Yawns Are Contagious To Dogs Too!

It’s not just Frisbees and sticks. Dogs catch yawns from people, too.

Dogs who watch a human yawn repeatedly will yawn themselves, says Atsushi Senju of Birkbeck, University of London. Just as that big jaw-stretch spreads contagiously from person to person, it spreads from person to dog, he and his colleagues report in an upcoming Biology Letters.

“It is contrary to what I’ve heard informally from a lot of dog owners who say they catch their dogs’ yawns, but their dogs never yawn when they do,” says psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. of the State University of New York at Albany. The data are “pretty compelling” though, Gallup says of the new study. “If it can be replicated it strongly suggests dogs may have a primitive empathic capacity.”

[Source: Science News]

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5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health

Research has shown that living with pets provides certain health benefits. Pets help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety. They boost our immunity. They can even help you get dates.

Allergy Fighters
“The old thinking was that if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. And if you came from an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided,” says researcher James E. Gern, M.D., a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. However, a growing number of studies have suggested that kids growing up in a home with “furred animals” — whether it’s a pet cat or dog, or on a farm and exposed to large animals — will have less risk of allergies and asthma, he tells WebMD.

In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment. If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies — 19% vs. 33%. They also were less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals — a sign of stronger immune system activation. “Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system,” Gern says.

Date Magnets
Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking — a dog is a natural conversation starter. This especially helps ease people out of social isolation or shyness, Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, tells WebMD. “People ask about breed, they watch the dog’s tricks,” Kaslow says. “Sometimes the conversation stays at the ‘dog level,’ sometimes it becomes a real social interchange.”

Dogs for the Aged
“Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home,” says Lynette Hart, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog,” says Hart.

Walking a dog or just caring for a pet — for elderly people who are able — can provide exercise and companionship. One insurance company, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio, asks clients over age 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening — which often helps tip the scales in their favor.

Good for Mind and Soul
Pet owners with AIDS are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. “The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets,” says researcher Judith Siegel, Ph.D. In one study, stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did people without pets.

People in stress mode get into a “state of disease,” in which harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system, says Blair Justice, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health and author of Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health. Studies show a link between these chemicals and plaque buildup in arteries, the red flag for heart disease, says Justice.

Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties, he tells WebMD. “People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature,” says Justice, who recently hiked the Colorado Rockies with his wife and two dogs.

Good for the Heart
Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies. Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease — lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels — than nonowners, researchers say.

[Source: MSN.com]

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Pets Sharing Office Space

More than 63 percent of American households own a pet today, which equates to 71.1 million homes and a whopping 382.2 million pets, according to a recent American Pet Products Manufacturers Association survey of pet owners. So are the critters just hanging out at home, or are they going to work with their human companions?

Pets, it seems, are showing up in the workplace more than ever, with 30 percent of employers allowing workers to bring pets to the office, according to a recent consumer survey commissioned by The HON company, a leading designer and manufacturer of office furniture. Of those who actually bring their pets to work, the majority of Americans bring dogs (24 percent), followed by fish (12 percent) and cats (8 percent).

Visitors to The Warehouse Office Furniture Mart, a Cincinnati-based contract furnishing dealership that sells HON office furniture, can expect to be greeted by a couple of unusual “customer service representatives” when they enter the showroom. Jake and Woody, Labrador Retrievers owned by the company’s president, Jack Keane, can be seen daily at the dealership.

Since 2000, Keane has encouraged employees to bring in any well-behaved pet to spend the day in the company of the dealership’s staff and customers. He even encourages customers to bring their dogs along when they visit the showroom.

The affable and quite mannerly pair – often referred to as the “star customer relations team” – spend their days tethered on long leads in the 15,000-square-foot showroom’s office area. This arrangement allows them plenty of interaction with dog-loving customers but keeps them out of the way of the handful of those a little more canine-wary.

“We’ve had at least 95 percent positive feedback on Jake and Woody’s daily presence,” Keane says of the boys.

