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Tips to stay safe with pets all year round

To reduce the number of injuries to people and the risk of relinquishment of dogs who bite, American Humane offers the following suggestions.

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Every year, in the US alone, more than 4.5 million Americans – more than half of them children – are bitten by dogs.  The American Humane, the country’s first national humane, encourages adults to protect both children and dogs, and learn the importance of pet owner responsibility.

“Dogs are our best friends, providing love, comfort and protection,” says Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “But it’s up to us humans to be good friends to them as well by protecting everyone around us – ourselves, our kids, and our dogs – from the dangers and consequences of dog bites.”

Dogs can bite for many reasons, including improper care and/or a lack of socialization.  All dogs, even well-trained, gentle dogs, are capable of biting however when provoked, especially when eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Thus, even when a bite is superficial or classified as “provoked,” dogs may be abandoned or euthanized. Therefore, it’s vitally important to keep both children and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible.

“A dog bite can have a profound effect not only on the victim, but on the dog and the dog’s family, especially if the dog is euthanized, might have to cope with loss for the first time,” said Dr. Mark Nample, veterinarian and Certified Animal Safety Representative for American Humane’s “No Animals Were Harmed” program. “All dog owners everywhere need to make sure they know the steps they can take to prevent their dog from biting someone.”

To reduce the number of injuries to people and the risk of relinquishment of dogs who bite, American Humane offers the following suggestions:

For Children:

  • Never approach an unknown dog or a dog that is alone without an owner, and always ask for permission before petting the dog.
  • Never approach an injured animal – find an adult who can get the help s/he needs
  • Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping or nursing puppies.
  • Don’t poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog.

For Dog Owners:

  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.
  • Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.
  • Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.
  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
  • Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog’s health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
  • Be alert, if someone approaches you and your dog – caution them to wait before petting the dog, give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.

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Pet Care

5 Common ways in which the health of homeless pet owners and their companions is improved

The most common ways in which homeless people are their pets are supported to live healthier lives include free veterinary clinics, join human/animal clinics, stigma reduction, interdisciplinary relationships, and pet-friendly lodging.

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A rapid scoping review has been conducted which reveals five common ways in which the health of homeless pet owners and their companion animals is improved.

Ten percent of homeless people keep pets. But little information exists on specific intervention strategies for improving the health of homeless people and their pets who are often the only source of unconditional love or companionship in their life.

The study, published in the Human-Animal Interactions journal, found that the most common ways in which homeless people are their pets are supported to live healthier lives include free veterinary clinics, join human/animal clinics, stigma reduction, interdisciplinary relationships, and pet-friendly lodging.

Lead authors Dr Michelle Kurkowski and Dr Andrew Springer said research on homeless people and their pets showed significant heterogeneity, but they stress that further programme intervention is needed to recommend intervention best practices.

Promising avenues for evaluating interventions and improving health

They suggest that joint human/animal clinics and interdisciplinary partnerships are promising avenues for evaluating interventions and improving health outcomes.

A study by Ramirez et al (2022) that investigated 44 homeless pet owners in Seattle, USA, for example, found that 61% of respondents were interested in healthcare for their pets, compared to 43% for themselves. Furthermore, 86% indicated they would attend a joint veterinary/human health clinic, with convenience frequently mentioned.

Studies that the researchers drew upon for their findings – from the PubMed and Embase databases – include those focused on homeless pet owners across the USA, Canada, and the UK.

Dr Kurkowski wrote the paper while at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health (UTHealth) but is now a Veterinary Medical Officer for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

A source of friendship and physical safety

She said, “Research has shown that companion animals are a source of friendship and physical safety, and homeless persons with pets report significantly lower rates of depression and loneliness compared to non-pet owners.

“Studies show that pet owners experiencing homelessness are also subjected to unique challenges in caring for both themselves and their companion animals. Individuals, for instance, are often forced to choose between accessing lodging and keeping their pets with them.

“Similarly, our review reveals that this group is less likely to utilize needing assistance, such as healthcare or career services, potentially due to difficulty using public transportation of lack of safe places to leave pets.”

However, Dr Kurkowski and Dr Springer said that despite the growing body of literature on both the benefits of pet ownership for the unhoused community – as well as the needs and challenges that homeless pet owners and their pets face – little attention has been given to developing interventions to address the challenges facing this group.

More comprehensive and effective care package

Dr Springer, associate professor of in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the UTHealth, “Our purpose was to describe the study designs, measurements, and outcomes of relevant primary research studies to identify knowledge gaps in the body of literature on this topic.

