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Tag: health

Those living with a dog tend to live longer

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Dog owners have a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death, according to a comprehensive new study published by a team of Swedish researchers.

The scientists followed 3.4 million people over the course of 12 years and found that adults who live alone and owned a dog were 33 percent less likely to die during the study than adults who lived alone without dogs.

In addition, the single adults with dogs were 36 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, the study said.

While it’s already accepted that dog ownership can boost activity levels and lower blood pressure, especially among older people, the study was the largest to date on the health implications of owning a dog, according to WebMD.

The Swedish scientists analyzed seven national data registries in Sweden, including two dog ownership registers, to study the association between owning a dog and cardiovascular health.

And while their findings are Sweden-specific, they believe they probably apply to other European countries with a similar attitude to dog ownership.

Interestingly, they also found a connection between positive health effects and breeds.

“In general hunting type breeds had the most protective estimates, while mixed breeds and toy breeds the least,” said Tove Fall, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

The study doesn’t explain how dogs may be responsible for providing protection from cardiovascular disease, but Tove speculated higher levels of activity and social contact lead to better health.

tove_dog_health“As a veterinarian I heard many stories on that vast impact a dog can have on their owner’s well-being and also on their physical activity levels,” she said.

The study’s authors suggested dog owners may have a lower risk because they walk more, feel less isolated and have more social contacts.

More than 3.4 million individuals, aged 40 to 80, were included in the study, which was published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household,” said Mwenya Mubanga, a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University and the lead junior author of the study.

The link between dog ownership and lower mortality was less pronounced in adults who lived either with family members or partners, but still present, according to the study.

(Photo: My dog Ace; Tove, with her puppy, Vega)

Two new studies show dogs can protect children from allergies, eczema

SONY DSC Even before your human baby is born, having a dog in the house can protect him or her against developing allergic eczema.

According to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, babies born in a home with a dog during pregnancy receive protection from allergic eczema, at least in their early years.

The study was one on two presented at the conference in Boston dealing with protections dogs provide to children with allergies — even allergies to dogs.

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of two different types of dog exposure on children with asthma in Baltimore, according to Medical News Today.

The first type was the protein, or allergen, that affects children who are allergic to dogs. The second type were elements, such as bacteria, that a dog might carry.

The researchers concluded that exposure to the elements that dogs carry may have a protective effect against asthma symptoms. But exposure to the allergen may result in more asthma symptoms among urban children with dog allergy.

“Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects,” says Po-Yang Tsou, MD, MPH, lead author. “There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure.”

In the first study, led by ACAAI member Dr. Gagandeep Cheema, researchers investigated how exposure to dogs before birth influenced the risk of childhood eczema.

Eczema is a condition characterized by rashes and patches of dry, itchy skin, most commonly on the hands, feet, face, elbows and knees.

While the causes of eczema remain unclear, it is believed to arise when the immune system overreacts in response to certain allergens or irritants.

“Although eczema is commonly found in infants, many people don’t know there is a progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma,” Cheema said in a press release. “We wanted to know if there was a protective effect in having a dog that slowed down that progress.”

“We found a mother’s exposure to dogs before the birth of a child is significantly associated with lower risk of eczema by age 2 years, but this protective effect goes down at age 10,” says allergist Edward M. Zoratti, MD, ACAAI member and a study co-author.

(A girl and her dog in Baltimore, by John Woestendiek)

Real housewife’s pink dog food is drawing some less than stellar reviews

sparkledogWe’re sure she meant well, but “Real Housewives of Dallas” star Kameron Westcott’s new dog food line is getting some harsh reviews.

Westcott is new to the series, and one of the plot lines it follows has revolved around her efforts to develop and market a bubblegum pink dog food brand called SparkleDog.

The new line supports the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but even that worthy cause isn’t keeping some critics from declaring the product gagworthy.

As the SparkleDog website explains it, Kameron noticed that the dog food industry has “overlooked the purchasing power of women. She has made it her mission to create packaging that would appeal to women using bold pink colors, a unique shape and easy to carry bag. Her pièces de résistance was adding pink heart shaped kibbles.”

westcott“Kameron has continued her passion for animal welfare by convincing her husband Court to invest in the first company that is going to bring kill free meat to the world,” the website adds.

(I’m a little bit baffled by just how the forms of chicken and fish listed as ingredients end up in the dog food without being killed … unless maybe they have all died of old age.)

In reality, the product is mostly brown with pink kibble bits. Cranberries help provide the pinkish coloring, along with Red Dye #3.

