Category Archives: Dogs

Pet ownership saves $22.7 billion on health care costs in the USA

Millions of people view pets as family and count on their unconditional love. While it’s hard to put a value on the human-animal bond and what it means for so many of us, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) commissioned a new economic impact report which gives us a partial answer – pet ownership saves the U.S. health care system $22.7 billion every year.

The Health Care Cost Savings Report was made possible by a grant from Banfield Pet Hospital.

Access the full Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership Report here.

Key Findings

The report not only reflects better overall health for pet owners in the form of fewer doctor visits per year, but also tracks specific savings for reduced obesity, reduced infections, and better mental health for children, seniors, and our nation’s veterans. For each of these populations, there exists solid evidence supporting the benefits of pet ownership.

$15 billion

Looking at a key measure of general health, pet owners are estimated to visit the doctor less than non-pet owners on an annual basis producing a costs savings of $15 billion.

$4.5 billion

Dog owners who regularly walk their dogs have lower levels of obesity, leading to a $4.5 billion reduction in health care spending.

$90.5 million

Pet ownership correlates to a 14% reduction of C. difficile reinfection cases for hospitalized individuals with a treatment cost savings of $90.47 million.

$672 million

Children (ages 8-10) in households with a dog have a 9% lower probability of having a clinical diagnosis of anxiety. Dog ownership can therefore be linked to $672 million in annual mental health care cost savings.

$1.8 billion

Older Americans with pets are less likely to suffer from health maladies connected to loneliness and social isolation, lowering annual Medicare spending by an estimated $1.8 billion.

$688 million

Overall spending on treatment for PTSD is projected to be $688 million lower for veterans with service animals and emotional support animals.

$22.7 billion

In total, pet ownership saves the U.S. health care system $22.7 billion every year.

For more details on these key findings please see the Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership infographic.

Report Methodology

The report was co-authored by Terry L. Clower, PhD and Tonya E. Thornton, PhD, MPPA, both of whom have extensive expertise in economic and public policy research. Their analysis not only reflects savings from better overall health for pet owners in the form of fewer doctor visits per year, but also tracks specific savings for key public health issues affecting millions of Americans, including reduced obesity, reduced infections, and better mental health for children, seniors, and our nation’s veterans.

Using the methodology employed in the 2015 analysis and adapted for more recent health care services consumption and cost information, pet ownership rates, and population increase, the researchers examined the scientifically-documented health benefits of pet ownership; identified the populations receiving these benefits; and quantified the avoided health care costs for those populations. To do this, the authors first conducted a review of relevant, peer-reviewed academic and professional literature regarding the health benefits of pet ownership. The most recent cost estimates for health services and treatments related to the health conditions identified in the literature review were identified based on an examination of publicly available health care cost data. Pet ownership data was also identified from publicly available sources. The estimated savings to the U.S. healthcare system associated with pet ownership were calculated using these inputs. An additional discussion of identified health benefits associated with pet ownership for which cost savings calculations could not be made was also included in the report.


  • Download the full Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership Report here

Source: HABRI

Doggy quote of the month for June

“Einstein has grown to love Italian food; age doesn’t matter.”

Actor George Clooney talking about his senior dog, Einstein

To all the dog mothers

14 May 2023 is Mother’s Day. On this Mother’s Day, I have been giving some thought to the role of us, the Dog Moms.

I know that there are people who dislike the terms “dog parent” “pet parent” “dog mom” and “dog mum” – or other variations of this theme. I hope everyone will remember that the definition of ”to mother” is “to care for or protect.”

I say, without hesitation, that I am proudly a Dog Mum (Mom). I care for and protect Sox as if I had given birth to him. As dogs have the cognition of a two-year old child, the care and protection of a dog is very similar to that of a two-year old human child. A two-year old child will mature and become more self-reliant, whereas our dogs will not.

A Dog Mum truly makes a lifetime commitment.

If anything, I think the role of a Dog Mom is underrated and undervalued by society.

