Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Dogs sniff out lung cancer

DOGS are surprisingly adept at sniffing out lung cancer, results from a pilot project in Austria suggests, potentially offering hope for earlier, life-saving diagnosis.

"Dogs have no problem identifying tumour patients," said Peter Errhalt, head of the pulmonology department at Krems hospital in northern Austria, one of the authors of the study.

The test saw dogs achieve a 70% success rate identifying cancer from 120 breath samples, a result so "encouraging" that a two-year study 10 times larger will now take place, Errhalt said.

The results echo anecdotal evidence of odd canine behaviour when around cancer sufferers and are backed up by the results of similar small studies, including one by German scientists in 2011.

The ultimate aim is not however to have canines stationed in hospitals, but for scientists to identify what scents the dogs are detecting, explained Michael Mueller from the Otto Wagner Hospital in Vienna, who collaborated on the pilot project.

This in turn could help scientists reproduce in the long term a kind of "electronic nose" - minus the wagging tail - that could help diagnose lung cancer in the early stages, thereby dramatically improving survival rates, Mueller said.

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Hero Dogs are ordinary dogs doing extraordinary things

“Hero Dogs are ordinary dogs doing extraordinary things.”

American HumaneAssociation Hero Dog Awards™ were created in 2010 to celebrate the remarkable bond between dogs and people in a positive way. 

This annual national competition searches out and recognizes America’s Hero Dogs, who unconditionally avail themselves to us in so many important ways, whether it’s saving lives on the battlefield, lending sight or hearing to a human companion, providing therapeutic support to children suffering from cancer, or just greeting us with a wagging tail at the end of a hard day.

Heroic hounds may be nominated by anyone at least 18 years of age in one of eight categories: Law Enforcement & Arson Dogs; Service Dogs; Therapy Dogs; Military Dogs; Guide Dogs; Search & Rescue Dogs; Hearing Dogs; and Emerging Hero Dogs (for ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things or are just heroes to us). 

Finalists in each category will be selected by the American public via online voting, and following the announcement of the eight finalists, the public and a special blue-ribbon celebrity judging panel will have the chance to name the top American Hero Dog of 2015.

Every finalist will be presented with a Hero Dog award for their feats of loyalty, bravery, and love. In addition, one finalist will walk away with top honours as the winning American Hero Dog for 2015.

American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ takes place on 19 Sept 2015.

2014 Hero Dog - Bretagne 

Over her long career, Bretagne has made a significant contribution to the Search & Rescue community not only through her many deployments including 9/11 World Trade Center - 2001, Olympic Winter Games - 2001, and Hurricane Rita - 2005, but through her talents as an ambassador of Search & Rescue Dogs. 

Although Bretagne retired in 2008 from active Search & Rescue, her work is not done. She continues as an Ambassador for Search & Rescue dogs as she visits elementary schools where she helps 1st graders learn to read. As she prances into the school, her tail wagging, her fur highlighted with silver, she is always finding joy in work, and not letting her age define her. Bretagne is a Hero Dog.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Why a dog is great for your health!

We may want to keep fit but are often low on motivation. The solution - a personal trainer - but not be the human version! Dog owners get more exercise walking their pet than someone with a gym membership. Walking a dog can beat going to a gym - it gives you 8 hours of exercise a week - be a constant companion, a great socialiser and someone who will listen to every word you say! 

Physical activity and pet ownership

In a bid to curb declining levels of physical activity in both people and their pets, RSPCA Australia and the National Heart Foundation of Australia have teamed up to encourage Australian pet owners to become more active to improve their health and that of their pets.

Why is exercise important for people and their pets?

Physical inactivity ranks second only to tobacco smoking in terms of the burden of disease in Australia. It accounts for 6% (second highest burden for men) of the total burden of disease and injury among males and 8% among females (highest burden for women).

The annual direct health care cost attributable to physical inactivity is estimated to be around $377 million and physical inactivity is associated with about 8,000 preventable deaths each year in Australia. 

Furthermore, an RSPCA study in 2000 involving veterinary practices from across Australia found that 41% of dogs surveyed and 33% of cats were overweight or obese - confirming the widely held view that the prevalence of overweight pets in Australia is alarmingly high.

Obesity in pets is associated with a number of medical complaints including osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and insulin resistance.

The health benefits of regular physical activity for humans include:
  • Reduced risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, osteoporosis and colon cancer, as well as reduced risk of obesity & injury.
  • Physical activity has also been shown to facilitate better stress management, alleviate depression and anxiety, strengthen self-esteem, enhance mood and boost mental alertness.

Regular exercise is vitally important for pets too and is an essential part of being a responsible pet owner. Regular walking can help your dog maintain a healthy weight, build endurance and muscle tone. 

Furthermore, a regular walk can make a dog very happy - they love to check out the sights and smells and will really look forward to spending this time with you. A dog that doesn’t receive sufficient exercise can easily become bored or destructive.

Exercising with your pet can be great fun and helpful for you as well. There’s nothing like an exercise partner who’s waiting by the door with a wagging tail to keep you motivated!

How much is enough?

The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians released in 1999, which is supported by the Heart Foundation, recommend that at least 30 minutes of physical activity of moderate intensity be accumulated on most, if not all, days of the week to obtain a health benefit for humans.

  • Examples of moderate physical activities include swimming, tennis, cycling or brisk walking.
  • Most dogs need to be walked at least once each day, though some breeds - particularly larger or more active types - may require more.
  • The breed of dog you have, as well as its level of fitness, will also determine how long and how vigorous your walk should be.

So why walk?

Walking has been identified as the most popular physical activity option in Australia and of those people who are active; it is the most prevalent type of physical activity. 

