Call it an “aha” moment for the AHA: The American Heart Association has finally, officially, recognized that dogs are good for the ticker.
Last week, the organization issued a statement saying enough evidence now exists to make that assertion, and it didn’t even recommend dogs be taken in moderation, or consulting your doctor first.
Heartening as the news release was, the statement was overdue, or at least a few beats behind the thinking of those of us who already knew, and didn’t need studies to tell us, that our dogs are good for the heart, by which I mean the organ and more.
Dog owners are more likely to get exercise. Stroking a dog lowers blood pressure. Stress is handled better by dog owners — even when their dog isn’t with them. Studies have proven all those things.
But the mysteries of what dogs do for the heart, and the soul, have only begun to be unraveled. And on top of all the benefits to humans that can be scientifically confirmed and quantified, there’s much more dogs do for us — much of it undetectable by microscopes and double-blind studies, and part of me hopes it always will be.
Being humans, we can sometimes get so wrapped in measuring something that it interferes with treasuring that something. We can get so intent on delving into something’s complexities that we fail to savor its simplicity.
Dogs, could they speak, would tell us that, and they’d likely advise to look for the simple answer first.
How important, heart-wise, is the simple fact that a dog can give us reason to live, and love? While I am not a medical professional, or even a medical amateur, I think a heart that’s engaged and occupied is more likely to keep running smoothly than one sitting empty in the garage, getting dusty.
“Perhaps when one owns a pet one tends to be happier,” said Dr. Glenn Levine of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who led the committee that wrote the statement. “Pet owners might be more likely to take their medications and eat healthier meals.”
Pharmaceuticals and spinach, important as they may be, don’t make you happy to be alive, though, and want to continue in that state.
The AHA isn’t saying everyone should go out and adopt a dog to lower their risk of heart disease. The statement emphasizes there’s much more involved in keeping your heart healthy, according to an NBC Today report.
“We did not want people to see this article and just go out and adopt or rescue or buy a dog …while they continue to just sit on the couch and smoke cigarettes,” said Levine, himself a dog owner.
In one study cited by the committee, researchers signed up 30 people with borderline high blood pressure who were about to adopt dogs from a shelter.
Then they persuaded half of them to wait — in the best interest of the study, if not the dogs.
Those allowed to adopt dogs right away had lower blood pressure two and five months later than those who had not adopted.
And once all the study participants had adopted dogs, systolic blood pressure was found to be lowered in the deferred-adoption group as well.
The study didn’t say whether those that adopted had lower blood pressure than those who bought dogs. Nevertheless, and even though I’m not a doctor, that’s what I’d prescribe.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 13th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aha, aha moment, american heart association, animals, benefits, blood pressure, doctors, dogs, exercise, health, heart, medicine, official, pets, research, science, statement, stress, studies
What at least one doctor prescribed, a New York housing complex says must go — a Shih Tzu that helps a seven-year Army veteran cope with his post-traumatic stress.
Eugene Ovsishcher returned from a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan suffering nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety, leading a psychiatrist and his family doctor to advise he get a dog.
Last August he did — a Shih Tzu puppy that he named Mickey because he crawled like a mouse. Mickey woke him from nightmares and served to calm him down when he was alone and anxious.
“Take a look at his face,” Ovsischcher told the New York Times. “You can’t stay anxious or angry or whatever. You look at that face and you start laughing.”
But those in charge at his housing complex, Trump Village in Coney Island, aren’t laughing. They’ve ordered him to get rid of the dog, in accordance with their no-pets policy, or leave.
Ovsishcher says he’d rather give up his home, where he lives with his wife, Galina, and their two children, Philip, 15, and Yaffa, 10.
“I can’t get rid of a family member,” said Ovsishcher, 42, who enlisted in the Army five years after immigrating from Moscow in 1994. “If they asked me which I want to keep, the kids or the apartment, I would keep the kids. Same thing with the dog.”
Ovsishcher says that the building staff has seen him with his dog since Mickey showed up in August and that nothing was done to remove him until February, when he received a warning letter. Under New York law, a loophole allows dog owners who don’t receive notification to get rid of a dog within 90 days to keep their dogs. He also says he applied to register Mickey with the building as a comfort dog, but he was turned down.
A subway repairman, Ovsishcher served with NATO troops in Kosovo, and then as a field artillery sergeant in Afghanistan, where enemy rocket fire took a toll on him psychologically.
Ovsishcher’s lawyer, Maddy Tarnofsky, has filed a federal housing discrimination complaint on his behalf.