Please consider:

  1. I have Sox entirely through my own choice. You may have heard that some people become parents as the result of an ‘accidental pregnancy.’ Well, there’s no excuse when you are a pet parent. You take on the role entirely through choice.
  2. There are no Working for Families NZ tax credits for pet parents. Our dogs are dependent on us as caregivers but we are entirely financially responsible for their care, whereas parents to human children receive tax subsidies. One could argue that a pet parent without human children is paying more than their fair share of taxes.
  3. My under age 13 does not qualify for zero fees at the doctor, either. Whenever Sox goes to the vet, I pay a bill for the professional time and drugs to care for him. I have pet insurance for him, but this also comes at a price.
  4. If Sox required day care, we wouldn’t qualify for 20 hours of early childhood education for free, either.
  5. At a time when our health care systems are failing us, dogs support both physical and mental health and encourage social connections. By staying healthy, we reduce the demand on our healthcare system.

On this Mother’s Day, let’s give a big thanks to all the Dog Mums. They contribute to our communities in many ways that are not recognised by our system of rewards.

Happy Mother’s Day, from Sox and Me.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand


Doggy quote of the month for May

Legendary sled dog Balto’s DNA

The genome of the 1920s Siberian husky Balto suggests that greater genetic diversity and less inbreeding contribute to better health.

Balto with Gunnar Kaasen, his musher in the 1925 Serum Run Source: Wikipedia

When it comes to heroic dogs, Balto is high on the list. The famous Siberian husky inspired a 1995 animated film and was immortalized as a statue in New York City’s Central Park for being part of a dogsled team that delivered lifesaving antitoxin to a remote Alaskan town that was struck by diphtheria in 1925. And now Balto’s DNA is offering new insight into how genetic diversity affects the health of dogs—past and present.

In a study published on Thursday in Science, biologists found that Balto’s genome is more diverse—and ultimately healthier—than that of most dog breeds today. His genes also suggest that he and his intrepid canine comrades in the 1920s had multiple traits that made them more fit to travel and survive in a harsh environment. The results reveal shifts over time not only in dogs’ genetics and ancestry but also in their genetic health.

“What we found is that Balto is more genetically diverse and genetically healthier than your breed dog of today but similar to those working Alaskan dogs that we have now—which is what you expect from a group that is still bred for work rather than the aesthetic phenotype that breed dogs are now held to,” says Katherine Moon, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and co-lead author of the study.

Balto was part of an imported population of Siberian huskies bred for their speed, fitness and relatively small size. In January 1925 an outbreak of diphtheria (a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly if untreated, especially for children) was spreading in Nome, Alaska—a town that could only be reached by dogsled during the winter. Sled dog teams, including Balto’s, transported vials of diphtheria antitoxin in a 674-mile relay from Nenana, Alaska, braving intense winds and wind-chill temperatures of –85 degrees Fahrenheit. Using Balto as a representative of the 1920s Siberian huskies, Moon and her colleagues wanted to find out if that population had specific variations to their genes that made them such capable sled dogs.

The researchers sequenced DNA samples from Balto’s taxidermied specimen at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. They compared the sequences with those of current living dog breeds, including three 21st-century sled dogs that ran in the Iditarod—a modern annual dogsled race that traces some of the trails of the 1925 antitoxin run. Balto’s ancestry is not very dissimilar from that of today’s Alaskan sled dogs, with dogs of Arctic origin sharing 68 percent of his ancestry. He also shares a small amount of common ancestry with Asian dog lineages. Balto’s genome additionally showed that he was around 55 centimeters tall at the shoulder and had a double coat of black fur—an insulating undercoat of short, dense hairs and a top coat of protective longer ones—and a white tuft on his chest.

The researchers also identified protein-altering, evolutionarily constrained variants—sequence changes such as mutations at a specific site of the genome that are highly conserved across many species because the alterations serve an evolutionarily advantageous function. Those unique variants relate to bone and tissue development, including skin thickness, body weight, coordination and joint formation. Balto’s variants suggest he had a phenotype, or set of physical traits, that was optimal for Arctic survival. “We were excited to see that,” Moon says. “It was striking in a good way. It was great to be able to see that phenotype that we predicted from his genotype is sort of consistent with what we knew about Balto already.”