Keane’s business isn’t alone in cultivating a pet-friendly atmosphere. A recent search online at Simply Hired (www.simplyhired.com), an online job search engine, turned up 8,100 open jobs at pet-friendly companies, including natural candidates like PetSmart and IAMS Pet Food; but also big names such as Google, Amazon.com and even Dartmouth College.

There are other benefits to having pets in the office – millions of Americans believe pets on the job lower absenteeism and encourage workers to get along, according to responses from both the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association and HON surveys.

Keane feels having Jake and Woody in the showroom actually helps build top-of-mind awareness for his business, too.

“People definitely remember our showroom,” he says. “It’s a great way to reach out to customers, especially dog lovers, and make ourselves stand out from the competition.”

[Source: ABC13]

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Bionic Pets? It’s Possible!

A handful of cutting edge veterinary medical teams are pushing the prosthetics envelope and creating artificial legs and paws that are a hi-tech step above the makeshift limbs or carts given to most animals.

And more important, the progress improving the lives of lucky cats and dogs holds big promises for people.

One-year-old Nubbin seems unaware that he’s a bit different from his four-legged pal.

“I honestly don’t know that he knows that he’s only three-legged,” says Nubbin’s owner, Erika Edwards.

The cute canine happens to be a patient at North Carolina State University, where engineers and veterinary surgeons are fine tuning a state-of-the-art approach to prosthetics – custom-designed metal implants that attach directly to an animal’s own bones.

“We’re getting much better and we can develop new types of implants much, much faster than we did in the past,” says Ola Harryson, a biomedical engineer at North Carolina State University.

Here’s how it works: a machine transforms CAT scan images into replicas of an animal’s bones that are used to help design and customize the implant.

During surgery, the implant is inserted into the end of remaining bone. Over time, new bone grows around the metal and creates a strong anchor and a prosthetic foot is attached.

“I think it could work very well in a number of species,” says Dr. Denis Macellin-Little, a veterinary surgeon at North Carolina State University.

And that includes people, but that’s in the future.

Nubbin will be one of the first dogs to get the hi-tech implants in the next few months. The North Carolina team has had requests from pet owners around the world, including China, where a panda is missing a paw.

The group is also in contact with a number of military hospitals that are keeping close tabs on the progress in hopes returning soldiers will one day get the implants.

It is estimated that nearly two million amputees are living in the United States, a number that is expected to jump dramatically in the next ten years in part because of the war in Iraq.

[Source: KARE11 Minneapolis]

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Cloned Dog Starts at $100,000

Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, led by Hwang, said in a statement it had teamed up with BioArts International in California. The California company Wednesday announced it would auction off the right for five dog owners to have their furry best friend cloned, with bidding in a worldwide online auction starting on June 18 beginning at 100,000 dollars.

BioArts says on its Best Friends Again website that it has been granted the sole worldwide licence for the cloning of dogs, cats and endangered species by Start Licensing. This includes technology developed at Britain’s Roslin Institute which cloned Dolly the sheep, it says.

“BioArts is the only entity in the world with both the know-how and the legal right to practise commercial dog and cat cloning,” it says.

“I know the association with Dr Hwang is going to be controversial,” the New York Times quoted Lou Hawthorne, the chief executive of BioArts, as saying. “One of the contradictions of Dr Hwang is that he made mistakes on his human stem-cell research, and he’s the first to admit that.”

Hwang’s claims that he had created the first human stem cells through cloning turned out to be bogus. He was stripped of all government honours and funds, including his title of “Supreme Scientist.” He is on trial for fraud, embezzlement, ethical breaches and other charges, but has insisted in court that he could prove he created the first cloned human stem cells.

Hawthorne said Hwang’s dog cloning work had been independently verified. “Our main concern is simply he’s the best when it comes to dog cloning. And for that reason it behooves us to work with him.”

On its website, BioArts showcases three of the four clones of Hawthorne’s family dog “Missy” which died in 2002. Since then, Missy has been the subject of extensive cloning research. The remaining clone is kept at Sooam Biotech, which carried out the project to re-create Missy.

