The Jaws of Life!

national dog dayIn case you missed it, Monday was National Dog Day – also known as: International Dog Day & National Dog Appreciation Day.

National Dog Day serves to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Dogs put their lives on the line every day – for their law enforcement partner, for their blind companion, for a child who is disabled, for our freedom and safety by detecting bombs and drugs and pulling victims of tragedy from wreckage.
Founded in 2004 by pet lifestyle expert and author Colleen Paige, National Dog Day was created to honor dogs more than we currently do, to give them “a day”, to show deep appreciation for our long connection to each other – for their endearing patience, unquestioning loyalty, for their work, their capacity for love and their ability to impact our lives in the most miraculous ways.

National Dog Day wishes to encourage dog ownership of all breeds, mixed and pure – and embraces the opportunity for all dogs to live a happy, safe and ”abuse-free life”.

As our regular readers know, we’re big dog lovers here at SRxA’s Word on Health, so it seemed fitting to bring you a happy and healthy tale (or perhaps that should be waggy tail) for the weekend.

dogs and house firesEach year, in the U.S., thousands of people lose their lives to fire.  Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to hearing about these tragedies, but there is another tragedy that occurs in which we rarely hear about – the hundreds of thousands of cherished family pets who suffer injury or death due to smoke and flames.

Government statistics estimate that there are around 400,000 home fires are reported annually. And 62% of these homes will own at least one pet -meaning some 300,000 animals are at risk of smoke inhalation.

Although firefighters and their heroic efforts attempt to save a pet’s life during a burning building, the damage a pet sustains from inhalation of smoke or carbon monoxide overwhelms many of the animals that often die en route to a veterinarian.   But if fire and rescue crews are able to provide life-saving oxygen for animals, as they do for humans, more animals would be saved.

Of the 30,000 or so fire departments in the US, only 1,700 have some type of pet oxygen delivery device.  In Word on Health’s home state of Virginia, there are 24 fire departments with such equipment, including Fairfax, Arlington, Sterling, Chesterfield, Spotsylvania, and Stafford.

Previously, in Prince William County, Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department was the sole company, within the fire and rescue system, that provided this device.  But now, thanks to a generous donation provided by Prince William SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), firefighters have an opportunity to assist pets who are experiencing respiratory distress or failure due to a fire and potentially save more lives.

WAGN_FirstResponder_Banner_v2PWSPCA purchased 42 of the WAG’N 02 FUR LIFE delivery system/devices –each worth approximately $3,000 and has provided 2 kits to each of the 21 fire and rescue stations in the county.

I was honored and privileged to be asked to coordinate the introduction of the pet oxygen kits at Nokesville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and to ensure that all fire and EMS personnel are trained in the use and maintenance of the devices – a process we fittingly began on National Dog Day and hope to have fully operational by the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Dog-with-Oxygen-MaskThe pet oxygen delivery devices work similar to equipment manufactured for humans suffering from smoke inhalation except this device is used solely for four-legged animals.  The device has a cone shaped design with a rubber seal that creates a snug fit over the animal’s nose and mouth making the oxygen delivery more effective than oxygen masks designed for humans.

And while we hope that we never have to use them, we are confident  that by carrying the pet O2 kits on our fire trucks and ambulances that we can minimize the number of animal fatalities that occur due to fire.

What better way to mark dog appreciation day?

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Want a healthy baby? Buy a dog!

Calling all prospective parents. Want to reduce the risk that your child will be one of the 1:5 who develop allergies?  Seems you should get a dog or cat first and then opt for a natural delivery.

According to a groundbreaking study just published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers from Henry Ford Hospital found that babies who are exposed to pets during pregnancy, and those who were delivered vaginally rather than by cesarean section, have lower levels of the antibody – IgE.

The production of IgE in response to innocuous substances is the hallmark of allergic disease. As more IgE is produced, total IgE levels increase. High total IgE levels are associated with an increased risk for asthma and allergies in children.

The study showed that the levels of IgE were 28% lower in babies exposed to indoor pets in the womb than those from pet free homes and 43% percent lower in infants who had both prenatal pet exposure and were delivered naturally.

The findings support the so-called “hygiene hypothesis”, which theorizes that early childhood exposure to infectious agents affects the immune system’s development and onset of allergies and asthma.

We believe having a broad, diverse exposure to a wide array of microbacteria at home and during the birthing process influences the development of a child’s immune system”, says Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, chair of Henry Ford’s Department of Public Health Sciences and senior author of the study.

She theorizes that indoor pet exposure has a protective effect against early allergy development and that babies born through the birth canal are exposed to a higher and more diverse burden of bacteria, further boosting the immune system’s protection against allergies.

SRxA’s Word on Health thinks it’s kind of ironic that pets are good for you before you’re born, yet are the second leading cause of allergies afterwards!  Let us know what you think.


(Wo)Man’s Best Friend???

The press recently reported how an accidental head butt from Martha Stewart’s French Bulldog Francesca resulted in an injury requiring nine stitches to repair the damage to the domestic diva’s lip.

I feel your pain, Ms. Stewart, I really do.

This post is brought to you as your Word on Health blogger recovers from knee surgery stemming from another pet-related injury. And while I wish the analgesia would take away not only the pain, but also the humiliating memory of being dragged face first along a muddy riverbank by my canine companions as they attempted to become better acquainted with a passing pooch, I take some comfort from the fact that Martha and I are not alone.

People, it seems are not only falling for their pets, apparently, large numbers of us are falling over them, too.

In fact, a national sample of ER visits from 60 hospitals over a six year period reported 7,456 visits were related to falls caused by pets. On a national level, this translates to nearly 90,000 fall injuries associated with cats and dogs per year. Dogs are 7 times more likely to cause falls than cats and women are twice as likely as men to be injured as a result.

That’s the equivalent of 240 ER trips a day, and roughly 1% of the 8 million visits for falls of all sorts.

Exactly how many of the falls occurred isn’t known. Nevertheless, the study, gives a rough sketch of hazardous activities. Almost 35% of injuries are caused by tripping over the animal while about 25% occurred during walks. Surprisingly, less than 3% result from running away from a dog, and <0.5% percent while breaking up a dog-fight.  Being pulled by the animal caused a fifth of the falls.

While one-third of the falls broke bones, about one-quarter caused bruises, one-fifth caused sprains and a little more than one-tenth caused cuts.   Nothing on the list, I note, about tearing a cartilage – trust my dogs to  go one step better!

Been injured by Fido or Fluffy?  Share your stories with us.

Barking your way to better health

Yes, we admit it!  We’ve watched the cute YouTube videos of cheetahs raising baboons and dogs feeding kittens. But so far we’ve resisted posting warm and fuzzy animal stories. However, when we heard that the world famous Mayo Clinic has just released its first children’s book featuring “Dr. Jack,” a miniature pinscher, we just had to share.

The 9 year old pooch is Mayo’s first facility-based service dog.  Escorted by his owner, Jack is part of the health care team that helps patients with physical activity, rehabilitation, and speech therapy. Mayo physicians place an order in a patient’s medical record when requesting a visit by Dr. Jack, who sees approximately eight to 10 patients per day. During his tenure at Mayo, Jack has helped more than 2,000 patients.

“In looking for ways to convey the Mayo Clinic model of care, we found a truly remarkable ambassador: a little dog named Jack,” says the book’s author Matt Dacy. “This book is the story of Mayo as told through the experience of Jack in a way that children can understand and adults and readers of all ages can appreciate.”

In the book, Dr. Jack wears an identification tag with the Mayo Clinics three shields -signifying clinical practice, education and research. When a young boy at Mayo Clinic meets Dr. Jack, he rubs his tag and the two go on an amazing tour of Mayo Clinic, including a helicopter ride on Mayo One.

“Why do we offer animal-assisted therapy? Because it works!” says Brent Bauer, M.D., Mayo Clinic Department of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. “Of course, almost every patient ‘feels’ better after a visit by a dog like Jack.  But scientific studies have shown this type of therapy can reduce pain in children, improve outcomes in adults hospitalized with heart failure, and reduce medication use in elderly patients.”

Your very own Word on Health blogger witnessed the miracle of pet power several years ago when visited by friends who brought along their mute, severely autistic 8 year old son. While the adults were enjoying dinner and adult beverages we suddenly heard a noise in the hallway. To his parents utter astonishment “Pedro” was lying on the floor telling elaborate stories to my 200lb Newfoundland dog. They were the first words they’d ever heard from him.

For those who’d like to learn more, there are numerous books on pet therapy.  In the meantime we’d love to hear your stories on how an animal has helped you, or someone you know, with illness.