While the website lists the ingredients, it doesn’t specify what portion of profits will be passed along to the Komen Foundation. It has promised the foundation $10,000, though.

Kameron recently lost her grandmother to cancer, according to the website, “and when she reminisced about her grandmother, she realized her love for pink and her love for being a woman came directly from her.”

On Amazon, the dog food has an average rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars, but a number of reviews are pretty harsh.

“Make sure you buy a tarp to keep your dog on, cause you will have diarrhea everywhere!!!” Another claimed the food left her dog dehydrated and weak with diarrhea. One calls it “nausea in a bag.”

A review in the Dallas Observer, however, says the two dogs who tired it under their supervision enjoyed it very much and had no ill effects.

Westcott told Page Six that the 1 star reviews are fake.

“The 1 star reviews were done by people who never purchased the product and [are] meritless. Based on internal tests we have found that dogs bowel movements are unaffected by our food,” she said.

The dog food is not organic, says Westcott, who has been described as a real life version of Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Legally Blonde.”

SparkleDog_front-bagMaking it organic, she says, would have required charging an exorbitant amount for it.

The price strikes me as a little hefty, but then I’m not a Real Housewife.

An 8-ounce bag sells for $28 on Amazon.

(Photos: Kameron Westcott, her Yorkie Louis, and her dog food, from the SparkleDog website)

Did dog’s death actually break her heart?

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It’s a phrase we might all throw around a little carelessly — having a “broken heart” about something, or even dying of one — but the medical community is coming to suspect there’s something to it.

On top of loads of anecdotal evidence — such as one spouse dying unexpectedly soon after another — doctors are seeing more cases where what appears to be a heart attack turns out to more likely be spasms brought on by “broken heart syndrome.”

Now comes what doctors say is a solidly diagnosed case — of a woman in Texas who was grieving the death of her dog — featured in no less august a publication than the New England Journal of Medicine.

{A fuller and more layman-friendly account can be found on the Washington Post animal blog, Animalia.)

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, to use it’s official name, is a condition with symptoms that mimic heart attacks. And that’s what doctors at Houston’s Hermann Memorial Hospital say a Texas woman suffered after the death of her dog.

Joanie Simpson, after having chest pains, was rushed last year into the cardiac catheterization lab at Hermann Memorial where a tube was threaded into a blood vessel leading to her heart. One of her doctors, Abhishek Maiti, said they expected to find blocked arteries.

The arteries were “crystal clear,” Maiti said. Further tests indicated she had Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a condition, most common in postmenopausal women, in which a flood of stress hormones “stun” the heart to produce spasms similar to those of a heart attack.

brokenheartThe condition is characterized by transient left ventricular systolic and diastolic dysfunction of the apex and mid-ventricle. That is Simpson’s to the left, upon the onset.)

Simpson, 62, was stabilized with medications, after which she told doctors about the recent stresses in her life, culminating with the recent death of her Yorkshire terrier, Meha.

She was sent home after two days, and, while still taking two heart medications, she is doing fine.

Doctors say the condition usually occurs following an emotional event such as the loss of a spouse or child.

Maiti’s said Simpson’s case was published in the journal not because it is the first involving broken heart syndrome and stress over a pet’s death, but because hers was a “very concise, elegant case” of a fascinating condition.

While it adds to the growing recognition the condition is getting, it also underscores how — just as having dogs can make us healthier — losing them can take a toll that surpasses the emotional.

Simpson said the death of her dog, 9 years old and suffering from congestive heart failure, was not a peaceful one. Simpson postponed an appointment to euthanize the dog, and Meha died the next day.

“It was such a horrendous thing to have to witness,” she’s quoted as saying in the Post. “When you’re already kind of upset about other things, it’s like a brick on a scale. I mean, everything just weighs on you.”

Simpson, who now lives about two hours northwest of San Antonio, says she wants to get another dog someday, but for now she has a cat named Buster.

Woof in Advertising: Ellen’s dog food has new mascot — and it’s a turd with a halo

There’s a new animated turd in town, and no, it’s not a character on South Park.

Halo dog food, Ellen DeGeneres’ brand, has launched a new advertising campaign featuring a saintly pile of feces know as “Poopsie.”

woof in advertisingThe mascot appears in two advertising spots that have been made so far, both telling us that Halo brand pet foods are free of filler, and that the consumption of it leads to healthier, friendlier, more polite poops.

Halo promises dog owners “a poop that’s a pleasure to scoop.”

