When your dog gets sick, you take him to the vet, where he’s given some medicine. But the drugs your dog is taking could be sensed by other dogs, and since dogs are pack animals that rely on their noses, this could turn him into a social outcast. In order to prevent this, we need to understand how animals think.

Researchers are trying to figure out how animals interpret the world. In the UK, Lesley Wiseman-Orr and Jacky Reid have designed a one-page questionnaire for pet owners that can be used to evaluate whether a dog is in pain. The 109 questions cover a dog’s appearance, behavior and change in habits to help a vet?and an owner?figure out if the medicine being given to relieve pain is really doing its job. Since animals can’t talk (at least not any more), we have to learn how to correctly interpret their body language. We all know that a wagging tail means a dog is happy, but we miss other, more subtle clues.

And what about medicine alienating a dog from other dogs? Veterinarian John Bradshaw says that when you treat a dog with antibiotics, and you risk killing the bacteria that live in its anal sac and produce the individual scent by which it is recognizable to other dogs. In New Scientist, Andy Coghlan quotes Bradshaw as saying, “We don’t think of dogs losing their identities as a result of medical treatment.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

Maybe the way we misunderstand dog signals can teach us something about communicating with aliens. If you’re curious about this, the BEST way to learn more may be fiction, since there aren’t many good facts to be found. We’ll soon post a subscriber interview with Dr. Roger Leir about his latest implant removal, but you can’t hear about this?or chat with authors like William Henry?unless you subscribe today!

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