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
Got to admire this little fellow’s persistence.
The video was posted on YouTube by Peaceloveandpitbulls.org, which saves dogs from kill shelters in Las Vegas.
I’ve long been averse to most forms of exercise — especially those requiring repetitive motions, sustained cardiopulmonary effort, or lifting weighty items.
These days, walking the dog is about the only form I get.
It’s not that I’m devoid of energy, it’s just that I can’t think of hardly anything worth actually running for, or even walking quickly.
Suggest to me that I go to a gym or jog, and I will give you a “yeah, right” look. It’s not going to happen — at least not until I make an overly ambitious New Year’s resolution I can’t keep.
And yet, when a bouncing tennis ball comes my way, I’m off in mindless, tongue-wagging pursuit.
It’s a phenomenon I tried to figure out last week, when my son visited and we played — as we always do — some tennis.
The mere suggestion of doing so seemed to get me all excited.
I’m wondering if, possibly, it has anything to do with being immersed in dogs for the past four years — if, between dog blog and dog book and dog roommate, I’m starting to behave as one, or even more as one, or at least picking up a few of their traits, including getting overly excited about tennis balls.
Something sparks inside, and I get a little more spring in my increasingly springless step.
My tail doesn’t wag. I don’t jump up and down, or salivate. That would be innapropriate for a man of 59. But clearly the glowing green orb gets me worked up. There’s just something about a tennis ball — preferably one not drenched in spittle — that gets my juices flowing enough to get off my rear end.
It could be the fact that it’s a game, rather than exercise — that it’s faster-paced and has more thrills than golf or bowling, or other pasttimes practiced by somewhat sedentary men with bigger balls and smaller balls.
These days, the only time I play tennis is when my son visits, and maybe that is part of its allure — that it’s something he and I enjoy doing together, that it’s a tradition.
On our three tennis outings last week, I noticed my legs weren’t following my mind’s commands as smoothly or immediately as they once did. A couple of times they totally ignored them, like Ace sometimes does, with a look that seems to say, ”What makes you think you’re the boss?”
As a result of my disobedient legs, I was defeated.
Even then, though, and despite any sore muscles, I was ready to play the next day. Why?
Is it because my body, deep down, wants to exercise? Is it the joy of making that rare, perfectly placed shot? Or is it the fuzzy green ball itself that triggers something in me, as it does with dogs.
I wonder: Does an old dog’s old tennis ball remind him of his youth — does it make him remember the days when he could snag it while it was still bouncing, as opposed to after it rolled to a stop?
Do I see tennis as way to try and stay, or pretend to be, young? Do I see it as a way to bond with my son? Or am I just becoming more like a dog the more I ponder and write about the species, often to the exclusion of other healthy, sociable, normal activities.
I wonder if continued dog immersion will lead to more changes in me.
Will I start feeling the need to broadcast my urine throughout the neighborhood, sleep 16 hours a day, or stick my nose down chipmunk holes? And, if so, might other things suddenly become worth chasing?
Probably not; that would be … Hold on … Is that the UPS truck I hear?
A standard dachshund who weighs more than twice what he probably should is drawing fans from around the world who, rather than laughing at his dilemma, are supporting his quest to lighten up.
Obie, formerly named A.J., was 77 pounds when he surrendered by his elderly owners, who were in declining health, in Washington state last month.
That, for a dachshund, is too fat to go on walks, and far more weight than their dainty joints, little legs and elongated backs were meant to bear.
As his new owner puts it, Obie’s humans were “loving him with food” and “they just couldn’t say ‘no’ to those big brown eyes.”
Nora Vanetta, a Portland veterinary technician, adopted Obie — formerly named A.J. — after learning about him through Oregon Dachshund Rescue.
She explains on Obie’s new Facebook page, “Biggest Loser Doxie [Dachshund] Edition:
“Our story began when a relative of this boy’s family stepped in and asked for help … Through many tears, the owners relinquished him. It is very frustrating and sad but we are thrilled to be able to help him, and now moving on with his new life.”
Until 5-year-old Obie arrived on Aug. 18, she wrote, she wasn’t sure he, at that weight, could really be a dachshund.
“I had no idea what to expect. I thought a basset hound would show up … to my astonishment he IS a dachshund and he actually weighs 77lbs. He is extremely sweet and loving. He was obviously loved and is a joy to work with.”
Vanetta is working to get Obie down to 30 to 40 pounds,and plans to incorporate hydrotherapy and a treadmill into his regimen once he lightens up enough to be mobile.