The team further found Balto had an adaptation that helps digest starch—a trait that is not found in wolves but is relatively common in modern dog breeds. Although sled dogs’ traditional diet consists primarily of meat, Moon says Balto likely consumed foods rich in starch as well.

“Sled dogs today are using 10,000 calories a day during the Iditarod,” says Cristina Hansen, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and head veterinarian of the Yukon Quest sled dog race. For a sled dog that weighs between 40 and 70 pounds, getting a high calorie intake entirely from meat would mean “you end up giving them so much fat that they can get diarrhea,” explains Hansen, who was not involved in the new study. “Starch is a pretty good fuel source. Maybe we need to find a way to get more starch into sled dogs.”

Overall, Balto’s genome was more diverse than the genomes of most dog breeds today—including both dogs bred for appearance and “working” dogs bred for functional traits. He was also less inbred than modern dog breeds tend to be. And like 21st-century working sled dogs, Balto had a lower number of rare and potentially damaging genetic variations than other dog breeds. The study team suggests that some selective breeding could have been a likely factor in the reduction of genetic diversity and introduction of harmful mutations among current dog breeds. Greater genetic diversity confers more ability to adapt to an environmental change or a stressor, Moon says, which is why researchers use it to measure genetic health.

“We’ve all heard stories of certain breeds that have a high incidence of genetic disease, heart defects or bad hips, and that’s what happens when we’re selecting by inbreeding,” says Beth Shapiro, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at U.C. Santa Cruz and a co-senior author of the new study. “By inbreeding, we’re losing diversity and increasing the chance of bad mutations becoming really common in that breed.”

Working sled dogs are typically outbred, or produced by pairing parent dogs that are genetically unlike, for speed and endurance. This results in mixed breeds with a more diverse genetic population—and that in turn seems to contribute to better health. Hansen says the findings on Balto’s genome fit with what she knows about sled dogs. “They’re mostly kind of mutt-looking dogs,” she says. “Generally, they’re very healthy.”

Today’s sled dogs are even “faster and more durable” than those of Balto’s era, Moon says. “When we select for those working traits rather than those aesthetic traits, we find that … even though we are still breeding them for a trait, they’re still genetically diverse and healthy.”

Balto’s genome analysis is a part of a broader research project called Zoonomia, a large-scale effort to understand the genetic diversity and evolution of mammals. The famous canine’s genome is an example of what researchers can learn from limited species population data, Moon says. She hopes her team’s approach and findings can be applied to species that might need more critical attention for conservation.

“Resources are hard to get from species that are going extinct, where there aren’t large groups you can sample from to know how that population is doing. You might be limited to one or two individuals,” Moon says. “I find this sort of study really interesting because that means we can still do a lot of really good work even with a single genome from the species.”

Source: Scientific American

Greece Will Allow Pets at More Than 120 Archaeology Sites, But Not the Acropolis or Ancient Olympia

Pets will soon be allowed into more than 120 archaeological sites across Greece, the country’s Culture Ministry has announced, although not in the Acropolis or some of the other top tourist draws.

Until now the entrance to archaeological sites was only allowed for dogs accompanying people with disabilities. Credit: Ministry of Culture

The move, unanimously approved by the country’s powerful Central Archaeological Council, will relax current rules which only allow guide dogs for disabled visitors into archaeological sites. The ministry did not specify when the new regulations would be implemented.

The decision is “a first, but important, step toward harmonizing the framework of accessibility to monuments and archaeological sites with the standards of other European countries, where entry rules for pets already apply,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a ministry press release.

The council approved the entry of pets provided they are kept on a leash no more than one meter (3 feet) long, or carried by their owners in a pouch or a pet carrying case. Owners will also need to show their pet’s health certificate and carry the necessary accessories to pick up their animal’s droppings in order to be allowed entry, the ministry said. Larger dogs will have to be muzzled.