“The heart of this story is that there is a guy who comes to this country and enlists and puts himself in harm’s way,” Ms. Tarnofsky said. “He didn’t have to do this, and he comes back damaged and they spit on him. A doctor recommends he have a support animal, and for some unknown reason they decide that they’re not doing this for him.”
(Photo: Ángel Franco / The New York Times)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: afghanistan, animals, army, brooklyn, co-op, comfort, coney island, doctors, dog, dogs, eugene ovsishcher, evict, eviction, health, housing, kosovo, new york, no pets allowed, pets, post traumatic stress, psychiatry, ptsd, service, shih-tzu, subway, support, therapy, trump village, veteran, worker
On the first morning of our camping trip, your intrepid trio — foursome counting Ace — decided to take an impromptu hike, just a slow and casual one, following the Davidson River upstream for a ways to see where it took us.
Our first stop was at a fishing/swimming hole, where a few campers were trying their luck, including a woman who had just learned to fly fish. She hadn’t had much luck that morning, but before that she’d caught some, and she whipped out her cellphone to prove it, clicking her way to the correct photo, then holding it up for us to see, as one might hold up a just-caught fish.
In it, she said, there appeared the ghostly image of a little girl that wasn’t there when the photo was taken.
Not having my glasses, I really couldn’t distinguish anything. But as my two friends seemed amazed, I pretended I was, too, nodding my head and saying ”wow.”
We walked on a bit, Ace being more than up to the task. This is his favorite part of camping — blazing a new, to him, trail.
At one point he clambered up a three-foot tall tree stump. At another he darted in and out of the water, then jumped atop a four foot wall. He showed absolutely no sign of his back bothering him. Despite his fear of the campfire, and the noises it produced, the night before, he was, after two long months, starting to act like himself again. Perhaps the camping trip — as camping trips can do — was curing what the drugs couldn’t.
He ran. He played. The stiffness that seemed to have been bothering him was gone. And when he shook, it was all out, with gusto — not that fearful tentative headshake he has been doing of late.
When we came to a fork in the trail, we let Ace pick the direction, and he chose left — up a mountain, instead of following alongside the river. Not a rigorous climb, by any stretch, but I still felt it necessary to inform my two doctor friends that I had imaginary peripheral artery disease (IPAD).
Understand that once a disorder/disease/infirmity gets advertised on TV, I become convinced I have it — not enough to talk to my doctor about whatever drug the ad is for, not enough to submit to the numerous side effects the drug ads list, but enough to fret. That’s why I also have imaginary mesothelioma, though, according to advertisements, you want to talk to your lawyer about that, as opposed to your doctor. The cure for that, apparently, is a lawsuit.
(Disclaimer: These diseases are no laughing matter, even though the advertisements, in which drug companies and law firms feign great concern for your well-being, are.)
“Yes,” I explained to Dr. John, “that peripheral artery thing, I’m pretty sure I have it. My legs get tired when I walk uphill.”
This low grade climb didn’t seem to bother me, though. Perhaps Ace’s return to normal was putting a little more spring in my step. I’m convinced our dogs reflect us, and us them — both when it comes to personality and how we’re behaving at a moment in time. What’s harder to figure out, often, is who is doing the projecting and who is doing the reflecting. Am I, for instance, behaving lethargically/bufoonishly/fearfully because Ace is, or vice versa?
Am I low key because he’s low key, or is he low key because I’m low key, and are we both feeding off each other’s low keyedness and becoming more low keyed yet, and, if so, how low can we go before we’re both asleep?
We were both wide awake on this walk — me due to five or so cups of hearty campground coffee, Ace, I think, because of the newness and the nature. When we came to a weathered wooden sign that said “old cemetery,” we followed where it pointed.
After a couple of switchbacks we came to a hill from which a dozen or so gravestones protruded from the ferns. If the stones had names on them, few of them were legible anymore — except for the one pictured at the top of this post.
Buried beneath it was Avo Sentell, who had just turned five when she died — the same day in 1916 as her mother, Susan, who is buried next to her.
We paused, and grew more sober. Amid towering trees – some thriving, some rotting, some dead — we speculated on what it could have been that killed both mother and daughter on the same day.
I told myself I should stop joking about deadly diseases — even though that is how I cope with my own immortality. Call it a survival skill.
Back home after my camping trip with college buddies, I Googled Avo Sentell — Googling being a generally safe activity, whose only side effects are eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome and terminal frustration over all the garbage, pop-up and otherwise, that litters the Internet.
