HEALTH AND WELLNESS
It's never too late to paws and breathe.
A DOG'S kiss can heal you. This is what researchers from the University of Arizona are out to prove as they work on a novel study that seeks to unravel the health benefits people get from owning a dog, especially one that showers them with wet kisses.
Researchers are exploring the “yogurt” effect a dog has on a person's health as both are believed to share the same gut bacteria over time.
A synopsis of the study pointed out that “dogs might work as probiotics to enhance the health of the bacteria that live in our guts. These bacteria or the microbiota, are increasingly recognized as playing an essential role in our mental and physical health, especially as we age.”
The study is being conducted under the university's Department of Psychiatry's new Human-Animal Interaction Research Initiative, which aims to bring researchers from different disciplines together, to explore the mutual benefits of human-animal relationships. It is also being done in partnership with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Getting those big, saliva-thick sloppy kisses from our dogs is probably one effective way dogs activate the “good” bacteria that reside in our guts. Researchers hypothesized that “good” bacteria is like a “probiotic” and cited researches that have established that people who own dogs are much more likely to share the same kinds of these good bacteria with their dogs.
“We have also learned that children who are raised with dogs are less likely than others to develop a range of immune related disorders, including asthma and allergies. Suggesting that maybe dogs are enhancing the good bacteria in our bodies, and possibly improving our health,” they added.
Researchers want to further their study by looking at how owning a dog can help improve the immune systems of older adults, like in the case of the children. They also want to know if the dog's probiotic effect would work with people who haven’t lived with a dog ever or for a long period of time. Researchers are keen to know whether owning a dog would improve this type of older adults' sleep, muscle and bone strength, mobility, and their overall happiness and quality of life.
To do this, the researchers are choosing participants aged over 50 and who have not lived with a dog for at least six months. Each will be paired with a dog from the humane society and will live together for three months. Researchers will periodically examine both the person and the dog's gut bacteria, diet, physical activity levels and immune function in a non-invasive manner.
It is their hope that they will find positive impacts on gut microflora in either the humans or the dogs and improvements in both the participants' and the dogs' health and emotional well-being.
Now that you know a dog's kiss has curative powers, would you gladly take it three times a day?
By Alma J. Buelva
EVERYONE can use a good massage every now and then, even dogs. The older and bigger the dog, the more they could use a regular rubbing down to relieve their achy breaky joints.
Canine massage therapy expert Sharon Koung said big dogs are more prone to joint problems than small dogs, and all dogs in general wear off their joints as they age.
Koung who works at Kreature Care in Singapore which specializes in canine massage therapy and related health services, said dogs with joints and bone problems experience any of the following: lameness, skipping steps, inability or difficulty in getting up from a lying position, inflammation, stiffness, pain, swelling and grating or crackling sound when they move.
The symptoms may not be obvious at first, but dog owners can get a leg up, so to speak, of their dogs' condition before it gets worse by making it a habit to massage and feel their dogs regularly.
“Dogs like cats are good at hiding their pain or illness. It would help them a lot if their humans could detect early which part of their body is stiff or has spasms,” said Koung.
The simple stroking of the dog's body from head to back legs is already the beginning of preventive care. It prepares the dog's body for massage, it warms them up and helps their blood to circulate better.
“Massage your dogs at least 10 to 15 minutes in the morning or when they're just next to you as you watch TV...Touch them everyday to notice irregularities and to know their bodies better so you can help prevent problems early,” said Koung.
Senior dogs, especially those with stiff and locked shoulder joints, and dogs undergoing post operation care and strength training can benefit from massage therapy. It is also imperative for dogs to get a massage when they have collapsed spine, torn ligament, hip dysplasia and double hip dysplasia, nerve disorder and nerve damage resulting from fall.
Massage therapy is also advisable for dogs suffering from toxoplasmosis characterized by uncoordinated gait and muscle weakness, rigid contraction of the limbs, and muscle athropy (crawls on all fours).
But even while they're still young and healthy, dogs can use a good daily rub down to improve their general well being, said Koung.
“Massaging your dog helps improve their blood circulation, increase joint strength and flexibility and provides pain relief,” said Koung.
Among the important areas to be massaged are the dog's spine area, neck muscles, shoulder muscles, back muscles and the front and back legs.
“Massage the spine area, not on the spine itself, but on the side only. Use your thumbs to massage the side of the spines then rub down using circular motion. Gently rotate around the side of the spine. Sometimes, a dog feels spasm or pain. Apply heat pack for 20 seconds in sore areas before rubbing it again,” Koung said.
Joints and legs should also be massaged using circular motion. “Use the flat part of your fingertips to massage the body, especially the side of the neck bone,” she added.
