Tag Archives: pets

Pets at Home

In the upcoming animated film The Secret Life of Pets, you may wonder if the pets and their antics are accurately depicted.

Well, the creative people at Realtor.com have taken scenes from the film and compared them to real life…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Safe Steps for Australian pets

The Victorian Government has announced a new program to help victims of domestic violence.

“Pets are an integral part of families and we know that women and children are making decisions not to flee violence because they are concerned about the future and welfare of their pet,” said Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos, at the launch.

It is difficult for [family violence] refuges to accept pets.”

Support group Safe Steps said threats against pets were often used as weapons by perpetrators of family violence

Support group Safe Steps said threats against pets were often used as weapons by perpetrators of family violence

“We want to be able to provide them with the support to be able to place the pet with an animal welfare shelter.”

The Government said it would provide $100,000 over the next four years and Safe Steps would work with animal welfare agencies like the RSPCA to implement the program.

The additional funding will lift capacity to house pets at risk while their family members go to shelters to escape abuse.  Until now, there has been a smaller volunteer network to take in pets in foster homes.

The connection between family violence and violence against animals is well documented.  Pets in abusive homes are often targeted and threatened and so women living in abusive situations often do not escape for fear that their animals will be harmed.

Source:  ABC News

Related post:  Sheltering people and pets from domestic violence

A closer relationship than with siblings

Matt Cassels had at least 10 pets when he was growing up and yet it had never occurred to him to think about how important his relationships with them were. Until he came to Cambridge and started working on a rich data set from the Toddlers Up Project led by Professor Claire Hughes at the Centre for Family Research.

This 10-year longitudinal study of children’s social and emotional development included a section on children’s relationships with their pets, as well as a broad range of other data from the children, their parents, teachers, and siblings.

William and Peaches 2008 Credit: Amy McCartney

William and Peaches 2008
Photo Credit: Amy McCartney

Matt was looking for a research topic for his MPhil in Social and Developmental Psychology. He says: “The data on pet relationships stood out as it had never occurred to me to consider looking at pet relationships although I had studied children’s other relationships for some time and even though my own experience of pets while I was growing up was so important.”

Research on pet relationships has been going on for some time, but few studies have used the same tool to compare children’s relationships with pets with their other relationships or have focused on how the quality of pet relationships affects outcomes for children.

Matt decided that was what he wanted to focus on. What he found surprised him. He had thought strong pet relationships would make for happier children, but the truth was more complex.

Instead he discovered that children who had suffered adversity in their lives, such as a bereavement, divorce, instability and illness or were from disadvantaged backgrounds, were more likely to have a stronger relationship with their pets than their peers, although they did less well academically and suffered more mental health problems.

Matt says this may be because they come from backgrounds that predispose them to such problems. Despite this, the study showed children with stronger relationships with their pets had a higher level of prosocial behaviour – such as helping, sharing, and co-operating – than their peers. The study also demonstrated that these children, particularly girls and those whose pet was a dog, were more likely to confide in their pets than in their siblings.

Matt says: “It is really surprising that these children not only turn to their pets for support when faced with adversity, but that they do so even more than they turn to their siblings. This is even though they know their pets don’t actually understand what they are saying. “

Asked why the research might show girls talk and argue with their pets more than boys when previous less detailed research tends to suggest it is boys who have a better relationship with their pets, Matt adds: “They may feel that their pets are not judging them and since pets don’t appear to have their own problems they just listen. Even confiding in a journal can be therapeutic, but pets may be even better since they can be empathetic.”

Matt’s research was based mostly on data collected when the children, 88 of whom had pets at the time, were 12 years old, 10 years after they had begun participating in this study. The children, their parents, siblings, and teachers all provided information on prosocial behaviour, emotional wellbeing, academic ability, and children’s relationship with their pet. Matt measured this information against how much children confided in their pet, how much they argued with their pet, what satisfaction they got out of their relationship with their pet, and how often they did things with their pet each day.

To do so he used a new pet attachment scale adapted from an established and psychometrically validated measure of human attachment. His results supported the validity of using the tool and of considering human-animal relationships in similar terms to human-human relationships. “I had to first prove that it was valid to talk about child pet relationships in the same way we talk about sibling relationships and that we were not indulging in anthropomorphism. My research found the tool was better than those that have previously been available so the possibilities for future research in this area are exciting.”

Matt, who is now doing a PhD in the Psychiatry Department with the support of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, has written two papers on his research, which are currently under review for publication. He says there is a lot more that could be done with the Toddlers Up data, for instance, looking at the impact of pet deaths on children.

“Pets are relatable and ubiquitous,” he says. “In the US and England pets are more common in families with young children than resident fathers and yet we don’t quantify how important they are to us.”

Source:  University of Cambridge press release

Infection control guidelines for animal visitation

The use of dogs in hospitals and other therapy institutions is on the rise, as more medical professionals acknowledge the positive effects of dogs on human patients.

New expert guidance by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) outlines recommendations for developing policies regarding the use of animals in healthcare facilities, including animal-assisted activities, service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation in acute care hospitals.

The guidance was published online in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of SHEA.

