Does your dog watch TV? A UW vet wants to hear from you | Medicine - petsitterbank

Does your dog watch TV? A UW vet wants to hear from you | Medicine

MADISON (WKOW) — The goal of her study is to, hopefully, see a more standardized test used by vets to test the vision of our furry friends.

Growing up in England, Freya Mowat said that she was the “black sheep” of her family; her father and mother were both teachers, but Mowat said at a young age that she wanted to be a scientist.

It was foot and mouth disease that continued to reinforce Mowat’s decision to go into the veterinary career. In 2001, there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that caused a crisis among agriculture. In fact, where Mowat spent her childhood, Cumbria, saw the worst of the virus with nearly 1000 cases.

In humans, foot and mouth disease, sometimes called ‘hand, foot and mouth disease,’ is a mild viral infection commonly found among young children. It may cause viral meningitis and encephalitis among children with more severe cases though most suffer dehydration. When it comes to animals, it affects cattle, swine, sheep and goats and may cause high fever in the animals, blisters in the mouth and on the feet. Most animals are killed to stop the spread since it is highly contagious.

Mowat, after graduating when the 2001 outbreak hit England, was going to go back and become a farm animal vet. She stayed with veterinary career but continued to be interested in research specifically optometry.

Now, she’s asking for your help… and your dogs help too. Mowat wants to know if your dog watches TV and if so, what specifically is it watching. It may not seem interesting to you, but for her, along with her team, what your dog is watching and how long it’s watching answers a lot of questions.

“They aren’t the same, but they are similar,” Mowat said in reference to the retina of the human and dog eye. And since dogs don’t live as long as humans, Freya is able to study the retinas of dogs to better understand the retinas of human eyes especially when it comes to loss of vision, specifically when it comes to age related macular degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is an eye disease that occurs with those who are older, affecting their central vision. Central vision is the most important part of a person’s vision as it used to do most things like driving, reading or seeing pictures or faces.

Human studies tends to take longer due to the longer lives of humans whereas studying dogs take less time due to their lifespan.

The survey that Mowat is hoping dog owners will fill out in the Madison area and around the world too will answer two important questions — are TV programs meant to keep dogs entertained and if not, how can they better entertain dogs? Answering this will help her learn more about the vision of dogs. From there, she’ll be able to lay important groundwork on what she hopes will be a standardized vision test used for dogs when taking them to the vet.

“We started showing dogs videos in the lab,” Mowat said. She said that some dogs, like their owners, were not interested in TV and others watched TV the whole time it was on. To create a standardized test where the dogs stayed interested the whole time, Freya said that they need to know what keeps a dogs attention on TV.

Currently, most vets wave their hands in front of the dogs face to see if their pupils move and see if they blink when the hand gets closer to their face. Vets can also put obstacles in the dogs path to see if they’re able to move around them.

Additionally, Freya Mowat said that this information will help vets understand how to help aging pets. As dogs age, they lose part of their vision too so being able to help them — whether that be better audio cues, more or less lighting, etc. — is what she hopes to gain as well.

If you and your dog would like to take part in Freya’s survey, you can fill it out here. Mowat said that the whole test should take roughly 10 to 20 minutes. You can also read more about what Mowat and her lab are working on here.


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