Palpation. Feel or touch the dog with your hand and or fingertips to determine sensitivity and consistency in the given area. Locate muscle spasms.
Direct pressure/ Point massage. Use ball of your finger or thumbs to massage the dog. When massaging very small cats and dogs, use ball of index fingers. For tense muscles and qi points (located along vertebrae and joints area), apply medium circular pressure. Direct pressure and point massage help to relax the pet, soften their muscles and prepare them for next level of pressure.
Effleurage. Stroke pets using flat palms and fingers along the fur line. Stroke slowly and lightly in the beginning and gradually increase pressure. The fur line starts from the head to toe along back, shoulder to front legs, backside to back legs. This type of massage helps drain the lactic acid accumulated in the dog's body after a workout.
Stretching. Koung highly recommends stretching with joint rotation for dogs. “But always support the area or muscle being stretched. Do not pull. Do not over stretch. If the dog pulls back its leg, let it go,” she said.
When stretching the dog's back leg, for example, support the dog by having it lean against your own body and holding the upper part of its leg before moderately stretching it using your other hand.
Aside from giving massages, Koung said dog owners can help their pets with joints and muscle conditions by using anti-slip mats in the dog areas, raising the height of their dog's food and water bowl and rubbing their body with heat packs to relieve sore spots.
Kreature Care is the first certified animal massage therapy center in Singapore.
BEDTIME is a tricky thing for people with pets. Many of us have cheeky bedspacers who shamelessly take up a lion's share of the mattress. But they take more than that, something more valuable from their owners: a proper sleep.
Admit it or not, pets sleeping in the same room or bed as their humans have some disadvantages. This was a key finding in a recent study done by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in the United States: pets disturb sleep.
A survey of 298 patients at a family practice clinic found that half of them sleep with pets with about a third of them saying their pets wake them up at least once per night. Dogs, especially the big breeds, tend to snore loudly. Some even bark when they are dreaming. Cats, on the other hand, tend to jump on and off the bed several times at night for various reasons only a cat-dominated person would acquiesce to.
The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School has pointed out that lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. They even went as far as blaming poor quality of sleep to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.
Call it crazy, but most pet lovers won't have their sleeping arrangement any other way. Those who sleep with their dogs feel more secure when their four-legged protectors are near although they sleep with total abandon. Those who sleep with cats love the calming sound of purrs and just how cute they look when they completely zone out.
Another attraction of keeping pets in bed is they provide some well-calibrated heat. In cold nights, it's nice to sleep with a pet with body temperature that runs three to six degrees warmer than a person.
If you are one of those people who have completely lost or surrendered the battle for bed domination to a pet, there may still be one option left for you to take: the couch. But if that, too, has been conquered and colonized by an intrepid pet as spoils of war, then take heart in the fact that you are a good person who cares for your pets a bit much. But that's okay. To borrow a line from William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet: “Where care lodges, sleep will never lie.” -- MetroPets
But humans are not the only victims. Animals, dogs in particular, are also victims of the horrific clinical symptoms, but perhaps the most disturbing consequence is the estimated tens of millions of dogs culled, often inhumanely, in misguided attempts to control the disease.
THE city of Cagayan de Oro (CDO) registered 32 positive animal rabies cases in 2014, the highest in the country, based on the annual situation report by the Bureau of Animal Industry.
The capital city of Misamis Oriental has a high history of rabies samples since 2009. It almost reached 40 cases in 2010.
The bureau revealed its findings during the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), Communicating Health Advocacy Mentorship Program (CHAMP) in Tagaytay. The report included a statement from CDO city veterinarian Dr. Perla T. Asis who said budgetary constraints have kept them from vaccinating more dogs.
With P700,000 budget in 2013, the city managed to vaccinate against rabies only 55 percent of its total dog population, below their target of 80 percent.
Rabies is an acute infection of the central nervous system caused by the rabies virus. It affects mammals like dogs, cats, foxes, bats and humans. When humans are bitten, scratched or licked over their broken skin by an infected animal, the virus in the saliva of the infected animal enters the human body through the wound and travels through nerves to the brain, leading to encephalitis.
The incubation period of rabies may last for a few days to several years, but it is usually three to eight weeks. The initial symptoms may be nonspecific flu-like symptoms such as malaise, fever, or headache, which may last for days. There may be numbness and tingling around the site of the wound. These are followed after a few days by anxiety, confusion, spasm of swallowing muscles, paralysis, coma and death.
LACK OF REPORTS
The first global survey of rabies reporting systems, published recently, has uncovered a shocking lack of preparedness against this deadly disease across Africa and Asia.