Walking is a behaviour that is popular throughout Australia across cultures and across the age range. Almost anyone can begin to walk for fitness – it’s fun, convenient and not overly stressful on your body.

Even though participation in physical activity is declining, research has demonstrated that there has been an increase in the number of people walking among all age groups since 1989, with 55% of Australians walking regularly (up by 10% in 5 years). 

If we increased walking five days a week for a further 1% of the adult population we would note:
  • A saving of $8 million in direct measurable health costs each year, with even larger savings in indirect costs.
  • 122 fewer heart disease deaths each year.
  • A marked reduction in the incidence of heart disease. 
 SourcePedestrian Council of Australia

Taking care of your four legged friend

Just as humans shouldn’t start a vigorous exercise program without consulting their doctor, your dog should be checked out by a veterinarian before starting a regular walking or jogging programme - especially if it hasn’t been exercising regularly for a while.

  • Don’t overdo it - give yourself and your dog time to build up your fitness gradually and have a goal in mind to work towards. For example, if you get started now, you’ll be in great shape to strut your stuff at the RSPCA MillionPaws Walk next May.
  • Be wary of taking very young dogs or puppies out for fast walks - their bones need time to develop. Wait until your dog is at least a year old, or 18 months for larger breeds, and in the meantime they can keep fit by running around the backyard and playing!
  • Make sure your dog is protected from the summer heat – try to walk during the coolest part of the day and make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh cool water. 
  • Remember, always keep your dog on a leash in public, unless you’re in a designated off-leash area, and make sure it is wearing an ID tag and is micro-chipped.
  • For pets, just as for humans, regular exercise should be part of a total approach to leading a healthier lifestyle, of which diet is another important element. Be careful to feed your dog a balanced and nutritious diet, don’t overfeed and seek your vet’s advice if you’re unsure.

 Million Paws Walk (May)

The Million Paws Walk is the RSPCA's major national fundraiser. Every year, over 80,000 people and 45,000 pets hit the pavement to raise much needed funds for the RSPCA. Visit the website to find out more information and to register online or

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Techno-pup: watching your pets by remote control

An app to monitor your Dogs health, activity and overall wellbeing
Whistle - records your dog's movements, and flags up any unusual behaviour that could indicate illness. A small activity tracker containing an accelerometer is attached to the animal's collar, and transmits the data gathered to the company's servers over wi-fi.
Whistle tag
                Dressing up: The Whistle collar device is being used at the University of Pennsylvania to track sick dogs at their research facility - the data gathered by the tag tells them what the dogs can't...

Whistle screenshot
This is then analysed, comparing it to your dog's normal behaviour - and a database the start-up is building of typical behaviour. You can also send a full activity report to your vet.
"We can know if your dog went for a walk or played in the park, and you can see that activity in a fun timeline-like format on your mobile phone," says Ben Jacobs, whistle app creator.
The app means you can follow what your pet is up to when you're not around, as well as add comments and photos to the timeline to share with family members or friends.
Next to critical illness, one of the most worrying moments in a pet owner’s life is when their four-legged friend decides to go walkabout – alone!
Pethub started in the US, and now operates in 22 countries. It produces collar tags that have a QR code, website address, phone number and more recently an NFC (near field communication) chip that connects people that find stray pets with their owners.
Pethub collar tag and app
Tag team: The Pethub tag has a QR code (Quick Response code - or 2D barcode) linked to your pets profile
By reading the QR code or the NFC chip with a smartphone, a profile for the lost animal is brought up, with a list of emergency contacts. An alert is sent either to you or to Pethub to say that the tag has been scanned, as well as an email with GPS coordinates so you can track your dog down.
"It can help the pet get home before they even get to the shelter to be scanned from microchip," says Pethub's Lorien Clemens.
"In US only 5% of pets have microchips and 58% of those are out of date."
Pethub can also sends details of lost pets to local shelters and vets. As well as dogs and cats, Pethub has horses, goats and even two "escape artist" tortoises as customers.
"Last year we looked at all of our pet recoveries, and we found that 97% of them had gone home on the same day that they were missing, and 25% have gone home within an hour after going missing," says Ms Clemens.
Other Great Pet Apps
The pet industry is worth over $50b in the US alone each year, so it's not surprising a growing number of start-ups are targeting the market, especially when you consider the love affair between furry animals and the internet.
Pintofeed - a remote feeding system controlled using your smartphone.
Swifto - which lets you book dog walkers online and track your pet's walk using GPS.
iPet Companion - you can play with abandoned cats living in shelters across the US, online.
Petcube - will let you play with your pets - and talk to them - on your smartphone from wherever you are in the world.
Cats playing

Now, if technology could just find a way to get the dog to wash himself...

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire

About the C-BARQ

The C-BARQ (or Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire) is designed to provide dog owners and professionals with standardized evaluations of canine temperament and behaviour. 
The C-BARQ was developed by researchers at the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society of the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently the only behavioral assessment instrument of its kind to be extensively tested for reliability and validity on large samples of dogs of many breeds. 
The current version consists of 101 questions describing the different ways in which dogs typically respond to common events, situations, and stimuli in their environment. The C-BARQ is simple to use, and can be completed by anyone who is reasonably familiar with a dog's typical, day-to-day behaviour. On average, it takes from 10-15 minutes to complete.
The C-BARQ is available to veterinarians, behavioural consultants, researchers, shelters, breeders, and working dog organizations with an interest in screening dogs for the presence and severity of behavioural problems. For a limited period, it is also open to pet-owners interested in comparing their dogs to others in the C-BARQ database.

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