When a small dog is playing a toy, its owner is not quite sure if the toy is squeaking, a new study has found.
The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, also suggests that the squeak may be an indication that a dog’s body has been affected by a disease such as osteoporosis or an infectious infection.
Researchers from the University of Exeter and University College London in the UK carried out a meta-analysis of studies on dogs, asking if the presence of a squeaky or “coughing” noise was indicative of a disease or infection.
The study found that the prevalence of dog squeaking was higher in dogs who were sick with one of four types of osteopontosis: osteonecrosis, osteopatite or osteonectomy.
These conditions are caused by a build-up of bone and connective tissue, and are particularly common in dogs with severe bone loss.
This research has implications for the use of toys in dogs, said lead researcher Professor Sarah Catt, from the Centre for Animal Health Research and Policy at the University College of London.
“For us, it’s important that dogs with bone diseases have the opportunity to play with the toys that they love, such as their toys, and it’s also important that the toys are safe for them,” she said.
“It’s important for owners to recognise and act on any signs of osteoneca and to seek help if they notice any signs, and also to understand the importance of toys for dogs and their owners.”
For the study, the researchers collected data from the Dog and Cat Health Study, a nationwide database that collects data on health and welfare of households in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
They looked at information on dogs from all dogs living in England between January and November 2016, as well as data from more than 1,500 dogs and cats from the same period from other breeds, including dogs and rabbits.
The data included information about how many dogs and how many cats had osteoponas, the type of disease, whether they were affected by osteonebrosis, and whether they had been diagnosed with osteonecytes.
“This is a huge and important study,” said Dr Peter Lewis, a researcher at the UK’s National Institute for Health Research who was not involved in the study.
“We know that many dog owners are unaware of their dog’s disease status.
But in the meantime, we know that a significant proportion of dog owners do not seek veterinary advice for the condition and they may simply choose to leave their pets to play,” he said.
In some cases, owners may decide to buy the toys for their own dogs, but that’s a decision that is not well documented in the literature.
“That means that the risk is very high,” Dr Lewis said.
There are three types of dog osteoposteoporotic disease: osteoponectomies, osteonecalcifications and osteonepancreatic insufficiency.
Osteopostosis occurs when bone cells break down.
The condition causes the bones to become weak and can lead to a dog developing osteopoiesis.
Osteonectomas are the most common type of dog disease.
“The risk is extremely high for dogs with osteoposiesis and is significantly higher in women and children,” said Professor Catt.
“When owners do seek medical advice, they often don’t have a clear understanding of their pet’s disease, the cause of their symptoms or the need for medical treatment.”
Dr Lewis said it was important that people were aware of their pets’ disease status before purchasing toys.
“They need to be educated on the symptoms of osteopedema and how to recognise signs of the disease, so that owners can get the best care possible,” he added.
In the US, dogs and people are routinely encouraged to play together in order to avoid the condition known as “the house” disease, which involves a dog and a person in the same home.
While the study was conducted in England and Scotland, it is likely that similar findings will be found in other countries.