In the US, there are more than 163 million dogs and cats that consume, as a significant portion of their diet, animal products and therefore potentially constitute a considerable dietary footprint. Here, the energy and animal-derived product consumption of these pets in the US is evaluated for the first time, as are the environmental impacts from the animal products fed to them, including feces production. In the US, dogs and cats consume about 19% ± 2% of the amount of dietary energy that humans do (203 ± 15 PJ yr-1 vs. 1051 ± 9 PJ yr-1) and 33% ± 9% of the animal-derived energy (67 ± 17 PJ yr-1 vs. 206 ± 2 PJ yr-1). They produce about 30% ± 13%, by mass, as much feces as Americans (5.1 ± Tg yr-1 vs. 17.2 Tg yr-1), and through their diet, constitute about 25-30% of the environmental impacts from animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides. Dog and cat animal product consumption is responsible for release of up to 64 ± 16 million tons CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gasses (GHGs). Americans are the largest pet owners in the world, but the tradition of pet ownership in the US has considerable costs. As pet ownership increases in some developing countries, especially China, and trends continue in pet food toward higher content and quality of meat, globally, pet ownership will compound the environmental impacts of human dietary choices. Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits would considerably reduce these impacts. Simultaneous industry-wide efforts to reduce overfeeding, reduce waste, and find alternative sources of protein will also reduce these impacts.
While companion animals have been previously identified as a direct source of companionship and support to their owners, their role as a catalyst for friendship formation or social support networks among humans has received little attention. This study investigated the indirect role of pets as facilitators for three dimensions of social relatedness; getting to know people, friendship formation and social support networks.
There is increasing recognition of the therapeutic function pets can play in relation to mental health. However, there has been no systematic review of the evidence related to the comprehensive role of companion animals and how pets might contribute to the work associated with managing a long-term mental health condition. The aim of this study was to explore the extent, nature and quality of the evidence implicating the role and utility of pet ownership for people living with a mental health condition.
Despite evidence that connecting people to relevant wellbeing-related resources brings therapeutic benefit, there is limited understanding, in the context of mental health recovery, of the potential value and contribution of pet ownership to personal support networks for self-management. This study aimed to explore the role of pets in the support and management activities in the personal networks of people with long-term mental health problems.
Positive associations between having a pet dog and adult health outcomes have been documented; however, little evidence exists regarding the benefits of pet dogs for young children. This study investigates the hypothesis that pet dogs are positively associated with healthy weight and mental health among children.
Companion animal owners are increasingly concerned about the links between degenerative health conditions, farm animal welfare problems, environmental degradation, fertilizers and herbicides, climate change, and causative factors; such as animal farming and the consumption of animal products. Accordingly, many owners are increasingly interested in vegetarian diets for themselves and their companion animals. However, are vegetarian canine and feline diets nutritious and safe? Four studies assessing the nutritional soundness of these diets were reviewed, and manufacturer responses to the most recent studies are provided. Additional reviewed studies examined the nutritional soundness of commercial meat-based diets and the health status of cats and dogs maintained on vegetarian and meat-based diets. Problems with all of these dietary choices have been documented, including nutritional inadequacies and health problems. However, a significant and growing body of population studies and case reports have indicated that cats and dogs maintained on vegetarian diets may be healthy-including those exercising at the highest levels-and, indeed, may experience a range of health benefits. Such diets must be nutritionally complete and reasonably balanced, however, and owners should regularly monitor urinary acidity and should correct urinary alkalinisation through appropriate dietary additives, if necessary.
The loss of a companion animal is recognised as being associated with experiences of grief by the owner, but it is unclear how other animals in the household may be affected by such a loss. Our aim was to investigate companion animals' behavioural responses to the loss of a companion through owner-report. A questionnaire was distributed via, and advertised within, publications produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) across Australia and New Zealand, and through a selection of veterinary clinics within New Zealand. A total of 279 viable surveys were returned pertaining to 159 dogs and 152 cats. The two most common classes of behavioural changes reported for both dogs and cats were affectionate behaviours (74% of dogs and 78% of cats) and territorial behaviours (60% of dogs and 63% of cats). Both dogs and cats were reported to demand more attention from their owners and/or display affiliative behaviour, as well as spend time seeking out the deceased’s favourite spot. Dogs were reported to reduce the volume (35%) and speed (31%) of food consumption and increase the amount of time spent sleeping (34%). Cats were reported to increase the frequency (43%) and volume (32%) of vocalisations following the death of a companion. The median duration of reported behavioural changes in both species was less than 6 months. There was consensus that the behaviour of companion animals changed in response to the loss of an animal companion. These behavioural changes suggest the loss had an impact on the remaining animal.
Domestication is an important factor driving changes in animal cognition and behaviour. In particular, the capacity of dogs to communicate in a referential and intentional way with humans is considered a key outcome of how domestication as a companion animal shaped the canid brain. However, the lack of comparison with other domestic animals makes general conclusions about how domestication has affected these important cognitive features difficult. We investigated human-directed behaviour in an ‘unsolvable problem’ task in a domestic, but non-companion species: goats. During the test, goats experienced a forward-facing or an away-facing person. They gazed towards the forward-facing person earlier and for longer and showed more gaze alternations and a lower latency until the first gaze alternation when the person was forward-facing. Our results provide strong evidence for audience-dependent human-directed visual orienting behaviour in a species that was domesticated primarily for production, and show similarities with the referential and intentional communicative behaviour exhibited by domestic companion animals such as dogs and horses. This indicates that domestication has a much broader impact on heterospecific communication than previously believed.
Humans speak to dogs using a special speech register called Pet-Directed Speech (PDS) which is very similar to Infant-Directed Speech (IDS) used by parents when talking to young infants. These two type of speech share prosodic features that are distinct from the typical Adult-Directed Speech (ADS): a high pitched voice and an increased pitch variation. So far, only one study has investigated the effect of PDS on dogs' attention. We video recorded 44 adult pet dogs and 19 puppies when listening to the same phrase enounced either in ADS or in PDS or in IDS. The phrases were previously recorded and were broadcasted via a loudspeaker placed in front of the dog. The total gaze duration of the dogs toward the loudspeaker, was used as a proxy of attention. Results show that adult dogs are significantly more attentive to PDS than to ADS and that their attention significantly increases along with the rise of the fundamental frequency of human' speech. It is likely that the exaggerated prosody of PDS is used by owners as an ostensive cue for dogs that facilitates the effectiveness of their communication, and should represent an evolutionarily determined adaptation that benefits the regulation and maintenance of their relationships.
To diagnose cutaneous adverse food reactions (CAFRs) in dogs and cats, dietary restriction-provocation trials are performed. Knowing the most common offending food allergens for these species would help determining the order of food challenges to optimize the time to diagnosis.