Meanwhile, his Facebook page – where Vanetta hopes fans can both track Obie’s progress and get advice on slimming down their own overweight dogs – Obie has accumulated more than 30,000 likes, and thousands of comments, and he regularly receives photos and words of encouragement from owners of dachshunds and others dogs.
Vanetta, who has a degree in animal science, has has also set up a Paypal page (you can find it through the Facebook page) to encourage people to donate money to pay for his continued care.
She has put Obie on a specially formulated diet, and she’s hoping her other two dogs — a nine-year-old Labrador and five-year-old Dachshund — serve as role models for him.
“‘I feel tremendously blessed to be involved in his rehabilitation and I am amazed at the outpouring of love and support that I have received … My hope is that he can be an inspiration to any person or animal trying to lose weight.”
(Photos: Nora Vanetta)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 13th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 77 pounds, aj, animals, canine, dachshund, diet, dog, dogs, donate, doxie, exercise, facebook, fat, fat dogs, health, nora vanetta, obese, obesity, obie, oregon, oregon dachshund rescue, overweight, paypal, pets, portland, standard, technician, veterinary, washington
Leave it to us humans to introduce dogs to the joys of working hard and getting nowhere.
The American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that about 3 million dogs across the country were using treadmills in 2010.
Given widespread obesity in the species (I think we taught them that, too), it’s not an entirely bad thing for dogs to be getting workouts on treadmills.
But there is a monotony to it that strikes me as running counter to what dogs are all about. Show me the dog that prefers a treadmill to running outdoors — in nature, free to veer this way and that, to stop and sniff when the spirit moves him — and I’ll show you a dog that, quite possibly, has become too human.
On the other hand, if the treadmill is the only exercise a dog is going to get, I guess we’ll just have to accept that the times are changing.
According to the Associated Press, the latest APPA survey of pet owners marked the first time the treadmill question was included, based on reports that doggie treadmills were selling briskly. The survey found 3 million dogs made use of them, which is about one of every 25 dogs in the country.
The reasons for resorting to a treadmill are many, and often valid – when it’s too hot out, too cold out; when a pet’s human has become temporarily, or permanently, immobile; when an injured dog needs a controlled form of exercise.
While the AP article explored only the upside of dog treadmills, it strikes me that — like most technology — they carry a high probability of being misused.
Putting your dog on the treadmill could become the equivalent of putting your child in front of the TV set — a way to keep them occupied and quiet. All us folks who seem to think we’re too busy for a walk in the park could come to over rely on them.
The argument could be made, and maybe will: If you don’t have the time and energy to walk a dog, don’t get one — at least not one that requires a lot of exercise.
The AP article mentions one woman in Las Vegas whose rescued dog had dropped from 115 pounds to 80 using a treadmill. That impressed her so much that she bought her own dog treadmill, which is now used by all four of her dogs — too many, she said, to walk at one time.
“I want to make sure the rest of their lives are the healthiest we can make them. If the treadmill promotes a longer life, then it’s easy to do it each day … Whatever we can do now to help them lead a healthier, better life is worth it,” she said.
All that’s true, as long as its not the only activity the dog is getting. Frolicking in the grass and socializing with other dogs also makes for a healthier dog. So while I don’t want a doggie treadmill in my home, or, worse yet, a human one, it’s clear they do have their place.
Dog trainer April Suhr of Las Vegas believes shelters across the country could make good use of them. Getting out of their kennels and onto a treadmill a few times a week could keep shelter dogs from going “cage crazy” and make them healthier, happier and more adoptable, she says.
Suhr has a treadmill at home for her three pets and her foster dogs. Giving them the same amount of exercise by walking and running with them would take several hour and many miles, she noted.
Doggie treadmills, which are built smaller than human ones, come in a range of sizes and prices, starting at nearly $500.
DogPacer, maker of one of the newest and least expensive on the market at $499, has plans to start producing a less costly treadmill for toy dogs in September. Pennsylvania-based GoPet sells canine treadmills and a treadwheel, ranging from $475 to $1,225.
Interestingly, dogs being forced to run on treadmills was one of the first causes taken up when America’s animal welfare movement was finding its footing.
Until the late 1800s — and here’s where we get to the ugly part – dogs were bred and put to work at many a restaurant and inn as turnspit dogs. They were placed in wooden wheels, similar to that you’d see in a hamster’s cage, and encouraged to walk. The wheel powered a chain drive that rotated a spit above a fireplace, ensuring that the meat on the spit cooked evenly.