Hwang’s colleagues at Seoul National University (SNU) created the world’s first cloned dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy, on a non-commercial basis in 2005. University researchers said Snuppy would become a father later this month following the first breeding of cloned canines. He is said to have impregnated two cloned bitches of the same breed through artificial insemination.

[Source: AFP]

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Dogs Provide Tool for Reading

Students at Curtsinger Elementary School in Frisco are practicing reading out loud, but with a twist. Instead of reading to classmates, they’re reading to dogs. “They can hear you and they listen,” says Zachary Guerrero, a third grader. Listening is the key.

“It’s given him a lot more confidence because when he reads with the dog, the dog doesn’t correct him, where when he reads with me I tend to correct,” says Donna Guerrero, Zachary’s mother. “He’s more excited to read.”

Zachary says reading to the dogs is simply fun. He says he’s reading more and wants to come spend time with the dogs. “You get to read to the dogs and they listen to you and you get to sit by them and they are very soft,” he says.

Curtsinger began the new after school program this month. It was developed by teacher Diane Gossett, a therapy dog owner. Volunteers from Heart of Texas Therapy Dogs bring their certified dogs each Thursday.

“Fortunately the administrators in our school are also dog lovers and animal people, so they were open to the concept,” Gossett says. It’s a concept that’s been used in schools and libraries across the country for a few years, but Gossett believes Curtsinger is the first school in this area to use the reading dogs.

“I do know the power that animals have with kiddos,” says Principal J’Lynn Anderson. The program works to make reading out loud more comfortable for these children, who often struggle in front of their classmates. “You can see the confidence on the kiddos face, that unconditional love, there’s not a threat there, there’s no stress,” Anderson says. “They’re just enjoying reading their books with a pal.”

Twelve students are in this pilot, five-week program. The changes, teachers and parents say, are clear. “We have seen children that don’t normally talk a lot, open up,” Gossett says. “We’ve seen self confidence increase.”

“Just being with the dogs, it just makes him feel calm and excited,” Donna Guerrero says. “And they don’t judge him when he reads. They just listen.” Parents like Guerrero hope the program will lead to the children reading more, not only to the dogs, but eventually in class and beyond. “We want to them to perform a certain way, but with the dogs they just accept them the way they are and so they encourage them to read more,” she says.

Video: Reading To Dogs New Teaching Tool

[Source: WFAA.com Dallas-Fort Worth News]

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Green Puppy Born in New Orleans

One special puppy definitely stood out from his brothers and sisters when it was born last week with bright green fur. Animal experts said the puppy would not stay green forever.

The Louisiana SPCA said light-colored puppies are occasionally born with some discoloration after some fluids are mixed during the birthing process. Animal experts said the puppy’s green exterior should fade in about two to four weeks. The puppy was expected to eventually sport white or tan fur.

[Source: Central Florida News]

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Pet Dog Allergies

Scientists have found that Man’s best friend is also good for his children too, for young kids who live with a dog may get an immune-system boost against asthma and other allergies. Joachim Heinrich of the Institute of Epidemiology at the Heimholtz Centre in Munich, Germany, led an investigation into more than 3,000 children, whose health was closely monitored from birth to the age of six.

Blood tests showed that, in households with dogs, children were less at risk from becoming sensitised to pollens and inhaled allergens – the triggers for asthma and wheezing, allergic rhinitis and eczema – than counterparts in dog-less homes.

Heinrich believes that early exposure to germs brought into the house on dog fur could stimulate maturation of the immune system. In other words, the body’s defences do not go into allergic overdrive when they are suddenly exposed to dust house mites, pollens and other triggers.

Oddly, though, the benefit seen in the children’s antibodies did not show through in terms of symptoms, the study found. Children with a dog were as susceptible to asthma and the other problems as counterparts without the pets.

“It is not crystal clear why this is so,” Heinrich told AFP, saying it could be that the protective benefit may show up when the children in the study are a little older. Further assessments will be made when they reach the age of 10. The paper appears in the European Respiratory Journal, published by the European Respiratory Society (ERS). Further work is needed to understand why dogs appear to deliver this protection before a recommendation can be made to get a canine companion, said Heinrich.

[Source: AFP]

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