after vaccination is not uncommon and results from the interaction between the injection and the dog’s immune system.
  • Consuming substances that are poisonous to dogs can result in increased body temperature.

Home Care and When to Call the Vet

If your dog’s temperature is greater than 103 degrees F (40 deg C and above), you should call your vet.  Dogs with high fevers above 106 degrees Fahrenheit are emergencies that must be treated promptly.

To help bring your dog’s temperature down if it is dangerously high, you can apply a cool, damp washcloth to his ears and feet.  You can also use a fan on the damp fur to help lower the temperature.  Be sure to monitor your dog’s rectal temperature as you do this, and stop the cooling procedure once it reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit.  Although a lot of sources say that your dog should not be given aspirin to help reduce the temperature a small amount of aspirin is acceptable, and dogs can tolerate aspirin at the rate of 10mg per kg.  (Reference Dr Grahame Murray of Winston Park Veterinary Clinic).  However, this is a temporary measure and should not be administered more than once or twice.

Thank you, Dr Murray for your gentle and loving handling of my precious pup.  You made a potentially (for her anyway) scary visit bearable and best of all, she is feeling a lot better than she felt this morning.


Empathy and Emotions

August 20, 2012

According to Frans de Waal empathy is the capacity to (a) be affected by and share the emotional state of another, (b) assess the reasons for the other’s state, and (c) identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective.   This definition extends beyond what exists in many animals, but the term “empathy” … applies even if only criterion (a) is met.”

Every night owner John Unger takes his sleeping pal Schoep into the waters of Lake Superior in Wisconsin and lulls him to sleep.

There are a many articles and studies done on whether or not dogs are empathetic towards humans.  But in spite of the fact that empathy towards the dogs we live with is an essential ingredient in our relationship and interaction with these animals very little has been written about this subject.  How often with our own dogs do we put feelings of frustration and aggravation aside and try to see things from the dog’s perspective?  How often when our dogs behave in ways that do not quite fit in with what we expect from our fellow humans do we act inappropriately towards our dogs without thinking about what is causing this “odd” behaviour?  We more often than not do not “put ourselves in the dog’s shoes”.

Happy Dog

To be able to empathize with our dogs we need to recognise that dogs feel emotions such as happiness, loneliness, sadness, frustration, anger and fear just as we do, even though they might express these emotional ups and downs differently.  We owe it to our dogs to learn how to identify their emotional states as best we can.  By doing this we will be able to help them with any behavioural problems that may arise, such as aggression, fearfulness, anxiety.  In fact, by taking into account the emotions dogs feel, rather than simply looking at how they behave, animal behaviourists are now learning to get to grips with solving these problems much more effectively.

There have been studies recently that show that dogs can and do empathize with their humans.  The researchers concluded that dogs might have much the same emotional responses as a young human child. In the same manner that young humans show empathy and understanding of the emotions of others, so do dogs. Furthermore, we appear to have bred our dogs so that they not only show empathy, but also show sympathy, which is a desire to comfort others who might be in emotional distress.

If dogs are capable of this, then we need to closely examine how we behave when our dogs are in distress, anxious or in need of understanding and comfort.


Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal is best known for his study of captive chimpanzees resulting in his book, Chimpanzee Politics, in 1982. This book offered the first description of primate behavior explicitly in terms of planned social strategies.  In his writings, de Waal has never shied away from attributing emotions and intentions to his primates, and as such his work inspired the field of primate cognition that, three decades later, flourishes around themes of cooperation, altruism, and fairness.

Recently, de Waal’s work has emphasized non-human animal empathy and even the origins of morality. His most widely cited paper written with his former student Stephanie Preston, concerns the evolutionary origin and neuroscience of empathy.

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