Through one of those grave-finding websites, I learned that Avo and her mother were killed in a landslide in Pisgah National Forest during the Great Flood of 1916.
Both were buried at the site of their deaths. I found a group photo that contained Avo — she’s the third from the left in the second row in this picture of the entire student body of English Chapel School. Seeing how tiny she was wrenched my heart a little more.
That mystery resolved, another remained.
It was not whether Avo was the image in the fisherwoman’s photo. We’re not, much, prone to believing in the supernatural, and I doubt Avo’s ghost is haunting the mossy, fern-studded hills — even though we were in Transylvania County.
What I was left wondering about was the tiny pink mitten that was draped over her tombstone. On the mitten are the words “Always Trouble.”
I doubt it was left there as a commentary on her – for the mitten was too modern, and who is left to remember a girl who died 95 years ago? Besides, Avo appears to have been too small to have caused a significant amount of trouble in her life, much less “always.”
Maybe it was dropped by a hiker. Maybe someone else picked it and placed it there so someone might find it. Maybe it was left there as a gift, or commentary on life, by a stranger, or a descendant of the Sentell family.
A bouquet of yellow plastic flowers was at the base of the stone, which was clearly an upgrade — it’s too clean and clear and modern to have been the one that was originally there.
To me, it was also a reminder. Life is fleeting, and sometimes unfair, and there is always — somewhere — trouble. We work. We laugh. We play. We cope. We die.
Sometimes, before the journey’s over, we tackle those troubles. Sometimes we ignore them. Sometimes we joke about them. Sometimes we’re too rushed to pay them any mind at all. Sometimes we let them weigh us down to an unhealthy degree.
At times like those, friends come in handy.
At times like those, a walk in the woods — with your dog — is good.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 27th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 1916, ace, america, avo sentell, campground, camping, coping, cures, davidson river, death, disease, doctors, dog's country, dogscountry, drugs, fears, flood, ghosts, grave, hike, hiking, illness, imagination, lawyers, life, mountains, nature, north carolina, pisgah national forest, road trip, symptoms, travels with ace, woods
Facing exorbitant increases in his health insurance payments, Zeigler, a self-employed consultant, called up the pet insurance company that covers his dog Charlie — for $37 a month — and asked if he could get a policy for himself.
“They laughed,” Ziegler, 47, of Mission Viejo., told the Orange County Register. “I knew what the answer would be but in reality I wasn’t joking.”
Ziegler noted that his dog, Charlie, has seen his claims paid promptly and without dispute by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) , including those for vaccinations and a trip to the veterinary emergency room.
Ziegler’s dealings with Anthem Blue Cross haven’t been nearly as simple and swift, and the price of his coverage keeps going up — a 34 percent jump this year alone.
And even then, it sounds like he lacks coverage for a major medical event. “One one of our greatest fears is to be in a catastrophic medical emergency,” he said.
Being without health insurance myself I can relate to the problem faced by Ziegler and so many others who have been priced out of the health market. So I’ll share my secret plan, if a major medical problem comes my way: I’m going to go to the vet, get him to give me a bacon-flavored treat, scratch me behind the ears and gently put me down.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 24th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: afford, blue cross, cats, costs, doctors, dogs, euthanasia, health, health insurance, hospitals, insurance, medical, medicine, news, pets, price, put down, treatment, unaffordable, veterinarians, veterinary, veterinary insurance, vets
Due to the allergy risks they pose, pets should be banned from airline passenger cabins, some Canadian doctors say.
In an editorial in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, the physicians called for restricting pets from airplane passenger cabins, warning that exposure to animals can lead to discomfort, asthma attacks or even life-threatening reactions in some.
The editorial was in response to Air Canada’s decision last summer to start allowing small pets, including cats, dogs and birds, to travel in the passenger cabin, the New York Times reports.
One in 10 people have allergies to animals, and for some, exposure to dogs and cats can set off an asthma attack or a life-threatening reaction like anaphylaxis, said Dr. Matthew B. Stanbrook, the journal’s deputy scientific editor and an asthma specialist.
“Pets can be accommodated comfortably and safely in airplane cargo holds, which is where they belong,” the doctors wrote.
I know all the airlines say that, but, in addition to the cases in which that has proved not to be the case, I have one more reason to doubt it: If it were true, I’m sure they would be squeezing us human passengers in there as well.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 22nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: air, airlines, allergies, allergy, animals, cabin, canada, canadian, canadian medical association, cargo, cats, doctors, dogs, editorial, journal, passengers, pets, risk, travel
It’s official: We humans, according to the New York Times, have underestimated the intelligence of dogs (which, of course, was exactly their plan.)
