In recognition of World Rat Day, Lori kicks off the show by going deep on these ubiquitous mammals. Rats are very social, affectionate, and intelligent. They get lonely and anxious when isolated. But when in their family group (referred to as a mischief) they will care for the injured and sick. Rats can be trained to answer to their name and have recently been shown to be able to laugh! In Rajasthan, India, the Karni Mata Temple, the Temple of Rats, is home to about 25,000 animals, where they are revered. The Temple is a destination for Hindu pilgrims. And of course, the first animal of the Chinese Zodiac is the rat, and the Year of the Rat occurred in 2020, 2008, 1996, 1894, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1948, 1924. Those born during such years are thought to possess qualities of the rat: creativity, intelligence, ambition, honesty and generosity. Finally, new scientific evidence points away from rats as transmission vectors of bubonic plague. Instead, direct transmission from person to person through fleas, ticks and lice may be the actual mode.
We continue talking about research on dogs aimed at seeing if they can detect differences between varying spoken human languages. The tool of functional MRI is being used to look at brain activity in awake dogs when they listened to Spanish versus Hungarian speech. But where will these studies go, and will they yield any valuable insights? Then Lori dives into the research on sleep quality among those who sleep with a pet in the bed. Is it sleep-enhancing or disruptive? Mostly, this question has been addressed through surveys, and Lori reviews a sampling of them plus some expert opinions from sleep experts. Tune in to hear the bottom line! Then, we have news items including efforts to find and save the rare saola, a recently discovered large horned mammal native to Laos and Vietnam, a petting zoo in Tacoma, Washington that needs to be shut down due to abuse and neglect of the animals there, and data on how few pet guardians are trained in first aid for their pets.
Then is a discussion about rabies, sparked by a story of an elderly man who recently died from the disease, which he evidently contracted from a bat. He refused treatment after the exposure, which would have been lifesaving. Any mammal can harbor rabies, with the most common affected animals being raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Public health measures to address rabies in dogs started in the 10940s and consisted of widespread vaccinations. Consequently, cases of rabies in dogs in the US are extremely rare. A common misconception about rabid animals is that they can be identified by observing their appearance and behavior but generally, one cannot tell if a given animal has rabies without testing. One important fact to remember is that often, the bite from a bat is so small that it will not leave evident marks on the skin. So, if one awakes, for instance, and observes a bat in the bedroom, he or she must act as if a bite has occurred, which means seeking medical care right away. And that care will include rabies post exposure prophylaxis, a dose of human rabies immune globulin and then 3 doses of the rabies vaccine. This treatment is highly effective in preventing the disease from taking hold and killing the victim, which otherwise occurs 99.9% of the time in untreated cases.