“Additionally, common intervention characteristics were highlighted to create a ‘road map’ of prior interventions to assist individuals interested in creating similar programs.

“The ultimate goal of this assessment was to summarize key intervention strategies for pet owners experiencing homelessness to help direct future funding, research, and outreach efforts among this unique population.”

The researchers conclude that a more comprehensive and effective care package for homeless people and their pets will require the combined efforts of healthcare providers, social workers, animal welfare workers and governmental and nonprofit organizations to develop innovative One Health solutions for the challenges currently facing this population.

Written by Kurkowksi, M. and Springer, A., ‘Exploring Strategies for Pet Owners Experiencing Homelessness: A Rapid Scoping Review’ appeared in Human-Animal Interactions.

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Pet Care

Small, long-nosed dogs live the longest

Small dolichocephalic breeds of both sexes (such as Miniature Dachshunds and Shetland Sheepdogs) had the highest median life expectancies of 13.3 years. Meanwhile, medium brachycephalic breeds had the lowest median life expectancies, of 9.1 years for males and 9.6 years for females.

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Small long-nosed (or dolichocephalic) dog breeds such as Whippets have the highest life expectancies in the UK, whilst male dogs from medium-sized flat-faced (or brachycephalic) breeds such as English Bulldogs have the lowest. The results, published in Scientific Reports, have been calculated from data on over 580,000 individual dogs from over 150 different breeds, and could help to identify those dogs most at risk of an early death.

Kirsten McMillan and colleagues assembled a database of 584,734 individual dogs using data from 18 different UK sources, including breed registries, vets, pet insurance companies, animal welfare charities, and academic institutions. Dogs were from one of 155 pure breeds or classified as a crossbreed, and 284,734 of the dogs had died before being added to the database. Breed, sex, date of birth, and date of death (if applicable) were included for all dogs. Purebred dogs were assigned to size (small, medium, or large) and head shape (brachycephalic or short-nosed, mesocephalic or medium-nosed, and dolichocephalic or long-nosed) categories based on kennel club literature. The median life expectancy was then calculated for all breeds individually and for the crossbreed group, then finally for each combination of sex, size, and head shape.

Small dolichocephalic breeds of both sexes (such as Miniature Dachshunds and Shetland Sheepdogs) had the highest median life expectancies of 13.3 years. Meanwhile, medium brachycephalic breeds had the lowest median life expectancies, of 9.1 years for males and 9.6 years for females.

Amongst the 12 most popular breeds, which accounted for more than 50% of all recorded pure breeds in the database, Labradors had a median life expectancy of 13.1 years, Jack Russell Terriers had a median life expectancy of 13.3 years, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had a median life expectancy of 11.8 years.  Pure breeds had a higher median life expectancy than crossbreeds (12.7 years compared to 12.0 years), whilst female dogs had a slightly higher median life expectancy than males (12.7 years compared to 12.4 years).

The authors note that their results are representative for UK dogs only, and that crossbreeds were strictly defined as any dog that was not a kennel club purebred breed. They suggest that future research should investigate ‘designer breeds’ such as Labradoodles and Cockapoos separately to account for differing levels of genetic diversity between these dogs and mongrels.

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Pet Care

Walk your dog in style

Here is a comprehensive checklist to ensure one’s dog starts the year on the right foot.

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As the curtain rises on the new year, YuMOVE provides a comprehensive checklist to ensure one’s dog starts the year on the right foot:

  • Observe for visible signs of stiffness, especially in the morning or after rest.
  • Watch for changes in walking pace, limping, or discomfort during walks.
  • Pay attention to struggles in sitting, standing, or hesitation to get in or out of bed.
  • Monitor stair climbing difficulties or slipping incidents.
  • Note any shifts in weight between front and back legs.
  • Keep an eye out for behavioral changes such as grumpiness, lethargy, or reluctance to engage in normal activities.

If a dog exhibits any of these signs, consulting with a vet is recommended, as mobility concerns can affect dogs of all ages.

Embark on Healthier Walks in 2024
January signals the National Walk Your Dog Month – the perfect time to dedicate to regular walks with furry companions. YuMOVE provides five tips to optimize the dog-walking experience:

  • Craft a Tailored Walking Plan: Take into account the dog’s age, mobility, and environmental conditions. If uncertain, seek advice from a vet.
  • Monitor the dog’s mobility regularly: Stay alert for signs of stiffness, reluctance, or discomfort during walks.
  • Examine the harness and leash: Confirm a comfortable fit, ensuring safety without causing discomfort.
  • Winter walking precautions: Exercise caution in winter weather, utilize protective gear as needed, and avoid harmful substances on sidewalks.
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