People in the UK are known for being a nation of animal lovers, with many going to extreme lengths to make sure their pet is happy. This can be anything from researching the new barf diet for dogs or spending thousands of pounds on pampering your pooch.

However, we may not be that crazy, as research has indicated that our furry family members could have similar emotions to us humans.

Neuroscientist Gregory Berns has conducted research into the make-up of a dog's brain and has concluded that we may not be that different from our beloved pets.

Professor Berns, expert of neuroeconomics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, claims that the part of the brain that controls the anticipation of pleasure is similar in both humans and canines.

He discovered that the brains in these animals were able to tell the difference between familiar and unfamiliar dogs and humans. This is known as functional homology, which could indicate that a canine has emotions.

The professor claims the ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, means that dogs have a similar level of sentience to a human child.

He said the findings don't quite mean that dogs are capable of loving their owners but "many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate".

The professor and his team used MRI scanners to record brain activity in dogs. It found that activity in the caudate nucleus - an area of the brain that is rich in dopamine receptors and plays a role in the anticipation of enjoyable things such as love, food and money - increased when they thought they would be getting food.

It was also activated when they smelt familiar humans, as well as to the return of an owner who has briefly stepped out of sight.

Although it is difficult to link an area of the brain to a specific emotion, because of its complexity, the professor thinks the caudate could be an exception.

"Caudate activation is so consistent that under the right circumstances, it can predict our preferences for food, music and even beauty," Professor Berns added.

"Dogs, and probably many other animals, seem to have emotions just like us. And this means we must reconsider their treatment as property," he said.

Written by: Hannah