Zooeyia: Doctors Outline the Health Benefits of Companion Animals

Here’s a good word of the day for animal lovers: “zooeyia”—a combination of the Greek words for animal and health.  It describes the human health benefits of companion animals.  And there are a lot of them!

An article for physicians in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine lists the many physical and emotional health benefits of living with companion animals.

Here are some key ways that the presence of pets in our lives can help us:

  • Pets reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing us with companionship, attachment, and opportunities for social connection.
  • Having pets in the home can reduce harmful health behaviors like smoking because we don’t want to put our pets at risk.
  • Walking dogs and playing with pets provides people with daily opportunities to increase their amount of exercise and physical activity.
  • The presence of a companion animal can decrease stress and blood pressure. Pets can also reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and increase our sense of self-worth.

The article notes that physicians should educate pet-owning patients about the possible risks of animals, such as the transmission of zoonotic diseases, but stresses that the health benefits outweigh the risks.

Does your doctor ask you about your pets?  According to the authors, talking to patients about their animals is a great opportunity for doctors to improve the quality of patient care!

 

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Pet Ownership Trends for 2019

What will the hottest pet trends be in 2019?  The Michelson Found Animals Foundation surveyed 1,000 dog and cat owners and compiled a list of pet trends to watch in the coming year.  Here are the highlights:

Pet-related technology will play a greater role in the daily lives of our pets.  What are the most popular pet tech items?

  • Pet health and nutrition apps
  • Pet servicing apps (pet sitting, dog walking, etc.)
  • Pet monitoring cameras
  • Smart pet toys

Alternative therapies for pets are on the rise.  What types of treatments are our pets receiving?

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • CBD oil (aka cannabidiol oil, a non-intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant)

Pet food trends will continue to mirror human food trends.  Here’s what we’re feeding our pets:

  • Special diets for health and fitness
  • Organic pet food
  • Protein-rich diets
  • Pet food subscription services

 

 

Is Pet Insurance the Right Choice for You?

The start of a new year is the time when many us of make resolutions to take better care of our health.  But what about our pets?  Do your wellness plans for your best friend include getting pet health insurance?

Many dog and cat owners consider pet insurance, and some employers even offer it as part of their employee benefits package.  But is it the right option for you?

The decision to get insurance for your pet depends on many individual factors.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself—and any potential insurance companies—before you buy.

What is the annual cost of pet insurance?

This can depend on your particular situation, including the cost of living in your area and the breed and age of your pet.  Consumer advocates warn that the cost of your annual premium may be higher than the benefits you receive.

One study found that while the cost for coverage is around $500 a year, most pet owners saw only around $275 in paid claims.

Do you own a “high-risk” dog breed?

Cats are generally less expensive to insure than dogs, but not all dogs cost the same to insure.  Some breeds are much more expensive than others.

The experts at the website I Heart Dogs report that some large breed dogs like the St. Bernard and Irish Wolfhound are especially pricey to insure.

They recommend choosing a plan that covers inherited and chronic health conditions (such as hip and elbow dysplasia).  Make sure the plan covers all aspects of treatment for an illness or injury (like overnight care).

What’s covered and what’s not covered?

Make sure you understand what each insurance plan covers and what is excluded.  All plans vary but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind.

According to the website Wag! you should be prepared to cover a lot of preventive care yourself.  This includes things like dental cleanings, parasite prevention, vaccinations, spay/neuter, non-traditional therapies, and prescription diets.

What should be covered under a good plan?  Farmers Insurance notes that plans should cover treatment for accidents and injuries, and certain illnesses like cancer, arthritis, and diabetes.

Remember to review plans carefully for details on coverage of hereditary and pre-existing conditions.

How can you compare insurance plans?

Ready to look into getting pet health insurance but not sure where to start?  Check out this veterinarian-reviewed, comprehensive guide to pet health insurance plans from the website lendedu.com.

 

FDA Issues Warning on Vitamin D Toxicity in Several Brands of Pet Food

The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning for pet owners about high levels of vitamin D in several brands of dry dog food.

Currently, the affected dog foods are sold under the labels Nature’s Promise, Nature’s Place, Abound, ELM, ANF, Evolve, Sportsman’s Pride, Triumph, Orlando, Natural Life, and Nutrisca.

While already a long list, the FDA notes that the situation is still developing, and more brands may be added in the coming days.  Right now, the list does not include cat food or wet dog food.

Although vitamin D is an essential nutrient, too much vitamin D can cause vitamin D toxicity in dogs.  The symptoms pet owners should know about include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Excessive drooling
  • Weight loss

Serious cases can lead to kidney failure and death.

Stop feeding your dog any food on the list and see your veterinarian if you suspect vitamin D toxicity.  Show your vet the food packaging.  The FDA notes that some of the symptoms can mimic those that follow the ingestion of rodenticides.

Pet owners and veterinarians are encouraged to report cases of vitamin D toxicity to the FDA via their safety reporting portal.

 

New Study Examines the Health of Labrador Retrievers

The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog breed in the United States for many years.  We love this kind, gentle, and loving dog…but like any purebred dog, the Lab does have some inherited health issues that all owners should know about.

A recent study of Labs in the UK took a look at the most common health and well-being issues of this popular dog.  What are the key findings?

61.6% of all Labs in the study had at least one known health disorder.  Here are the most common:

  • Otitis externa (ear canal inflammation and infection)
  • Obesity (particularly among neutered males)
  • Degenerative joint disease (hip and elbow dysplasia)

Interestingly, some of the conditions were found to be more closely associated with coat color than others.  For example, chocolate colored Labs were more likely to have both otitis externa and a skin condition called pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots).

The average lifespan of all Labs is around 12 years, but chocolate Labs had shorter lifespans.  The two most common causes of death in Labs are musculoskeletal disorders and cancer.

The researchers suspect that the link between chocolate color and illness/mortality might be due to an increased number of genetic diseases contained in a more limited gene pool.

If you’re interested in a Labrador Retriever as your next pet, be sure to work only with a reputable breeder (or rescue organization) who health tests their dogs for inherited health problems.

For more information on health testing, check out the website of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.