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Entries in Pets (34)

Monday
Jun132011

Childhood Pets Might Lower Risk of Future Allergies

Jeff Randall/Digital Vision(DETROIT) -- Childhood pets don't necessarily lead to allergies later in life, new study findings suggest.

Researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit assessed more than 550 18-year-olds who were enrolled at birth in the Detroit Childhood Allergy Study from 1987 to 1989. They found that children who had a dog or a cat were not at increased risk for developing future pet allergies.

Indeed, the study found that boys who had dogs and teens who had cats during their first year of life had 50 percent less risk of developing pet allergies later.

"The first year of life is the critical period during childhood when indoor exposure to dogs or cats influences sensitization to these animals," the authors theorized in the study.

The exact reasons for such early sensitization are still unknown but, the researchers and other allergists say, there is a popular theory behind it.

The results suggest that the "hygiene hypothesis" is valid, meaning that exposure to certain environmental factors, such as animals or dust, might trigger an infant's immune system to develop tolerance for allergens and the end result is that the child has reduced likelihood of developing allergic disease," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Fineman was not involved with the pet allergy study.

Allergists also say the study only looks at the development of antibodies to dog and cat allergens, not full-blown allergies.

"While allergic antibody is a risk factor for developing clinical allergy to that exposure, less than half of all presence of allergic antibody is associated with clinical allergy," said Dr. Miles Weinberger, professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital In Iowa City.

Genetics, he said, might play a bigger role than simply having a pet.

"The predisposition to develop allergic antibody is genetically determined," he said. "It is, therefore, quite likely that the presence or absence of cats or dogs in the house relates to clinical sensitivity of parents or other family members."

While the study does offer some support for the hypothesis that having pets doesn't make children more allergic to them in the future, this theory still needs to be proven, experts say.

"I would not recommend that parents rush out to get a pet for their infant in the hopes of reducing the likelihood that their child will develop allergic disease," Fineman said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Wednesday
Feb232011

Pet Obesity on the Rise

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Have you taken a good look at your pet dog or cat lately?  Is it getting harder to feel your pet's ribs? Is it getting thick around the middle?  Is it's stomach starting to sag?  The problem could be they're overweight.    

New research shows more than 85 million dogs and cats are overweight, that's half of all canines and felines in the country. Why? Mostly from overeating and lack of exercise.  

The Association for Pet Obesity prevention recommends monitoring your pet's calories. Suggestions on food labels may be too much for your animal, so check with your vet for the proper amount. Measure quantities. Don't just fill the bowl. Try two or three small high-protein, low-carbohydrate  meals. Choose sugar-free or low-calorie treats. Make sure they exercise daily. Dogs should get 20-30 minutes of brisk walking or playing. For cats shorter 5-15 minute activities such as chasing  toys or a laser pointer.       

Just as in humans, obesity in pets can lead to serious health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and cancer.  Your pet needs your help battling the bulge.  Research shows pets who eat less during their lifetime live significantly longer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan202011

Sharing Bed with Pets Can Bring Disease, Parasites

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DAVIS, Calif.) – If you think bed bugs are scary, health officials warn that what your pet may be bringing into your bed could be much worse.

A new study, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, notes that your pets could be bringing a variety of parasites into your bed.

"Sharing our resting hours with our pets may be a source of psychological comfort, but...sharing is also associated with risks," wrote authors Bruno B. Chomel of the University of California, Davis, and Ben Sun of the California Department of Health.

According to the report, around 56 percent of dog owners and 62 percent of cat owners regularly allow their animals to sleep in their bed. But as the reports points out, humans can contract such diseases as the bubonic plague and MRSA, the multi-drug resistant strain of strep. Pets can also carry hookworms and roundworms in their fur, which can be transferred to their owners through close contact.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan172011

Sleeping with Pet Boosts Infection Risk?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Increasingly considered part of the family, pets are thought to live in more than 60 percent of U.S. households, according to a 2009 study.  And they're not just living with us.  Polls suggest that half of dog owners and up to three quarters of cat owners sleep with their pets.

With pet intimacy on the rise, a report published in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases documents some unlikely conditions linked to sleeping with, kissing or being licked by pets.  Although the examples are rare, they might make you think twice about curling up with your dog tonight.

-- MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections start out as small, red, pimple-like boils on the skin.  But they can quickly evolve into painful abscesses that can burrow through the skin infecting the blood, bones and even the heart.  And because they're resistant to typical antibiotics, they can be tricky to treat.

-- Plague: After sleeping with a sick cat, a nine-year-old boy from Arizona came down with the plague, according to a 2000 report.  All told, 23 cases of cat-associated human plague -- five of which were fatal -- occurred in eight states from 1977-1998, the authors reported.  Seventeen cases were bubonic plague -- the cause of the "Black Death" that wiped out up to 60 percent of the European population from 1348-1420.

The plague, which was brought to the U.S. in the 1950s on ships from Asia, is treatable as long as it's detected early, according to Dr. William Karesh, a veterinarian and executive vice president for health and policy at EcoHealth Alliance.  Dog owners are also at a higher risk for plague, according to a 2008 study.  Four out of nine plague survivors reported sleeping in the same bed with a pet dog, compared with only three of 30 age- and neighborhood-matched controls.

-- Meningitis: Bacteria or viral infections can lead to meningitis -- life-threatening inflammation of brain and spinal cord protective coverings.

A 2009 study detailed two cases of meningitis in newborns linked to pets.  One came after a cat stole the newborn's pacifier and used it as a toy.  The other was attributed to a dog licking the baby's face.  Out of 38 babies who developed meningitis in their first month, 27 had been licked or sniffed by a dog, according to the study.

A 44-year-old woman got meningitis after a similar infection, according to a 2010 report.  The woman reported regularly kissing her dog as well as feeding it food out of her own mouth.

-- Worms: In the U.S., hookworms and roundworms take top spot for dog parasites.  In humans, roundworms transmitted from dog fur can cause ocular larva migrans (OLM) if they migrate to the eyes or visceral larva migrans (VLM) if they migrate to other organs.  The painful conditions can lead to blindness, encephalitis, heart and lung complications and even death.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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