Friday, 21 August 2015

New research on older people and pets

Measuring the Benefits Companion Animals and the Health of Older Persons - IFA’s new report

The health impact of pets on older people is explored in a new report published by the International Federation on Ageing (IFA). The report Companion Animals and the Health of Older Persons provides a literature review into the ways pets contribute to the physical and mental health of individuals and the well-being of society.

“This field of research has important implications across generations and also for the future of our broader societies,” said Dr. Jane Barratt, International Federation on Ageing.

“Many studies have broadly discussed how pets, such as dogs and cats, contribute to health by reducing anxiety, loneliness and depression, but until today have not yet been published in a single resource. This new report advances our understanding of the value of companion animals in the framework of human health and the broader society,” she said.

"The interaction between humans and animals is powerful; animals can educate, motivate, and enhance the quality of life for people around the world", said Michael Devoy, chief medical officer, Bayer HealthCare, which sponsored the report.

“Given the scope of this report, we are excited that this research has the ability to reach human healthcare practitioners, veterinarians, doctors, nurses, gerontologists, and social workers,” Mr Devoy said.

Report Summary:

This report is the most extensive literature review to date of research undertaken in the field of companion animals and the health of older people. Encompassing published research from 1980 to 2013, it considers the impact on the physical, psychological, emotional and social health of older people, both in the community as pet owners and as residents of care facilities and other institutions to whom animals are introduced for recreational and therapeutic purposes. The economic impact of companion animals is also considered. Despite limitations and gaps in the research caused by weak project design or poorly-controlled studies, the positive indicators of improvements to the health and well-being of older people are encouraging and affirm the value of future research in this field.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

This Dog's Nose Saves Bees

Klinker is a one-of-a-kind dog. She’s the only dog in the U.S. certified to detect a damaging bacteria in beehives.

Along with her handler, Bill Troup, she inspects up to a thousand honeybee colonies a day for the contagious and lethal bacteria called American foulbrood.

Source: Swindon & District Beekeepers Association (14 Jan 2015) 

Pets As Therapy (UK)

Pets As Therapy is a national UK charity founded in 1983. It provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues by volunteers with their own friendly, temperament tested, vaccinated dogs & cats.

Since its establishment 28,000+ PAT dogs have been registered into the Pets As Therapy scheme. Every year some of these retire and new dogs, having first been examined and passed on health, temperament, suitability and stability grounds, join Pets As Therapy.

Currently 4,500 active PAT visiting dogs and 108 PAT cats work in the UK. Every week these calm friendly dogs & cats give more than 130,000 people, both young and old, the pleasure and chance to cuddle and talk to them. The bedsides that are visited each year number a staggering half million.

Why Pets as Therapy

Sick patients often feel isolated and even the most withdrawn seem to open up and let the barriers down when their regular Pets As Therapy visiting dog is around. These dogs bring everyday life closer and with it all the happy associations for them of home comforts. The constant companionship of an undemanding animal, that gives unconditional love, is often one of the most missed aspects of their lives. Pets As Therapy was formed to help make this loss more bearable and speed recovery. 

Evidence-based research

Research continues to validate the very real value of this daily work undertaken in the community by voluntary Pets As Therapy visitors and their dogs that work amongst those of us most in need of a little extra boost in addition to medical skills and nursing care. Pets as Therapy are in the process of setting in place research to further validate the very real health benefits these animals bring daily into the lives of those people who are ill or disabled.


All Pets As Therapy dogs and cats are required to pass an assessment to check their temperament by Pets As Therapy accredited assessors or qualified vets be fully vaccinated, wormed and protected against fleas. Records are required by the charity and each volunteer is bound to send copies when boosters have been given.

Download the Pets as Therapy Temperament Assessment Test:


Each Pets As Therapy dog has an identifying tag on its collar and many of them wear a distinctive yellow coat. The owner has a photo ID badge which is worn for security at all times when visiting. Pets As Therapy have introduced a photo ID tag for its Pets As Therapy Dogs & Cats as well. As the largest charity of its type in Europe, Pets As Therapy recognises that security needs are paramount and that busy authorities and on duty staff alike, need the reassurance of a therapeutic supportive service which is problem free.

