Owning a Dog Benefits People with Cardiovascular Disease

The American Heart Association recently published a study on the health benefits of dog ownership for people at risk for heart attack and stroke.

According to the study, dog ownership is associated with a 33% lower risk of death for heart attack survivors who live alone, as compared to non-dog owners.

Dog-owning stroke survivors who live alone have a 27% reduced risk of death compared to those who don’t own a dog.

Dog ownership has been found to be associated with a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality (31% reduced risk for heart attack and stroke).

Why is there such a significant reduction in mortality?  The American Heart Association points to two key factors related to dog ownership: companionship/social connection and increased physical activity, both of which can lead to improved health and lowered blood pressure.

The researchers found that among heart attack and stroke survivors, the risk of death was lower for dog owners than even for people living with a spouse or child!

Check out this video on the study to learn more:

 

Kitten Checklist Helps New Owners Pick the Perfect Cat

 

An organization of cat care professionals in the UK called The Cat Group has created a very helpful “Kitten Checklist” for anyone thinking about adding a new kitten to their family!

This user-friendly checklist was designed to help owners choose a happy and healthy kitten, whether it comes from a shelter, rescue organization, friend, or breeder.

Besides checking for signs of poor health, the creators of the checklist also note the importance of assessing temperament.  “Many people don’t understand that in order to become a good pet cat, kittens need positive interactions with people and need to get used to the human environment and lifestyle before they are about 8 weeks old,” they report.

The checklist guides potential owners through a series of questions.  These include things to consider before visiting a shelter or breeder to see kittens and what to observe when you are visiting and interacting with a kitten.

The health section includes an easy way to evaluate the different parts of a kitten’s body:  eyes, ears, nose, coat, etc.

You can download or print out the Kitten Checklist pdf by clicking HERE.

 

 

Dog Aging Project Seeks Volunteers for New Canine Health Study

The University of Washington and Texas A&M University have teamed up for a large-scale study called the Dog Aging Project.  The project invites dog owners to nominate their pets to be part of the study.

The goal of the Dog Aging Project is to identify factors that are critical to improving healthy lifespan in dogs.  The researchers are interested in finding out how genetics, lifestyle, and environment influence the canine aging process.

By analyzing the data collected, the researchers’ ultimate goal is to provide owners with evidence-based advice that will help owners increase their dog’s healthy lifespan.

If you are accepted into the program, you will be invited to fill out surveys about your dog’s health and life experiences.  You will be asked to submit a sample of your dog’s saliva for DNA testing as well.  Some owners will be able to perform special activities with their dogs and report the results to the study.

Interesting in getting started?  You can learn more about nominating your dog HERE.

 

The “Placebo Effect” in Veterinary Medicine

The placebo effect is a known factor in human medicine.  It occurs when a patient feels that they are benefiting from a fake pill or treatment, often given to patients in double-blind studies when researchers are testing new medications.

Is there a placebo effect for pets?  A recent article in The Atlantic addresses this question.

While our pets don’t know what kind of medicine they are getting, we as owners do know.  It turns out that placebos can trick owners into thinking that their pets are feeling better.

In one study on a canine epilepsy drug, 79% of owners with dogs on the placebo reported a reduction in seizures.

How does this happen?  Veterinary experts report that we have “blind spots” about our pets, and our perceptions of their health don’t always match up with reality.  This often happens when pet owners are aware that their pets are being studied and they have an expectation that they will see an improvement.

The placebo effect among pet owners is similar to what’s known as the “caregiver placebo effect.”  When a patient—human or animal—can’t speak about how they are feeling, the caregiver must observe and judge the effects of a treatment.

The article points to one canine arthritis drug study where the perceptions of both owners and veterinarians were compared to actual physical exams.  It turns out that even the vets were guilty of the caregiver placebo effect.

The danger of the veterinary placebo effect is that our pets may continue to suffer while we think that they are feeling better.  Veterinarians note that it’s natural for us to want our pets to feel better, we just have to be aware of our perceptions and expectations.

 

November is Pet Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes is a health issue that can affect dogs and cats as well as us humans.  Did you know that 1 in 300 dogs and 1 in 230 cats in the U.S. have diabetes?

November is Pet Diabetes Month, the perfect time to find out if your pet is at risk for diabetes.

You can take this diabetes risk quiz, for both dogs and cats.

Diabetes tends to be more common in cats than dogs.  And also in older pets that are overweight.

Managing your pet’s weight is key to preventing diabetes.  Studies have shown that high protein-low carb diets are the best approach.  Some pets have even been able to go off insulin with a change in diet.

Regular exercise is also key to diabetes prevention…and your pet’s overall good health.

While there is no cure, your pet’s diabetes can be managed and treated with a combination of medication, regular monitoring and veterinary checkups, and of course a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Be sure to talk to your vet if you have questions about diabetes in your dog or cat.