The short-legged dogs, bred small enough to fit in the wheel, would often be leashed in a way that made them choke if they stopped. Often, a hot coal would be tossed into the wheel to speed a dog up.
When Henry Bergh established the ASPCA in the 1860s, one of his first campaigns was to end the practice.
That a device similar to one once used to enslave and abuse dogs is now being sold — for $1,000 and more — to pamper them and keep them healthy is ironic to say the least. Though it’s with kinder, gentler intentions, we seem in a way to be, after 150 years of stepping forward, back in the same place.
I think that says something; I’m just not sure what.
(Photo: A Belgian Malinois works out on a treadmill at LA Dog Works in Los Angeles; by Grant Hindsley / Associated Press)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american pet products association, animal welfare, animals, appa, benefits, concerns, dog, dog treadmills, dogs, equiipment, exercise, health, humans, increasing, pet products, pets, products, running, sales, survey, treadmills, turnspit dogs, use, walking
For years, man’s best friend has been the running partner of choice for many endurance athletes. Their strength, loyalty and enthusiasm make them perfect to hit the roads or trails with.
While dogs are natural running partners, there are a few things to keep in mind when taking your pooch out for your run. Keep in mind every dog is different when it comes to endurance and speed and what works for one dog may not work for another.
To start with, make sure your dog is properly leash trained and the two of you have established commands when it comes to sit, stay, etc. Even though you are running as opposed to walking, your dog still needs to be attentive to you and obey your commands.
As far as gear is concerned, just a regular leash and collar can work for some dogs. If your dog has a tendency to pull, either a regular or sport harness can prevent your dog from choking. A running specific leash can also help by absorbing some of the shock from your dog pulling suddenly. These leashes are made like a bungee cord and are sold at some pet stores, camping supply stores and of course online.
Even though dogs are natural endurance athletes, not all dog breeds are made to run long distances. Breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback, Alaskan Malamute and Golden Retrievers are naturally good distance runners because of their body structures and stamina.
While some bigger dogs make good runners, not all big breeds are good for running. A Great Dane, for example, is in fact a very lazy breed and is discouraged against running.
On the other side, small breeds like the Whippet, Jack Russell Terrier and Boston Terrier are considered to be good running dogs because of their endurance and ability to run fast with shorter legs. Regardless of breed, a running dog has to be healthy and free of injuries. If you have any reservations about taking your dog on a run, consult your veterinarian.
Now that you have your mutt healthy and geared up to run, the most important thing to keep in mind is yours and the dog’s safety. If you do more road running, always run on the sidewalk and be aware of other pedestrians and dogs using the same path. If your dog gets very excited around other dogs, it’s a good idea to always make him sit/stay when you encounter another dog on a run. Not only does this discipline him, it reduces the chances of him suddenly lunging for another dog which can actually cause injury to the runner.
Probably the most important thing to remember when road running with a dog is to watch out for drivers at all times. Always use the crosswalk and wait for the pedestrian signal to cross a busy street. Although it seems like common sense to most of us, unfortunately most drivers do not look out for pedestrians on the road.
Off leash trail running with a dog is another great way to exercise your dog. However, before you unhook that leash, make sure your dog is a good listener and responds to your commands. While dogs love to run free, they are unaware of certain dangers on trails such as other animals or uneven surfaces. As an owner, it is your responsibility to look ahead and anticipate anything your dog could get in to trouble with. When out on the trails, always turn off your music and turn on your senses. The trails are full of wildlife that could potentially harm your dog, so it’s better to spot these dangers before he does.
Depending on the distance and weather, bringing water for your dog is sometimes necessary. There are many different kinds of portable water dishes on the market which can fit easily in a hydration pack. Also, if you are going for a longer distance, you might want to bring some kind of food for your pooch to snack on mid run. Dog treats or regular food work well for some but some runners just give their dog what they’re eating.
Although this seems like a lot of information about something so simple as running, it’s important to be prepared when logging miles with your four legged friend. If you want your dog to have a long, healthy running career you need to take a of different things into consideration.
Just like a new runner, dogs have to work up their endurance over time too. Be sure you don’t do too much too fast with your dog to help prevent injury. Also, make sure your dog has enough time to rest and recover just like you. By being careful and starting out slowly, you and your dog can enjoy a long, happy lifetime of distance running.