GARC's survey that covered 91 countries showed that across Africa and Asia, where rabies kills the most people, most reporting systems were often ineffective. Overall, 41 percent of the population covered by the survey – around 2.5 billion people – live in countries where there is no system, or an ineffective rabies reporting system.
“Because most rabies endemic countries don’t collect accurate data on the number of people dying from the virus, they fail to adequately invest in its control. An appreciation of the scale of the problem can help countries prioritize control of this disease.” says lead author of the paper, Dr. Louise Taylor, a biologist with the Global Alliance for Rabies Control.
The lack of accurate reporting leaves authorities with only estimates of the global human and animal toll of rabies. The virus is estimated to kill around 70,000 people every year, almost all of whom die through a lack of access to lifesaving medical treatment. These estimates suggest at least 95 percent are infected as a result of a bite from a rabid dog.
Humans are not the only victims. Animals, dogs in particular, are also victims of the horrific clinical symptoms, but perhaps the most disturbing consequence is the estimated tens of millions of dogs culled, often inhumanely, in misguided attempts to control the disease.
All of these deaths can be prevented with effective rabies vaccination programs. Reporting systems are fundamental to these programs, to monitor and assess the success of prevention efforts.
The survey found that while the reporting of human rabies cases is a legal requirement in many countries, the systems to do this vary enormously and are often poorly enforced. Accurate data is just not being produced for most countries where rabies is common.
The survey also identifies a number of reasons for this, including rabies not being a health priority, poor training of medical staff, a lack of resources to implement reporting, and the problem that many poor victims die without ever accessing the health system.
WHILE animal lovers melt at the sight of cute kittens and googly eyed dogs, others feel like melting, too, albeit in fear.
Animal phobia is real and comes in many forms. It is a psychological condition that prevents a human from co-existing peacefully with animals. There are remedies available to alleviate animal phobia under the supervision of medical experts, but the first step is acknowledging that fear of animals affects many people, which is neither their fault nor the animals.
Because it's best to face one's demons, here's a rundown of some of the most common forms of animal phobia and the well-known personalities who suffered from each.
The fear of cats. This phobia also goes by the name Elurophobia, Felinophobia, Galeophobia and Gatophobia. It is characterized by a person's persistent, irrational fear or loathing of cats. Their issues with cats range from the usually harmless purring and affectionate rubbing on one's legs that cats do, to the possibility of being scratched or bitten (amychophobia is the fear of scratches or being scratched). Some are scared of seeing a cat in real life, especially black cats, and may even avoid any object that resembles a cat. Although cat phobics know that the animal they dread are not really dangerous, their fear overwhelms logic especially if they or someone they know have had a bad experience with a cat as a child.
Known cat phobics are Adolf Hitler and the Jackson siblings Michael and La Toya.
The fear of dogs or rabies. Cynophobia is another protective mechanism created by the unconscious mind. As in any phobia, it could develop at an early age triggered by a traumatizing experience a person or someone he or she knew had with a dog. A study done in South Africa by Drs. Willem A. Hoffmann and Lourens H. Human, however, claims that cynophobia could develop even as late as age 20.
Cynophobia, like ailurophobia, can be particularly hard on people living in places where lots of dogs and cats are kept as pets as it could emotionally stress them to no end and clip their social lives as a result.
Michael Jackson was a dog phobic.
A Study of Anxiety Disorders at the University of Texas by Dr. Timothy O. Rentz said animal phobia is high among the most common phobia that afflict people. Fear of snakes and spiders are common types of animal phobia but many have absolute fear of dogs and cats, too. Doctors say these debilitating animal phobia start developing between the ages of five and nine and are more common in females than males.
Showing dislike for a specific creature at an early age should serve as a clue about the onset of possible phobia as caused by direct personal experience, observational experience, and informational experience. Here are a few more types of animal phobia to help you know what you or someone you know is dealing with:
Alektorophobia - Fear of chickens
Arachnephobia or Arachnophobia - Fear of spiders (Johnny Depp and Justin Timberlake are apparently afraid of spiders).
Batrachophobia - Fear of amphibians, such as frogs, newts, salamanders, etc
Doraphobia - Fear of fur or skins of animals
Equinophobia (a.k.a. Hippophobia) - Fear of horses (Actress Kristen Stewart from the Twilight series has a fear of horses that began when she was 9.)
Herpetophobia - Fear of reptiles or creepy, crawly things
Ichthyophobia - Fear of fish
Ophidiophobia - Fear of snakes. (Matt Daemon and Justin Timberlake have this type of phobia)
Ranidaphobia - Fear of frogs
Suriphobia - Fear of mice
Zemmiphobia - Fear of the great mole rat.
Zoophobia - Fear of animals
Agrizoophobia - Fear of wild animals
* Veterinarians concerned about rising pet obesity cases