“…(O)ver the last several years a growing body of evidence, culled from small scientific studies of dogs’ abilities to do things like detect cancer or seizures, solve complex problems … and learn language suggests that they may know more than we thought they did,” the article in Sunday’s “Week in Review” section noted.
“Their apparent ability to tune in to the needs of psychiatric patients, turning on lights for trauma victims afraid of the dark, reminding their owners to take medication and interrupting behaviors like suicide attempts and self-mutilation, for example, has lately attracted the attention of researchers.”
While we humans still don’t understand exactly how they do it, dogs have proven they can detect not just our behavioral changes, not just pending seizures and diabetic attacks, but several types of cancer. (We, on the other hand, must rely on expensive doctors, intrusive tests and tight-fisted insurance companies to get our diseases diagnosed.)
In 2004, German researchers reported that a border collie named Rico could recognize 200 objects by name and remembered them all a month later. (I’m guessing that Rico’s vocabulary list was kept on one of those thingamajigs that have a clip to hold the papers in place.)
Dogs, with their incredible sensory powers, can recognize things in the distance. (We rely on the New York Times, sometimes mistakenly, to tell us what’s staring us in the face.) Dogs pretty much have us humans pegged. (Most of us don’t begin to understand them.) At least now though, we’re trying a little harder.
“I believe that so much research has come out lately suggesting that we may have underestimated certain aspects of the mental ability of dogs that even the most hardened cynic has to think twice before rejecting the possibilities,” said Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia and an author of several dog books.
Dr. Coren’s work on intelligence, along with other research suggesting that the canine brain processes information something like the way people do, has drawn criticism from those arguing that dogs are merely mimicking, or manipulating people into believing that they in fact grasped human concepts.
Clive D. L. Wynne, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida who specializes in canine cognition, argues that it is dogs’ deep sensitivity to the humans around them, their obedience under rigorous training, and their desire to please that can explain most of these capabilities, the Times article notes.
“I take the view that dogs have their own unique way of thinking,” Dr. Wynne said. “…We shouldn’t kid ourselves that dogs are viewing the world the way we do.”
Thank God, and dog, for that.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 5th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, assistance, behaviors, cancer, canine, cognition, congitive, detection, disease, doctors, dog, dogs, evidence, humans, intelligence, media, memory, new york times, pets, psychiatric, research, science, seizure, senses, service, service dogs, skills, smart, stanley coren, studies, vocabulary
With evidence both anecdotal and scientific showing dogs have the potential to sniff out diabetes — or at least detect the changes that occur when a person is about to have a hypoglycemic attack — a research center in southern England is training dogs to warn diabetic owners when their blood sugar levels fall to dangerously low levels.
As this 2007 video shows, some dogs already have the skill down, but the Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs research center in Aylesbury, based on recent evidence suggesting a dog’s hyper-sensitive nose can detect impending attacks, is now working to train 17 dogs that will be paired up with diabetic owners.
A survey last December by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found 65 percent of 212 people with insulin-dependent diabetes reported that their pets had reacted by whining, barking, licking or some other display when they had a hypoglycemic episode, according to Reuters.
“Dogs have been trained to detect certain odors down to parts per trillion, so we are talking tiny, tiny amounts. Their world is really very different to ours,” research center Chief Executive Claire Guest said.
The center is continuing work to perfect dogs’ ability in spotting signs of cancer. Guest said having a dog in every doctor’s office would be impractical, but the research could help lead to the invention of an electronic nose that will mimic a dog’s.
“At the moment electronic noses are not as advanced as the dogs’, they are about 15 years behind. But the work that we are doing and what we are finding out will help scientists advance quickly so that they can use electronic noses to do the same thing,” she said.
Pretty amazing stuff, but I think I’d rather be diagnosed by a dog than an electronic nose. And what’s so impractical about a dog in every doctor’s office? Seems entirely practical to me, and a good way — if shelter dogs could be trained to sniff out disease — to allow everyone to live a little longer.
Besides, it would make doctors’ offices far more inviting, and give us something to do in the waiting room.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 25th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: cancer, detecting, diabetes, diagnosis, disease, doctor, doctors, dog, dogs, electronic nose, medical, nose, offices, ohmidog!, research, screening, sniff, sniffing, video
Doctors treating people for dog and cat bites should be aware of an increasing risk of MRSA — Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — being transmitted from pets to humans, newly published research says.
MRSA, an uncommon strain of the bacteria in domestic animals, is being seen more often, according to research reported in the new issue The Lancet that focuses on infectious diseases.
