Canine Couch Potatoes Provide Valuable Insights into Reasons for Human Vision Decline

What's your dog’s most-watched TV channel? This isn't a hound asking; the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Freya Mowat would like to know.

Each dog surely is unique in its preferences. Bernese Mountain Dog Theo is one of them. He enjoys the boob tube. The revelations that come from this inform Mowat's research. According to the Cap Times, the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine professor is studying canine television behavior.

What if this information could change the world? It is possible that it could: The findings could lead to the development of more effective methods to test eyesight in dogs and also help to determine the causes of the aging of eyesight in humans and dogs.

Back to Theo: He tracks birds' motions and turns his back to the screen “as if he's trying to say Hi.”

This is the type of research that Mowat is working on at the Medical School's Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. An important fact to be aware of: “The goal is to figure out what content is universally most engaging for dogs.”

Her knowledge of eyesight comes through an online survey, which you can access on the internet. A sample: Of the 24 hours that make up the normal day, how long does your dog get outdoors or away from your home? Of the 24 hours that make up the normal day, how much time does your dog get to be all by itself (not with pets or people they love being with)? What is the frequency that your pet interacts on any screen while it is active in your home?

Some queries are multiple-choice: Do you try any of the following activities to keep your dog entertained when you're not at home? Play dog-specific TV or video content (e.g., subscription TV channels or other dog-related content that comes from internet sources)? Play normal TV or video content (not specific to dogs)? Make music or sound (e.g., radio)? Offer interactive toys? Make use of an interoperable pet camera in order to connect with your pet?

And: Does your dog exhibit any reaction or respond to one of these scenarios? Reflections of oneself or other objects on the screen when the screen is off? Reflections of self or objects that are reflected in mirrors?

Can you provide: Photos or videos of your pet (e.g., in video chats)? Photos or videos of a pet that is familiar to you (e.g., in video chats)? Videos or images of a friend (e.g., in video chats)?

The questionnaire provides four clips on how to show your dog to allow you to record your reactions.

In terms of watching television, “It's a fun thing to think about as a concept,” Mowat says. “What do our dogs watch when we watch TV? Are they watching it, too?” But it's more than an idea for a pet. “[The information] tells us what we can do…in terms of developing health testing for our pets that's actually meaningful.” There's a shortage of methods for assessing dogs' perceptions. “The ability to look more into the detail of what dogs can see is kind of a big black hole. There isn't much nuance.”

However, Mowat is on the path toward making improvements. As per the Cap Times, such studies can help in preventing human macular degeneration

In order to draw pets’ attention, veterinarians and researchers show them stimuli of different sizes or in different lighting conditions to establish the moment at which they begin to lose interest. In developing a parallel method of tracking pets’ eyesight, Mowat said it can aid in her studies on the way that human vision declines with time. Because many dogs are living longer, Mowat said pets' vision changes could be a sign of the way their owners' eyesight can be deteriorating as they age.

“We are exposed to things in the home that may be toxic to us, and it's quite likely that those are also exposed to our pets because they share our home and lifestyle,” she stated, using soil contaminants, chemicals, in addition to air pollutants as instances. “It could well be that if we start to look at the pets, we'll see a parallel trajectory. The environment of a person might also affect the dog as well.”

You can call it a win-win. “We're not just frivolously asking what dogs watch on TV. It also has this deeper meaning for me and will have deeper implications for what we do in our research. There's a double benefit here.”

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