“Animals have had an increasing presence in healthcare facilities,” said David Weber, MD, MPH, a lead author of the recommendations. “While there may be benefits to patient care, the role of animals in the spread of bacteria is not well understood. We have developed standard infection prevention and control guidance to help protect patients and healthcare providers via animal-to-human transmission in healthcare settings.”

Guidance is grouped by the role of animals – animal-assisted activities (i.e., pet therapy and volunteer programs), service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation. Select recommendations include:

Animal-Assisted Activities

  • Facilities should develop a written policy for animal-assisted activities. An animal-assisted activity visit liaison should be designated.
  • Allow only dogs to serve in animal-assisted activities, such as pet therapy.
  • Animals and handlers should be formally trained and evaluated.
  • Animal interaction areas should be determined in collaboration with the Infection Prevention and Control team and clinical staff should be educated about the program.
  • Animal handlers must have all required immunizations, restrict contact of their animal to patient(s) visited and prevent the animal from having contact with invasive devices, and require that everyone who touches the animal to practice hand hygiene before and after contact.
  • The hospital should maintain a log of all animal-assisted activities visits including rooms and persons visited for potential contact tracing.

Service Animals

  • The policy allowing service animals of patients and visitors into the facility should be compliant with the Federal Americans for Disability Act (ADA), other applicable state and local regulations and include a statement that only dogs and miniature horses are recognized as Service Animals under federal law.
  • If an inpatient has a service animal, notification should be made to the Infection Prevention and Control Team, followed by discussion with the patient to make sure the owner of the service animal complies with institutional policies.
  • Healthcare providers or staff may ask the patient or visitor to describe what work/tasks the dog performs for the patient, but may not ask for a “certification” or “papers.”

Personal Pet Visitation

  • Pets should, in general, be prohibited from entering the healthcare facility.
  • Exceptions can be considered if the healthcare team determines that visitation with a pet would be of benefit to the patient and can be performed with limited risk. Even then, visitation should be restricted to dogs.
  • The patient must perform hand hygiene immediately before and after contact with the animal.

The authors of the guidance also note that as the role of animals in healthcare evolves, there is a need for stronger research to establish evidence-based guidelines to manage the risk to patients and healthcare providers.

This guidance on animals in healthcare facilities has been endorsed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the leading professional association for infection preventionists with more than 15,000 members.

Source:  EurekAlert! media release

Previous blogs about therapy dogs include:

Autistic children who live with pets are more assertive

Yet another piece of research that points to the value of dogs and other animals.  This time the research was done at the University of Missouri and focused on the social skills of autistic children.

You guessed it – the children who lived with pets developed better social skills including assertiveness.  “When I compared the social skills of children with autism who lived with dogs to those who did not, the children with dogs appeared to have greater social skills,” said Gretchen Carlisle, Research Fellow.

Source:  University of Missouri press release

Doctors believe in the health benefits of pet ownership

DogDoctor

The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation has released the findings of a survey revealing the views of the family physician (also known as the GP) on the benefits of pets to health.

An online panel survey of 1,000 family doctors and general practitioners explored the doctors’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior regarding the human health benefits of pets.  The 28-question survey was conducted in August 2014 with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.   The physicians in the survey had a median of 18 years in professional practice.

Key findings included:

  • 69% of doctors have worked with animals in a hospital, medical center or medical practice to assist patient treatment
  • 88% believe that interaction with pets improves a patient’s physical condition
  • 97% believe that interaction with pets improves mental health condition
  • 78% found that interaction with animals helped to improve the relationships of patients with staff
  • 97% of doctors reported that they believe there were health benefits resulting from pet ownership
  • 75% of doctors said they saw health improve in one or more patients as a result of pet ownership

The survey also revealed that while 69% of doctors at least occasionally discussed the health benefits of pets with patients, 56% identified ‘time constraints’ as the largest barrier to having these discussions.

“The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative funds research on the evidence-based health benefits on human-animal interaction, and this survey demonstrates that we are on the right track” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman.

“HABRI hopes that this survey will help break down the barriers and get more doctors and their patients talking about the important, scientifically-validated health benefits of pets.”

Source:  HABRI media release

Hapless huskies, dumped dalmatians: let’s stop treating pets as disposable

I like this opinion piece which discusses puppy mills, exotic pets and even the link between popular culture (movies, etc.) and the demand for certain breeds of dog.

Mr Barkham (no pun intended) talks about the need to strengthen requirements to underpin a culture that expects responsible pet ownership.  My favourite quote “Buying a big pet should be like obtaining a mortgage – an agonising process with loads of ludicrous red tape that ensures we really want the burden of an animal in our lives for a decade or more.

Click on the link to read more:

Hapless huskies, dumped dalmatians: let’s stop treating pets as disposable | Patrick Barkham | Comment is free | theguardian.com.

'The Blue Cross has seen a 700% increase in husky-type dogs being given up or abandoned over the past five years, with 78 taken in last year.' Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

‘The Blue Cross has seen a 700% increase in husky-type dogs being given up or abandoned over the past five years, with 78 taken in last year.’ Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA