Currently viewing the tag: "dogs"

I want to touch on something many people probably don’t know: Chocolate and grapes are poisonous to dogs!  What?!?!  That’s right, and I’m certain most people aren’t aware of, since my vet has recommended grapes as snacks for our dogs.  But here it is, right here.  And raisins too.  OK, OK…just thought I should mention that.

First, chocolate is a toxin to canines.  Dark chocolate is worse than milk chocolate by a factor of eight.  In practical terms, one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of Fido’s body weight will kill him; whereas it would take only 1/8 oz of dark chocolate per pound of body weight to kill a pooch.  So keep your Cadbury hidden if you know what’s good for your pet.

Veterinarian Tina Wismer, senior director of veterinary outreach and education at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says, “Dogs love chocolate and they are gluttons. They won’t stop eating it.”

She goes on to say that over the past few years, there has been a slight increase in the number of chocolate-caused deaths and a larger increase in the number of dogs ingesting life-threatening doses of methylxanthine, which is found in chocolate

Then there are grapes.  Researchers have only found out about grape and raisin toxicity to dogs over the last four or five years.  Apparently the fruit can cause renal failure in canines, although it is currently unknown why.  Only three-quarters of a pound of grapes is necessary to cause very significant toxicity in a dog.  Both seedless and seeded grapes can cause problems, with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, not eating, increased drinking, and abdominal pain.  Undigested pieces of grapes or raisins may be found in the stool.  Acute renal failure develops within 48 hours of ingestion.

So, although this a blog about human health, with dog being man’s best friend, I thought many of you would appreciate hearing what kinds of household items can take out your beloved pooch.  Make note and poison-proof your house–you and Butch should be rollin’ for a few more years that way.

Sorry cat lovers, but it is a dog in the home that might just help prevent eczema in your child.  Yup, poochie prophylactics we call ’em, and a recent study shows that it might just do the trick, immunologically, to keep your kid from developing the itchy skin inflammation.

The study, done in Cincinnati, found that children with a dog in the home at age 1 had a significantly reduced risk of eczema at age 4, but children who had a cat were more likely to have the ailment at the same age.  And get this, a dog in the child’s home also seemed to protect against allergies to cats.  Woof, woof, woof…

Over 600 newborns were looked at, some testing positive for dog allergies (meaning they were allergic even though they had no symptom), some not.  Of those testing positive, the children that did not live with a dog had four times the risk of getting eczema by age 4 than those who tested positive and did own a dog.  The higher the dog allergen levels were in the homes, the lower the risk was for the child developing eczema.

“It’s speculative, but possible that the protective effect is due to a sort of natural immunotherapy where children who are exposed to dogs become tolerant over time in the same way that people on allergy shots develop tolerance to allergens,” said study author Dr. Tolly Epstein, an assistant professor in the division of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at the University of Cincinnati Medical School.

Not all experts see the results as definitive, though.  Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul, an associate physician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, contends that other research has shown conflicting results on the impact of cats and dogs on the development of eczema.

“The jury is still out,” said Phipatanakul, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “I don’t think anyone, including the authors, is saying to go get a few dogs, or don’t get a cat to reduce your risk.”

True, but you’ve got to admit, the results are interesting.  Preliminary as they may be, with more studies surely on their way, these findings are encouraging.  If they turn out to be correct, then the results might just show a greater symbiosis between man and his best friend.

Cancer detecting canines are here.  Dogs trained to sniff out prostate, breast and lung cancer did very well in two recent studies.  One presented earlier this month at a meeting of the American Urological Association found that a particular breed, Belgian Malinois shepherd dogs, can be trained to detect prostate cancer, and they do it through their incredible sense of smell.  Another study in 2006 showed trained dogs sniffed out breast and lung cancer quite accurately.  Well I’ll be.

The prostate cancer study was conducted at Paris’s Hospital Tenon, and looked at dogs trained to distinguish between the smell of urine from men with prostate cancer and those without.  At the end of the study the dogs correctly identified 63 of 66 samples.

Dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than do humans (100,000 times stronger) and can detect subtle changes in odor that go unnoticed by man.  Dogs’ olfactory sense is so good that they’ve been used by police for years to sniff out drugs, explosives and escaped prisoners.

It is believed that cancer cells, particularly of the prostate, may give off distinct odors; and the molecules responsible is what has scientists most interested.  Lead researcher Jean-Nicolas Cornu concluded that the dogs “are certainly recognizing the odor of a molecule that is produced by cancer cells.”

Some critics think the phenomenon might be due to subconscious cues the researchers give off leading the dogs to pick up which samples were cancerous and which were not.  This was the case with a horse named Hans, in early 1900s Germany, which was claimed to be able to solve math problems, read and understand German, and perform other uncanny tricks.  With more investigation, though, it was found that Hans was indeed picking up on subconscious cues from his trainers.  This led to the term being named in research circles as the “Clever Hans effect.”

The study’s authors acknowledge that more investigation needs to be done, but they are optimistic.  If it turns out that they are right and dogs are picking up the distinct smells of cancer, the hounds can be used as an screening tool for cancer, much more accurate than the current blood tests used today.

Well, it’s interesting to me that the sense of smell is being used to detect something humans can’t on their own.  Olfaction is a primitive sense that developed along with the limbic system.  Smell evolved as a survival mechanism to warn living things of eminent danger, whether a poisonous plant or an approaching predator.  Many organisms have better smell than humans, so why not recruit one to help?  Heck, dogs do just about everything else, why not don a white coat and participate in some research?  Now, that’s a good boy.

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