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What Makes Bloodhounds Such Great Tracking Dogs?

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Reader rccola20 wrote in to ask, "Are bloodhounds really that much better at tracking than other dog breeds?"

Bloodhound image via Shutterstock

You always see them hunting down fugitives in the movies, but is that just Hollywood, or are bloodhounds really the best smellers around?

Bloodhounds are pretty much the best in the business. Sometimes called noses with paws, their skills as trackers come from the high number of olfactory receptors — or “scent cells" — tucked up in their wet noses, which detect odor molecules. A human's olfactory membrane is about the size of a postage stamp and contains 5 million receptors. A large dog like a German Shepherd, meanwhile, has a larger membrane and about 225 million receptors.

The scent hounds, a group of dogs that includes foxhounds, beagles, catahoulas, blood hounds and other breeds, blow the rest of the pooches and their masters out of the water. These dogs have wide, deep nasal cavities that can accommodate sizable olfactory membranes and large numbers of odor-detecting cells. The little beagle, often no more than half the size of a German Shepherd, has the same number of olfactory receptors as the larger dog. The bloodhound is the grand champ of scent cells and weighs in with 300 million of them, the most in the canine family.

Scent cells aren't the whole story, though, and the breed has a few other attributes that help when it comes to tracking. Their droopy ears and wrinkly skin help collect odor molecules and sweep them towards the dogs' noses. Their muscular necks and shoulders let them keep their nose to the ground for long distances without getting fatigued. Bloodhound handlers also say that the breed is a joy to work with. The dogs interact well with people, are eager to please, and are focused in training and on the job.

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Animals
The Real Story Behind Frida, The Rescue Dog in Mexico Gaining Viral Fame

On Tuesday, September 19, a deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked the center of Mexico. Three days later, rescue workers are still searching for survivors, and among the humans digging through the rubble is a four-legged helper named Frida.

Frida the rescue dog, named after Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, has offered a ray of positivity to people around the world following the devastating news that’s come out of Mexico this week. As a starring member of the Mexican Navy’s Canine Unit, it’s her job to sniff out people trapped by natural disasters, all while wearing goggles, booties, and a harness to keep her safe from debris. The 7-year-old lab has detected 52 people throughout her career, 12 of whom were found alive and successfully rescued, according the Los Angeles Times.

Since the Mexican Navy shared a collage of the rescue dog last week on Twitter, Frida has been declared a hero by the internet. She’s been featured on numerous websites and was the subject of one tweet that has received more than 50,000 likes. But while Frida is doing important, life-saving work that’s every bit worthy of praise, some of the information surrounding her is inaccurate.

Several outlets have misreported that the rescue dog has saved 52 lives following Mexico's earthquake, while in reality 52 is the total number of people she has located, dead or alive.

Fortunately the viral confusion doesn’t make her story any less inspiring. Frida is an invaluable member of her team, often crawling into spaces that humans can’t reach. Like the rest of the rescue workers responding to this week’s earthquake, Frida is a hero to the victims and their loved ones.

For a closer look at how she’s able to pull off such incredible work, check her out in the canine training video below.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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Health
CDC Traces Infectious Disease Outbreak in Seven States to Pet-Store Puppies
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Campylobacter bacteria have infected 39 people in seven states, and puppies sold at one chain of pet stores in Ohio are likely to blame. As NPR reports, a federal investigation is currently underway as to the exact cause of the outbreak of the intestinal infection.

The symptoms of Campylobacter include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and in rare cases it can lead to death in victims with weakened immune systems. About 1.3 million people fall ill to it each year, but the bacteria can also infect animals like dogs.

Of those hit by the latest outbreak, 12 are employees of the national chain Petland in four states, according to the CDC. The other 27 have either bought a puppy from a Petland store recently or live with or visited someone who has. Eighteen cases have been reported in Ohio, and the rest have appeared in Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. While no deaths have been reported, nine victims have been hospitalized.

Puppies, like humans babies, are more likely to get sick than full-grown dogs, which may explain how the Petland animals caught the illness in the first place. But even apparently healthy adult dogs may be harboring the bacteria and spreading it through their feces. To avoid catching it from your canine companion at home, the CDC recommends washing your hands whenever you make physical contact. This also applies when handling their food and especially when picking up and throwing away their poop (with disposable gloves of course).

For the small percentage of people who do contract the infection each year, the best course of action is to wait it out if you're healthy otherwise: Symptoms take about a week to clear up.

[h/t NPR]

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