Becoming a volunteer team with Pets As Therapy

Any dog or cat can become a PAT dog or a PAT cat, as long as it has been with its owner for at least 6 months, is over 9 months of age and can pass the assessment. All PAT dogs and cats wear a special ID disc on their collars. Their owners also wear a special ID badge whilst on visits. Pets As Therapy volunteers generously give their time. The amount of time varies, but regular visits are appreciated.

Making an Application and FAQs for Potential Volunteers 

Find out here about the application process and what is expected of you as a volunteer by downloading the fact sheets before making a full application.

Stroke Rehab Dogs

Stroke Rehab Dogs Program
The Stroke and PAT scheme is a collaborative partnership between Ruth Winston Centre and the national charity Pets As Therapy.

It offers stroke survivors the opportunity to incorporate a companion animal into their stroke rehabilitation treatment programme.  Pets As Therapy works in partnership with the lead professional Sallie Bollans of Stroke Rehab Dogs, to provide suitable volunteer PAT dog teams.

The Value of Animal Assisted Therapy in Stroke Rehabilitation

Key points:

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) can be utilised 
to facilitate improvements in the five functional domains; physical health, emotional health, psychosocial health, cognitive function and communication skills.

AAT can therefore be successfully implemented by all members of the multi-disciplinary team, (Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists and Psychologists), to work towards achieving client-centred goals with appropriate people.

AAT can provide a unique opportunity to relearn everyday skills without realising the full extent of the effort being exercised. 
Research has suggested that "a dog may act as a unique catalyst to motivate the client to talk and provide an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance for the disordered speech that is produced" (Macauley B. L. 2006). 

For patients with communication difficulties (fluent and non-fluent aphasia), interaction with the dog offers opportunities for the production of spontaneous vocal output, together with an opportunity to repeat practised "drill type" activities with an outcome.  Due to the non-confrontational nature of the interaction, anxiety levels decrease and the patient can feel encouraged to be creative and spontaneous.

AAT can provide an opportunity for the stroke survivor to express assertiveness and to take control of a situation as opposed to playing a passive role. It allows the patient to be the “carer” - looking after and caring for the needs of the dog.

WALTHAM® Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) Research Program

WALTHAM science and publications in the area of human-animal interaction have been instrumental in helping to understand the special relationship between pets and people. 

The WALTHAM® Human-AnimalInteraction (HAI) Research Program is pleased to announce the availability of £340,000 (approx $US524,000) in 2015 to fund high quality research into "the impact of companion animals on human cognition or academic outcomes".

Although animals are often included in educational settings for a variety of purposes, there is little empirical research documenting the efficacy of such practices. In the absence of an assessment system for these activities there are significant gaps in our understanding of the potential impact of animals on measures of academic success. Fundamental research is required to provide an evidence base to inform practice and guide educators and administrators on when, and under what circumstances, animal presence or animal ownership may be pedagogically valuable.

Specific areas of research eligible for funding under this call include but are not limited to the following categories:

  • Reading/literacy
  • Academic learning outcomes
  • Aspects of cognition (executive function, memory, learning, categorization, language etc.)
  •  Stress/anxiety reduction
  • Classroom behaviours impacting academic success
  • Physical activity and cognition/learning
  • Typical and/or special populations (e.g. ADHD, autism spectrum, etc.)
  • Letter of Intent: Prior to submitting a formal application, investigators are required to submit a Letter of Intent to Dr. Nancy Gee ( by June 1, 2015.
  • Application: The application deadline is June 31, 2015.



Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Dogs & Older People

The role of pets in the lives of the aged is particularly significant for those who live in a nursing home or in some situation of assisted care. Numerous studies show pets provide one of the few interventions capable of permanently lifting the atmosphere of hospices and nursing homes. 

Despite all this evidence, many nursing homes still do not allow pets, and fear of giving up their animal companion is a serious concern for many in the community. 

For older people still living in their own home, pet ownership has many benefits including social facilitation and companionship as well as increased activity levels.