Emily Cebulski is a long time distance runner, employee of the San Diego Running Institute and mom to Rio, the official SDRI shop dog.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breeds, distance, dog, dogs, emily cibulski, equipment, exercise, gear, golden retriever, great danes, guest post, huskies, jack russell terriers, jogging, partners, pets, rhodesian ridgeback, rio, running, running partners, safety, san diego running institute, supplies, trails, water, whippet
The 3-year-old, mostly black German shepherd was working with his handler at White Marsh Park off Route 3 in Bowie when he got distracted by a fox and ran off, according to his handler, Sonja Heritage, of the Fairfax County, Virginia, search and rescue team.
WTOP radio reports he has since been found and reunited with his handler.
Heritage, who put up fliers and contacted local animal shelters after he went missing, said it was little embarassing since Vito is a highly trained search and rescue dog. But, she added, even the best-trained dogs can get distracted.
“A dog is a dog,” she said.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 9th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, Bowie, disappeared, distracted, dog, dogs, exercise, fairfax county, fire, found, fox, handler, lost, maryland, missing, pets, police, rescue, returned, reunited, search, search and rescue, Sonja Heritage, virginia, vito, white marsh park
In court on Monday, Joan Renee Zalk said she was pet-sitting for the dog. She told police officers the dog, named Cooper, needs to walk at least three miles a day or he goes “ballistic.”
Zalk, 29, also faces a charge of felony menacing after a witness who confronted her about the dog told police she was threatened, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
Zalk, who is also an acupuncturist, told the newspaper there was no abuse involved.
Several witnesses called police Friday after seeing the leashed dog running alongside the car.
“That poor dog was running its guts out trying to keep up,” said Elizabeth Whaley, who followed the car, pulled up alongside it and issued a scolding.
Another woman, Debra Baros, later confronted Zalk, who, according to police, told her, “Excuse me, I have a gun in my car. Do you want me to get it?”
Zalk told police she didn’t really have a gun, but made the remark because she felt threatened by Baros.
Zalk was taken to the Boulder County Jail. She was released on bond on Monday.
Officers observed cuts, scabs and blood on the neck of Cooper, who was taken to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. He was later released to his owner.
Zalk told police that the owner, Erin Livers, knew that she sometimes ran the dog from her car or her bike. But police say Livers, when contacted, denied that was the case.
Zalk is scheduled to appear in court again today.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 21st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: acupuncture, alongside, animal cruelty, animals, boulder, car, chihuahua, colorado, cooper, dog walker, dogs, exercise, joan renee zalk, leash, pet sitter, pets, police, running, threats, yoga
On warm adobe
A lizard’s doing push-ups
I’m not so inclined
(Highway Haiku is a regular feature of “Dog’s Country,” the continuing tale of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America. “Dog’s Country” can be found exclusively on ohmidog! To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 11th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, adobe, animals, dog's country, dogscountry, exercise, highway haiku, lizard, new mexico, ohmidog!, pets, push ups, pushups, reptile, road trip, santa fe
A new study confirms the notion that self-control is a limited resource, one that can and does get depleted — in humans and dogs.
And glucose, the study says, is one solution to helping us — whatever our species — stay on task, Miller-McCune magazine reports on its health blog.
The University of Kentucky study, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science, says the same mechanism that regulates human self-control also operates in canines.
A research team led by psychologist Holly Miller conducted two experiments with canines, observing how much persistence they exhibited when given a task.
In the first, 13 dogs were separated into pairs based on their training history. One from each pair was cued to sit and stay by its owner for 10 minutes, with the command being repeated as necessary. The other was simply kept in a quiet room for that same amount of time.
Afterward, each dog was given a Tug-a-Jug toy, a clear cylinder containing treats that can be accessed via a hole at one end — if the dog manipulates it properly. Each toy contained half a hot dog, too large to fit through the hole.
The dogs that had exercised self-control by sitting in place for 10 minutes gave up and discarded the toy more quickly than the others.
In a second experiment, 22 dogs repeated the first experiment with an additional component: Half the dogs were given a glucose drink prior to grappling with the toy, and half were given a sugar-free beverage.
“Dogs given a glucose drink persisted in interacting with the toy whether or not they had had to exert self-control prior to the test,” the researchers report, adding the glucose apparently replenished the animal’s capacity to keep at the task.
Previous research has shown glucose has a similar effect on humans.
“People can control their own behavior,” Miller said. “When they fail, it is not because they are terrible or weak; it is because they are depleted … If they want better self-control, they can build it. They can encourage their bodies to store more self-control fuel via exercise.”
Posted by jwoestendiek March 18th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, canines, depleted, dogs, exercise, experiment, glucose, holly miller, humans, news, persistence, pets, replenished, research, science, self control, study, tasks, university of kentucky, willpower