“As community-acquired strains of MRSA increase in prevalence, a growing body of clinical evidence has documented MRSA colonisation in domestic animals, often implying direct infection from their human owners,” reports a team led by Dr Richard Oehler, of the University of South Florida. “MRSA colonisation has been documented in companion animals such as horses, dogs, and cats and these animals have been viewed as potential reservoirs of infection.”
“Pet owners are often unaware of the potential for transmission of life-threatening pathogens from their canine and feline companions,” the researchers said. “Clinicians must continue to promote loving pet ownership, take an adequate pet history, and be aware that associated diseases are preventable via recognition, education and simple precautions.”
Each year, dog and cat bites comprise around 1% of accident and emergency visits in the US and Europe. Severe infections occur in about 20% of bite cases, and are caused by bacteria in the animal’s mouth, plus other infectious agents from the person’s skin.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 22nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aureus, bite, bites, disease, doctors, dog, dogs, health, hospitals, humans, infection, infections, lancet, methicillin, mrsa, oesler, pets, research, resistant, safety, staphylococcus, transmitted, university of south florida
The University of Michigan is coming under fire for a class in which doctors practice their emergency surgical procedures on live, otherwise healthy dogs.
The procedures so badly damage the animals — some of which are procured from animals shelters — that they must be euthanized — the Detroit Free Press reports.
According to the Free Press, one of the dogs used in the test was Koda, a male malamute that was surrendered at an animal shelter. Instead of being adopted, Koda was sold to R&R Research of Howard City, which resold it to the university for its Advanced Trauma Life Support class.
The University of Miichigan uses simulators for doctors in other courses, but Dr. Richard Burney, who directs the Advanced Trauma Life Support class, insists the dogs are the most realistic training tool and that the training will help save human lives. The dogs are anesthetized during before surgery.
“This is a fair and proper use of animals,” he said. “If you come … with a gunshot wound, without adequate training, you become the animal that is being learned upon.”
The University of Michigan course is one of 15 in the country — and the only one in Michigan — that uses animals, according to a survey from the animal welfare group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The group is to file a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against Burney.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found in a survey of 198 Advanced Trauma Life Support courses nationwide that more than 90% use human cadavers or simulator dummies. The remaining courses use dogs, goats or pigs to teach these skills.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 15th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advanced trauma life suport, anesthetized, class, complaint, department of agriculture, doctors, dogs, emergency, filed, healthy, live, physicians committee for responsible medicine, practice, shelters, surgery, surgical procedures, tool, training, trauma, university of michigan
Despite all the buzz about “hypoallergenic dogs” since the Obamas indicated they may get one, there are no breeds that are truly free of potential allergens, some medical experts say.
“I don’t think there is such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog,” allergy and asthma expert Corinna Bowser (really, BOWSER!) of Havertown, Pa. told WebMD.
While there are countless websites devoted to “hypoallergenic dogs,” the Obamas could find it difficult to find one to which their older daughter, Malia, won’t have an allergic reaction.
Bowser explains that the major allergen in dogs is a protein found in dog serum, and dogs excrete that allergen in sweat and shed it from their skin. “It also gets secreted into the saliva, and possibly a little bit in the urine,” Bowser says.
Since all dogs have that protein, no dog is completely allergy-free, according to Bowser.
She said a German study, published this year, tracked allergies among people exposed to various dog breeds and found that factors related to individual dogs seem to influence the “allergenicity” more than breed or gender.
Breeds commonly cited as hypoallergenic include the poodle, (and several poodle hybrids, like the goldendoodle), Bichon Frise, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Portugese Water Dog, Schnauzer, West Highland Terrier, Basenji, Airedale Terrier, and our good friend, the Xoloitzcuintli.
Smaller dogs, and short-haired breeds might be less risky, Bowser said. “Hair length could have something to do with how it spreads in the house,” she said, explaining that shorter dog hairs may not stick as much as long hair to furniture, clothes, and other surfaces.
Bowser went on to say that if she was the Obama family doctor, “I would say it’s probably better not to get a dog.”
“Of course, now he made the promise and he kind of has to,” she said. Bowser recommends that before they get a dog of their own the Obama family dog-sit to see how Malia’s allergies fare, and set some rules about how they’ll handle any allergy issues.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 19th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: allergens, allergies, allergy-free, bichon frise, doctors, dog, family, goldendoodle, hair, hypoallergenic, malia, maltese, medical, obama, portugese water dog, schnauzer, shedding, west highland terrier, xolo, yorkshire