It’s not clear what, if any, role, DeGeneres played in conceiving the new mascot for the brand, but the ads were developed by RPA (Rubin Postaer and Associates), an advertising and marketing agency headquartered in Santa Monica, according to AdWeek.com.

mrhankyPoopsie is not the first animated poop to hit the airwaves. That honor, many think, belongs to Mr. Hankey, a talking, sewer-dwelling lump of human feces who first appeared in a Christmas-time episode during the first season of South Park. He went on to become a recurring character.

South Park, however, has been accused of stealing the character from Ren and Stimpy creator John K., who says the cartoon rips off a series of Spumco comics and cartoons that featured “Nutty the Friendly Dump.” The two characters look alike, and the plot lines are similar, too, with the talking feces surfacing to befriend a main character who has been rejected by classmates.

That controversy didn’t make a lot of headlines when it was playing out, back in 1997, so I don’t know, nor do I want to, whether it led to a court battle over who first produced talking poop.

Twenty years later, though I don’t think anybody is going to sue Ellen (because she’s too nice). And the advertising agency is probably in the clear, too, because Poopsie, being coiled, has an entirely different shape than either Mr. Hankey or Nutty. And Poopsie — as much as I would like to call him a spokesturd — doesn’t talk (at least not yet).

In any event, Halo brand has trademarked the name “Poopsie” and the Poopsie image — basically a spiraled piece of poop with eyeballs and a mouth and a golden halo hovering over it.

Poopsie’s point … and it does have one .. is that “the proof is in the poop.”

Dogs who eat Halo brand are avoiding difficult to digest filler and “meat meal,” and as a result they dispense poop that is, if not truly angelic, at least less offensive, the ads contend.

As the next ad says, “the truth always comes out in the end.”

(This link will lead you to more of our Woof in Advertising posts)

No more kissing: An urgent and newsworthy life-or-death warning to all dogs everywhere

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Dear fellow dogs,

It is with great sadness that we issue you this urgent public health warning, but evidence is mounting that licking the face of a human can lead to deadly consequences.

After careful consideration, we are advising that you cease the age-old practice at once: What has traditionally been viewed as a gesture of love and loyalty now clearly poses a direct and immediate threat to our species.

The slightest licking of a human face can lead to mumps, ringworm, salmonella, swine flu, Giardia, MRSA and more.

satireWe know it is hard to resist licking the hand that feeds you, much less slurping that human face leaning towards you in hopes of receiving a good tongue-lashing.

But resist we must, no matter how tempting. That sweet toddler face crusted with remnants of spaghetti dinner? Avoid it. The master who wants you — for some reason — to snag a treat from his or her mouth? Politely decline.

They are germ-filled creatures, and germs must be avoided at all costs.

For now, our concern is with human faces, because they are home to mucous membranes, the path many transmittable disease follow. Human faces are veritable germ factories, but human hands could be even worse.

Do you have any idea where those hands have been?

In an average day, the typical human has wiped his own hiney, scooped up our poop, picked his own nose, scratched his own groinal area, and turned a dozen or so door knobs. And that’s just the beginning.

We, at this point, are beginning to have doubts whether we should continue to allow them to even pet us. We now have that under study and will issue an additional advisory if necessary.

We realize this warning to you is vastly different than the reports your owners are receiving from their so-called news media and studies by their so-called scientists. Those reports tend to only address the dangers we pose to humans, ignoring the dangers they pose to us.

For example, take this week’s New York Post: “The Deadly Reason You Shouldn’t Let Dogs Lick Your Face.”

And those reports tend to snowball, thanks to the Internet, getting blown way out of proportion and repeated by anyone who knows how to cut, paste or share.

So you may have already noticed your human has developed a sudden revulsion to being licked.

Our warning, though, which you will only read here, is based on solid science and sources as respectable as PetMD.

With humans not wanting us to lick them, and us resisting the urge to lick them, we can only wonder how the bond between humans and dogs will play out in the future.

The lick, after all, is the most powerful item in our toolkit, and it is is difficult to imagine how, without it, we will be able to complete our mission — namely, to provide the affection and reassurance humans so desperately need.

While, for now, we can continue to shake hands, cuddle and nuzzle, anything involving the tongue, effectively immediately, is out. Given this void, humans, most likely, will turn to other sources of reassurance, such as Facebook friends who tell them they are beautiful/awesome/loved/in their prayers/etc.

You can’t get germs from a Facebook friend, assuming we don’t count computer viruses.

The Facebook friend could well end up replacing the dog, and that would be a disaster, sending us back to our wolfen days and throwing the entire ecosystem out of whack.