But some of the most popular archaeological sites, such as the Acropolis of Athens, Knossos in Crete, Ancient Olympia or Delphi, which tend to get very crowded, will still remain pet-free, as will ancient theaters, temples, graves and monuments with mosaic floors.

Cages will be installed at the entrances of more than 110 other archaeological sites, the ministry said, so owners can park their pets during their visit.

Tourism is one of Greece’s main industries, generating billions of euros in revenue each year.

Source: Associated Press

Pet dogs and cats could be spreading antibiotic-resistant superbugs to their owners

Dogs and cats may be passing antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” to their owners, a new study warns. Researchers discovered one pet in the United Kingdom and six from Portugal were carrying similar antibiotic-resistant bacteria as their owners. These could include E. coli and other strains linked to pneumonia.

A man hugging his golden retriever (Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash)

The team is calling for animal-loving households to be part of health programs which work to counter the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Currently the spread of these germs is reaching dangerously high levels across the world.

Drug-resistant infections kill around 700,000 a year globally, a number that estimates project will rise to 10 million by 2050 without a proper defense. Dogs, cats, and other pets are already known to contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that can cause human disease. Until now, however, it was unclear whether infected pets were actually sharing the pathogens with their owners.

Study authors tested stool samples from dogs, cats, and their owners for common-antibiotic-resistant Enterobacterales, which include E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Experts particularly focused on bacteria resistant to antibiotics which the World Health Organization (WHO) deem “the most critically important” for human medicine. These include antibiotics which treat meningitis, pneumonia, and sepsis — known as third-generation cephalosporins. Additionally, they searched for bacteria resistant to carbapenems, used as a last line of defense when all the other drugs have failed.

“In this study, we provide evidence that bacteria resistant to a third generation cephalosporins, critically important antibiotics, are being passed from pets to their owners,” says Juliana Menezes Menezes, a University of Lisbon PhD student, in a media release.

Dogs and cats may aid the spread and persistence of such bacteria in the community and it is vitally important that they are included in assessments of antimicrobial resistance.”

“Owners can reduce the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria by practicing good hygiene, including washing their hands after collecting their dog or cat’s waste and even after petting them.”

In total, researchers studied five cats, 38 dogs, and 78 humans from 43 households in Portugal. From the U.K., they also examined seven dogs and eight humans from seven households. Of the entire group, three cats, 21 dogs, and 28 owners tested positive for bacteria resistant to key third-generation cephalosporins.

In eight households, both pet and owner were carrying Enterobacterales. Two were homes with cats, six with dogs. In six of these homes, the bacteria DNA in pet and owner was similar, meaning the disease likely passed between animals and humans. However, it remains unclear whether bacteria passed from pet to human, or vice versa.

From the U.K. cohort, one dog was colonized by a multi-drug resistant E. coli strain, which powers the most “critically important,” last-line-of-defense antibiotics, and others. In Portugal, a dog was carrying the same bacteria resistant only to third-generation cephalosporins. Another Portuguese dog suffered an E. coli strain that encourages antibiotic resistance. All of the pets were treated for their conditions. The owners were not sick and left without treatment.

The team presented their findings at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID 2023) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Source: Study Finds

Legislators ponder bill that would let many Maine renters keep pets

Lawmakers are weighing whether to enact a law that would require public housing agencies in Maine to allow tenants to have one or more common household pets.

“We feel this bill will help to ease a significant burden many pet owners are currently facing,” said Katie Lisnik, executive director the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston.

“By increasing the number of rental units that are truly pet-welcoming, we can keep pets in the families where they are loved and cherished, as well as increasing the pool of families able to consider adopting a homeless animal in need,” Lisnik said.

A public hearing on the proposal this week delivered a wide range of opinions for the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee to consider. The proposal would impact many rental units that receive public funds.

Bruce Merrill of Auburn told the panel the bill “takes away even more rights from property owners” who are “responsible for keeping up with their properties and making sure the tenants live in harmony.”