Research indicates that people over the age of 65 are the least likely age group in the community to own a pet. Yet, in many ways they are the age group that has the most to gain from pet ownership. Better solutions are needed to ensure older people can enjoy the many benefits pets provide.


Never fear - help is out there!

If you (or someone you know) are thinking of moving to a retirement village,  independent living unit, hostel or nursing home and are worried about being parted from your pet, don't despair: 

Ask if you can take your pet with you

Aged care operators are recognizing the benefits of pets, with some allowing owners to take their pets with them. There will be rules and some pets are not appropriate in some circumstances.

If you have more than one pet, you could ask if you can bring more than one. You may also want to ask whether you may get another pet if your current pet passes away. Useful information about aged care accommodation that allows pets can be found in DPS guides or see contacts below.

Tell them how important your pet is to you

When making enquiries, be ready to explain the benefits owning your pet has for you. Give accurate information about your pet(s) including type, size, age, behaviour, whether desexed (vet certification is probably required) and any vaccinations.

Consider options for care

If you have to move and are unable to take your pet with you, you do not have to euthanize your pet.

There are other options. Contact an animal shelter (RSPCA: 02 6287 8100) or a local rescue group (such as ARF: 0421 216 485). They may be able to assist with rehoming advice. Alternatively, check online to find out if your breed of dog has a special rescue group.

You are not alone

If you are likely to experience the loss of a pet, or have to part with one, your vet can discuss the issues with you before this happens. If required, Lifeline provides 24/7 crisis support on 13 11 14.

These are useful contacts for aged care organisations (in Australia) that offer some pet-friendly options:

Alex & Barney find suitable retirement home through daughter's doggedness! 

The problem of finding Alex a home was complicated by his initial reluctance to leave his unit and the fear that he might have to give up his pet dog, Barney, a six-year-old Jack Russell-cross.

Finding a suitable aged-care home for Alex & his dog, Barney required luck, determination and doggedness by his family but they got there in the end...

10 Fruits & Vegetables That Dogs Absolutely Love!

You have to feed your dog healthy food, specially fruits and vegetables. Taking care of your dog’s health will make him strong and full of power. Here are some kinds of fruits and vegetables that your dog will love to eat...
1.    Apple - an apple a day keeps the vet away? This may be true, apples contain antioxidants that help boost immunity. Plus they’re sweet…dogs love the sweet. Just be sure to throw out the core since apple seeds can be harmful to dogs

2.    Spinach - not only is spinach high in iron, but it is also contains calcium for bone health. Spinach also contains anti-inflammatory/anti-cancer properties by way of flavonoids and carotenoids.
3.    Pumpkin - baked fresh or canned, dogs lick their chops when this tasty treat comes in their direction. Pumpkin is also the go to aid for problematic digestion. It works for constipation AND diarrhea.

4.    Green Beans - added fiber and crunchiness, green beans also offer a plethora of vitamin nutrition. They are a low calorie filler for dogs who like to eat between meals, but are watching their figure.
5.    Watermelon - chock full of the antioxidant lycopene, watermelons are mild enough for most dogs to eat. In addition to the nutrient packed goodness, the juiciness is enough to add a little extra hydration on a hot day.

6.    Cantaloupe - these yummy treats are mild, easy to digest for most dogs and pack a vitamin punch. Full of beta carotene, studies have shown that beta carotene may reduce and prevent the growth of cataracts.
7.    Carrots - not only are carrots a filling treat for overweight dogs on a “diet” but they also are good for oral hygiene. Carrots naturally clean and polish teeth. Have a chewer at home? Toss them a carrot to keep them from eating a favorite pair of shoes.

8.    Blueberries - given as an occasional rare treat, these little blue balls of antioxidants have been popping up in commercial dog foods in the past few years. Blueberries provide the same health benefits for both dogs and owners.
9.    Pears - this heart healthy treat is high in dietary fiber. Pears are sweet, juicy and most dogs enjoy the taste and texture.

10. Sweet Potato - these holiday favorites should been treats all year round. Sweet potatoes contain high amounts of amino acids, which are good for strong lean muscles and enhances antioxidant properties.

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