We, the board members of the Department of Human Control, debated long and hard over issuing this warning. There were those among us who felt we should continue licking the faces of people, no matter the health risks. They, however, were a minority and members of the smaller breeds.

As we enter the lick-free era, it is vital that we come up with new ways to endear ourselves to humans — maybe learn to take out the trash, do the dishes or find other ways to make them feel they need us.

For the truth is we have grown to rely on this curious species that wipes its own hind quarters and, often, doesn’t wash its hands as often as it should.

As disgusting and needy as they can be, we’ve grown to love them — germs and all.

(At top, my former dog Ace with my former neighbor Mike; at bottom, Ace’s kissing booth, 2009)

Jinjja gets temporarily rehomed, and ohmidog! is taking a health-related hiatus

DSC06491 (2)By the time you read this — our last post for what will likely be a while — I will have parted ways with one dog and one kidney.

The kidney, which doctors suspect contains a cancerous mass, is being removed in a surgery today and will be gone for good.

Jinjja, the Korean dog I adopted five months ago, will be staying with a friend who has offered to care for him for as long as it takes, which could be a while, between the hospital stay, a six-week recovery period, and whatever other treatment may follow.

So the purpose of this post is to inform those of you who may be following Jinjja’s story of this latest twist in the life of a dog who was rescued from a meat farm in South Korea, transported to the U.S. for adoption, and has been making progress — slow as it sometimes seems — in becoming social, and trusting, and having the kind of life a dog deserves.

And to let you know that there won’t be any new reports on ohmidog! for a bit.

I dropped Jinjja off Sunday at the home of the Kirkeengs. It was his second visit there, and during both he seemed to enjoy everything about it — from the spacious fenced back yard to the pack he’ll be sharing it with: a small and playful dog named Luigi, and Olivia, a lab mix.

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He immediately hit if off with Darla, who is director of development for the Forsyth Humane Society, and with her daughter Katie, who I best remember as the person inside the humane society’s mascot’s suit during various fund raising events.

I’d already informed Darla’s husband, Eric, that Jinjja would be slower to warm up to him, as he’s skittish around men he hasn’t gotten to know.

DSC06479But, all in all, the situation — disregarding the medical stuff — couldn’t be more ideal. The yard seems pretty escape proof, and Jinjja has shown a tendency to get free, take off, and resist efforts — even with treats involved — to recapture him.

It will be interesting to hear how Jinjja handles being one of three dogs in a house. Upon entering it, his first inclination was to make his mark. It’s something he never felt much need to do inside my home, but did when he visited the home of my neighbor and her five dogs.

The Kirkeengs had three dogs, but recently lost one of them, Oreo. The other two seemed happy to welcome a new member.

As an added bonus, Darla has arranged for the humane society’s trainer to drop by from time to time to work with her dogs and Jinjja.

DSC06460And Jinjja does still need some work, especially in learning to come when he is called — something he’ll do inside. Outside, asking him to come often has the opposite effect.

We’d managed to complete one class together at the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club (during which he performed magnificently) before I started ailing in April.

The progress he has made, the progress he still needs to make, the need for him to get more exercise than my small courtyard provides, and the lengthy recovery period I’m facing made figuring what to do with him during all this a huge stress producer.

I’m told that, after getting out of the hospital, I shouldn’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for six weeks, which also means I shouldn’t be tugged by a dog who sees a squirrel and can’t help but lunge in that direction.

I contemplated returning him, for his own good, to the Watauga Humane Society, where I adopted him after his arrival from Korea. But then I heard from Darla. I knew she was a friend, but how good a friend she turned out to be left me kind of stunned. And highly relieved.

Now I suppose we should get back, just briefly, to my right kidney. (I plan to keep the left one). All of it will be removed, as well as a hunk of my renal artery, as the mass appears to have made inroads up into it.

After that, what they’ve removed will be tested, allowing them to make a definitive diagnosis and have a better idea where all this is going.

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I apologize for the details.

Ironically, it was just last week that I complained about surgical details, scar photos and graphic health complaints of people I don’t really know taking up so much of my Facebook feed, and all those other annoying Facebook posts I get tired of. Let’s just say I was a little cranky.

I promise to try and keep you informed — while sparing you any gross details — both here and on my Facebook page.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Kirkeengs. Thanks to my brother, Ted, who I’m sure I’ve only just begun imposing on. And thanks to my readers — be they old friends, new friends, Facebook friends, or strangers.