“There are many reasons certain buildings should not have certain pets,” Merrill said. “Also many reasons certain tenants should not have pets.”

Merrill warned the measure “is a disaster in the making” and would contribute to the collapse of low-income housing availability.

But Robert Fisk Jr., founder and president of Maine Friends of Animals, said the law “should do all we can” to keep people and their pets together.

“Housing, moving and landlord issues are amongst the most commonly cited reasons for pet surrenders,” he said. “This bill helps mitigate it in low-income public housing where tenants love their pets like everyone else does.”

Lisnik said housing restrictions were directly behind about one in five of the animals surrendered to her shelter in the past year and are likely an underlying issue in other cases.

“For example, an animal may be surrendered because of ‘too many pets’ when an owner had to move and couldn’t find housing that would allow their large dog, or three cats,” she said.

“Mainers are a pet-loving people and firmly believe that pets are part of the family,” she said, pointing out that about half of Maine households have at least one cat. Nationally, she said, 75% of renters own pets.

“We feel this bill will help to ease a significant burden many pet owners are currently facing,” she said. “By increasing the number of rental units that are truly pet-welcoming, we can keep pets in the families where they are loved.”

Among those who see problems with the proposed law is Amanda Gilliam, director of property management with Avesta Housing, the largest nonprofit affordable housing provider in northern New England.

Gilliam said the measure would “create additional safety hazards for residents” and “increase operating costs for landlords at a time when there is an extreme shortage of safe, quality, affordable housing across the state of Maine.”

“Increasing costs makes viability a challenge for new and existing affordable housing projects,” she said. “There is a critical need for more affordable housing, and increasing operating costs is not the way to obtain it.”

Jon Ogletree of Belfast, who said he’s managed affordable housing complexes for more than a decade, told legislators that if the bill becomes law “I will go into another line of work.”

He said growing regulation is making it so difficult to manage affordable housing complexes that the entire system will implode if it keeps up.

Cullen Ryan, executive director of Community Housing of Maine, said he appreciates the bill allows landlords to impose pet deposit fees and reasonable rules for pets, but warned lawmakers that approving it will cause a broad array of problems and “have dire, unintended consequences.”

Robin Wells, a real estate attorney in Portland, told the panel it ought to approve the bill.

Wells said it “will further strengthen Maine’s commitment to affordable housing and companion animals, ensuring that all Mainers, including those who have made pets a part of their families, will be able to find appropriate housing for their entire family.”

Source: Sun Journal


Doggy quote of the month for April

The Dogs of Graceland

On holiday in Tennessee, I visited Graceland yesterday. Another tick off my bucket list.

Whenever I travel, I (of course) look for things about dogs. According to Graceland’s official website:

Elvis had a number of dogs over the years. He had a Basset Hound named Sherlock, Great Danes named Brutus and Snoopy, and Edmund, a Pomeranian he gave to his aunt Delta, because the two bonded so quickly. Get Lo, a Chow, was another of Elvis’ dogs. He was once flown to Boston on Elvis’ small Jetstar plane to get treatment for a kidney ailment. He stayed in Boston for three months as he was treated, and then was flown home, where treatment continued. Sadly, Get Lo didn’t make it.

Elvis also had dogs he named Whoosh, Oswald and Michael Edwards, named after Elvis’ character in “It Happened at the World’s Fair.” Elvis shared his love for animals with his loved ones. He gave Gladys a tiny dog named Sweet Pea in 1956, and at Christmas 1962, when she was visiting from Germany, he gave Priscilla a puppy poodle named Honey.

What I liked about touring Graceland was the ‘hunt’ for dog-related items. This is what I found:

Colonel Tom Parker’s pen set, featuring Little Nipper the mascot of RCA Records. RCA purchased Elvis’ contract from Sun Records in 1955
Another desk set with a dog – this one was from Elvis’ upstairs office at Graceland
This dog statue was also in Elvis’ office

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand