Archive for the ‘Human-Animal Bond’ Category

Diabetes alert dog brings comfort, relief to boy and his family

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Diabetic Alert DogsKermit, a 2-year-old service dog trained to detect fluctuations in human blood sugar levels, helps 9-year-old Kiernan Sullivan monitor his type 1 diabetes, giving Kiernan’s parents some extra relief. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to problems such as neuropathy, limb loss and even blindness, so specially trained dogs, along with tools such as glucose monitors that help keep blood sugar levels within the normal range, can improve the quality of diabetes patients’ lives, said physician Andrew Ahmann. The Oregonian (Portland)

When 9-year-old Kiernan Sullivan started school this month, he attends each class in the company of his new best friend – a 2-year-old service dog named Kermit.

“It’s fun but hard,” Kiernan says of his new charge. “You have to feed him, take him out to bathroom and take him out for walks.”

Kiernan has Type 1 diabetes, which usually affects children and young adults and accounts for about 5 percent of all diabetes cases. It occurs when the body does not produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert starches, sugars and other food into energy.

Kiernan, who was diagnosed when he was six, experienced a grand mal seizure in November. The experience was scary, but his parents thought they could manage Kiernan’s disease with careful meal planning and regular insulin shots.

Then one Saturday morning in March, Kiernan’s mom, Michelle Sullivan, awoke to a horrifying scene.

Her husband, Stuart, had left early that morning to go grocery shopping so the family could do something together. He kissed her goodbye and closed the bedroom door so she could sleep in a bit.

She awoke to her husband’s terrified screams as he came home to find their son lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. Kiernan had wandered into the kitchen to find some sugary food to bolster his blood sugar but found only sugar-free licorice. Bright red licorice was still smeared on his face when his parents found him.

The Sullivans realized they needed help. Thanks to the help of a staff member at Kiernan’s school, City View Charter School in Hillsboro, they found out about Dogs Assisting Diabetics.

About Dogs Assisting Diabetics

The Forest Grove-based nonprofit was founded by dog trainer Kristin Tarnowski and Darlene LaRose Cain, a former national chair for the American Diabetes Association.

Since the organization launched in 2009, Tarnowski has trained more than 35 dogs to be service-alert dogs.

The dogs initially came from breeders, but Tarnowski recently started her own breeding program with registered Labrador retrievers so she can start training them as puppies.

(Kermit came from the Guide Dogs for the Blind breeding program but failed his final test).

The training process can take at least six months to one year.

To train the dogs, Tarnowski places a swab of sweat collected from a diabetic person whose glucose levels are high or low and puts it in a sealed vial.

When the dog approaches the vial and reacts to it, she rewards them with treats and affection.

“We’re getting the dog to think of it as a game and have fun of it,” Tarnowski says. “The dog gets excited and wants to keep looking for it.”

The dogs can smell a metabolic change that takes place when someone’s blood sugar changes, although researchers still aren’t sure exactly what the dogs detect.

The dogs cost $15,000 and are in high demand. Each year, Dogs Assisting Diabetics receives about 200 requests from people all over the world.

Priority goes to people who have a high medical need for the dog, such as those whose blood-sugar levels are high enough to require dialysis.

How it works

When Kiernan’s blood sugar levels veer away from normal levels – below 80 or above 180 milligrams per deciliter – Kermit alerts him in one of three ways.

The dog will paw at the boy’s leg or chew on an orange strip on his leash called a “brain cell.”

Kermit continues to alert until Kiernan acknowledges him with a treat. Then he can check his blood-sugar levels and treat them accordingly.

Because Kiernan’s blood sugar levels fluctuate so frequently, the family decided against a Continuous Glucose Monitor that alerts during changes in glucose levels, Michelle Sullivan says.

The monitor’s frequent sensors can become a nuisance for someone like Kiernan, who can drop from a normal blood sugar level down to 50 mg/dL after walking just a few blocks.

Properly trained service dogs can offer great value to people with diabetes, says Dr. Andrew Ahmann, director of the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at Oregon Health & Science University.

“I have no doubt that they can alert individuals who have low blood sugar at a time when the person themselves does not recognize the problem,” he says.

Since Kermit alerts Kiernan as soon as his blood sugar changes, he’ll know to check the levels sooner. He has less risk of reaching the dangerous highs or lows that can send him into a seizure.

Over time, that careful monitoring can help bring three-month blood sugar averages, called A1Cs, closer to normal range.

“That’s adding time to their life,” Tarnowski says. “High blood sugars contribute to blindness, limb loss or neuropathy.”

According to one study, one in 20 children will die in their sleep from low blood sugar levels.

Yet Ahmann cautions that little research is available that proves the dogs’ effectiveness in preventing severe hypoglycemia or in improving overall glucose control.

The dogs should never replace the use of blood sugar testing meters that provide accurate readings, he says.

“I don’t think the use of diabetic assistance dogs is a replacement for continue glucose monitoring or intermittent glucose monitoring,” Ahmann says, “but the dogs do provide another layer of security that is very important to kids and their families.”

For Kiernan’s mom, that furry security blanket is priceless.

“I know that Kermit isn’t 100 percent, but he’s at least given me an extra level, just an extra step of assurance,” she says. “I hope that Kiernan doesn’t have another seizure, but Kermit is just an extra layer of protection.”

If you want to help: The Sullivan family is struggling to pay for Kermit, who costs $15,000. So far, the family has paid $5,000 and is on a payment plan for the remaining amount.

The family has established a fundraising page on Youcaring.com called “Help Kiernan Bring Kermit home” that allows people to donate to his cause.

You can also donate to Dogs Assisting Diabetics at dogsassistingdiabetics.com.

Bentley, the world’s largest therapy dog

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Bentley the Great Dane

 After a nine year old family member developed cancer 3 years ago, he wanted our huge Great Dane, Bentley, to visit him in the hospital.  Because of hospital rules, Bentley had to first become a therapy dog to be able to visit children in the hospital.  Bentley not only became a therapy dog, he became the World’s Largest Therapy Dog and also has the Guinness World Record for longest tail ever on a dog.  He missed being the world’s tallest dog and the longest dog by less than 1/2 inch each.  Sponsored by PetSmart and Organix dog food, Bentley has been going to children’s hospitals all over the United States raising money and awareness for canine and pediatric cancer research.  In 2012, Bentley raised $25,000 for canine cancer research and $25,000 for pediatric cancer research.  He now has a children’s book coming out on Kickstarter.com and a portion of the proceeds from the book sales are used to fund free books being given to the hospitals that Bentley visits.
Bentley’s a terrible showoff and when in public, he works the room shamelessly getting petted and rubbed.  Thanks for your support.  Patrick Malcom  

 

 

Survey helps owners make objective decisions about cancer care

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

The Pet Quality of Life Survey is designed to help owners by providing objective criteria they can use to decide if treating cancer is the right choice. Veterinarian Maria Iliopoulou developed the survey for dog owners but has plans to revise it so cat owners can use it too. Business Insider (9/19)

More than 73 million U.S. households own a pet and altogether they spend $53 billion per year to care for them.

 

More than half of that budget goes toward medical treatment, with money spent on supplies and OTC medications rising by more than 7% in 2012.

But where do you draw the line between keeping Fido healthy and compromising your finances to give him a few more months of playtime?

“It’s a very difficult situation [for both patients and veterinarians],” said Dr. Kristen Frank, an internist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  “I’ve had pet owners who don’t necessarily have $15,000 to spend to treat a terminal illness, but they’ve done it anyway through borrowing money or credit cards.”

Emergency treatments can range from $1,500 to $4,000 for dogs, according to Frank, with cancer treatment sometimes costing twice as much or more.

Sometimes, the decision to forego medical care has more to do with the emotional cost of watching a beloved pet go than the potential financial burden.

“Recently I saw a woman who specifically said that her other cat passed way from cancer and she did everything including chemo and she said she did not want to go through that again,” Frank said.

Unlike hospitals for humans, vets don’t typically have the same flexibility to work with pet owners who can’t afford treatments. Pet insurance can be handy, but it often comes with maximum coverage limits, steep deductibles, and pre-existing conditions clauses.

“Payment plans are also hard to come by,” Frank said. “The financial aspect of veterinary care is toughest thing our people have to deal with on a daily basis …We all wish we could provide free care but unfortunately it’s just not possible.”

But how does a pet owner decide whether to pay for treatment or let their pet go?

There is no one-size-fit-all answer, but a Michigan State University research may have found a simple way to help pet owners through such difficult times.

“Pets are like surrogate children,” said Maria Iliopoulou. “In some cases, when a human bond evolves, it makes the decision more difficult.”

Iliopoulou, who owns a small menagerie of pets herself, set out in 2009 to create a “Quality of Life Survey for Canine Cancer Patients” that dog owners can use to look at medical treatment with an unbiased eye.

Before each visit, Iliopoulou suggests dog owners complete the survey, which asks basic questions to help them track major quality of life indicators for canines — play behavior, signs of illness, and overall happiness.

“What we were trying to do with the research was to isolate the emotions to help people make the best decisions for their pet and for themselves,” she said. “It helps the owner to pay attention to specific observable changes and transfer this info to the veterinarian.”

So far, the survey is applicable only to dogs, but Iliopoulou plans on continuing her research in order to create similar tools for a range of animals, like cats, birds, etc.

CLICK HERE to view the survey.

Katrina lessons keep Colo. flood victims and pets together

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Colorado FloodPets have been routinely evacuated from flood areas in Colorado, despite life-threatening conditions for the rescuers, because officials there made a conscious decision to save pets and people, adopting the motto “No pets left behind,” according to a National Guard spokesman. Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina led rescuers to include pets in their evacuation plans, and temporary shelters have been ready with pet essentials including water bowls and kenneling capabilities. The Seattle Times/The Associated Press

By JERI CLAUSING   Associated Press

Some helicopters rescuing people after massive flooding in Colorado carried more dogs, cats and fish than people. Rescuers using zip lines to evacuate people over raging rivers also risked their lives to make sure the four-legged members of families were safe.

In contrast to stories of people forced to leave their pets when New Orleans was swamped by Hurricane Katrina, the motto during one of the largest evacuations in Colorado history was “No pets left behind,” said Skye Robinson, a spokesman for the National Guard air search and rescue operations during Colorado’s floods. That’s because including pets in the rescue effort helped convince even reluctant residents to leave their homes. Officials also had more than enough space for the animals and even carried animal crates with them.

More than 800 pets have been ferried to safety with their owners via helicopter, the National Guard said. Hundreds more were rescued by ground crews. Livestock, like horses and cattle, were left behind, but a monkey was among those saved.

Once safely on dry ground, Red Cross shelters had water bowls, on-site dog kennels and all the necessary supplies to ensure already stressed evacuees wouldn’t be separated from their pets.

“We kind of learned after Katrina, when people wouldn’t evacuate because of their pets,” said Kathy Conner, a worker at a shelter at a YMCA in Boulder.

Evacuees Jerry Grove and Dorothy Scott-Grove said they never would have abandoned their vacation cabin in Estes Park without their two golden retrievers. But they didn’t have to make that hard choice. Firefighters carried the two large dogs to safety on the same zip line used to rescue the retired Ohio couple.

“They put them in a harness and one of the firefighters hooked himself to them and brought them across,” Dorothy Scott-Grove said. “We will not be separated.”

Once out, the Red Cross found the couple a pet-friendly hotel where the dogs the next day “were resting comfortably on our king-sized bed,” she said.

In a state where dog passengers are as common as humans in cars, Lisa Pedersen, CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, said taking care of pets has become a central part of disaster planning.

It appears to be working. One week after floods and mudslides forced the local evacuation of more than 3,000 people, Pederson said the Boulder area shelter had just 72 pet evacuees – all but two of which were delivered by their owners for temporary shelter after they were forced from their homes.

“It just makes sense that you bring the pets along. They are part of the family,” Robinson said. “You wouldn’t leave a family behind because they had kids.”

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Follow Jeri Clausing on twitter (at)jericlausing

Veterinary Specialists of the Valley helps Opie

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Opie Ferguson Picture

The Veterinary Specialists of the Valley turned to the Angel Fund to help save the Ferguson’s family pet, Opie.

Dangerous breed debate fueled by recent media stories on dog attacks

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Pit BullPit bull attacks on humans are often news-grabbing events, but they don’t represent the disposition of all dogs included in this breed category, according to the National Canine Research Council’s Don Cleary. A 2012 AVMA report on dog bite incidents concluded that no single breed is inherently more dangerous than another, Cleary said. Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

By Tom Barnidge

Contra Costa Times Columnist

Pit bulls are in the news, and that’s rarely a good thing.

A 10-year-old boy mauled in Antioch this month had to undergo skin graft surgery and have his right ear reattached.

A Concord man, whose pit bulls fatally attacked his 2-year-old step-grandson three years ago, is standing trial for manslaughter and child endangerment.

A 6-year-old Union City boy died two months ago after being bitten while playing with a family pit bull that was described as “good with kids.”

Before the National Association of Pit Bull Huggers pickets in my front yard, let’s make one thing clear: Not all pit bulls are alike, and they don’t all attack children.

“I can safely say there are many more pit bulls that are wonderful, loving companion animals than there are pit bulls that have caused damage,” said Rick Golphin, deputy director of Contra Costa County Animal Service. “We adopt out a lot of pit bulls.”

One of the problems with trying to generalize about the breed is … well, pit bull isn’t a breed.

“The term is applied over a very broad range of dogs that aren’t defined by pedigree,” said Don Cleary of the National Canine Research Council. Pit bulls can be bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, cane corsos or a mixture of those breeds and more. What matters more than the definition is the image the term conveys — a ticking time bomb with powerful jaws and sharp teeth that can turn savage in an instant.

Those who love the dogs point to the findings of the American Temperament Test Society, which I hadn’t heard of until two days ago. It subjects all breeds to pass-fail exams that measure their ability to interact with humans and their environment. You may be surprised to learn that pit bull terriers (86.8 percent) score higher than Dalmatians (82.7), beagles (80.0) and dachshunds (68.8), although that won’t comfort a 10-year-old whose ear has been ripped off.

Opponents point to the hundreds of cities nationwide that have outlawed ownership of such dogs, beginning with Denver in 1989. Even in anything-goes San Francisco, an ordinance passed in 2005 requires “pit bulls” — the legal definition spans 99 words — be spayed or neutered to curtail aggressiveness.

One thing all can agree on is the important role owners play. A dog’s behavior generally is a product of the training and treatment it receives. Find a neglectful pit bull owner, and you’ll find an ill-behaved dog at the end of his leash.

“Socialization is important with any companion animal,” Golphin said, “especially with one that has the potential for causing as much damage as large canines can.”

Cleary believes too many factors affect a dog’s disposition to blame the breed or pass sweeping laws. He cited a 2012 report by the American Veterinary Medical Association that surveyed 40 years of dog-bite studies in Europe and North America: “They reported there is no breed or kind of dog that we should consider disproportionately dangerous.”

He thinks the media focus excessive attention on sporadic attacks. (You know how the media is.) Circumstance and environment shapes a dog’s temperament, not genetics. You’re just as likely to get bitten by a Yorkshire terrier as a pit bull.

Maybe that’s so. But the results of those bites can be terrifyingly different. That’s why the pit bull debate won’t go soon away.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Dr. Joe Cortese Dog Park Dedication

Monday, September 9th, 2013

On August 17th, the city of San Juan Capistrano dedicated their new dog park in honor of beloved local veterinarian Dr. Joe Cortese, also know as “Dr. Fleas”Dr. Joe Cortese.The dog park welcomes small and large dogs and features picnic tables, benches, and an access ramp for people with disabilities. Enjoy the beautiful mature oak, avocado, and Valencia orange trees that are being preserved as part of this wonderful new park. The area will include drinking fountains for both people and pooches.

Dr. Cortese was a past president and member of the Animal Health Foundation’s Board of Trustees.  He passed away suddenly in 2008 while visiting friends in New Mexico with his wife, Goldee.

The AHF is proud to have made a donation to the park to honor such a dedicated and loved individual.

Troops reunited with dogs they cared for in Afghanistan

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Sheba and pupsA litter of puppies and their mother, Sheba, who befriended U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, have been transported to the U.S. The puppies will be adopted by the service members, while Sheba may be trained as a service dog and placed with a veteran in need. Staff Sgt. Edwin Caba and others were elated to see the dogs again. “We just built a bond you can’t even describe,” he said. CBS News/The Associated Press

For the story, pictures and video, CLICK HERE

 

 

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study takes aim at canine cancer

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Magnolia DuffThe Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is recruiting 3,000 healthy, young golden retrievers to be studied for clues to the breed’s high incidence of cancer. The foundation is partnering with veterinarians and owners around the country in the 10-year, $25 million study. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell [an owner] whether her dog has a high predisposition to a certain cancer so we can catch it really early?” said foundation President and CEO David Haworth, also a veterinarian. “Or if we know what a cancer’s pathway is, our drug partners can find a way to intervene.” Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.) (8/22)

At not quite 9 months of age, Cali has accomplished a lot. She knows her basic commands — that includes offering a soft yellow paw in both the standard shake, and an enthusiastic high five. She turns any occasion into a party, as I discovered Monday when we met at Partridge Animal Hospital in St. Petersburg.

And she may help unlock a mystery that has baffled many a veterinarian and grief-stricken family: Why do so many golden retrievers get cancer?

Cali is a healthy participant in the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. It aims to recruit at least 3,000 dogs between ages 6 months and 2 years for an observational study planned to go on for 10 years at a cost of $25 million. Goldens all over the United States are needed for the project, which requires owners to bring their dogs to their own vet every year for a thorough exam and complete detailed questionnaires about diet and lifestyle.

Once she saw how happy Cali was to visit her vet, Dr. David Landers, Pamela Hogle felt comfortable committing to the study. Landers will be doing a lot of the work — and is happy to, being a big fan of the breed himself.

Hogle’s inspiration was another beloved golden, Oriel, who died of cancer two years ago at age 13.

“When you think about why people love their dogs, Oriel was the embodiment of all of those reasons,” said Hogle, a St. Petersburg freelance editor who works with a service dog organization in California. “She was sweet, gentle, calm, but always up for an adventure.”

Canine cancer is the leading disease cause of death in dogs over age 10. Goldens appear to be among the most susceptible, but no breed is immune. The study aims to establish whether cancer disproportionately afflicts certain dogs — and why.

Dr. David Haworth, a veterinarian who is president and CEO of Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation, described the golden study as the canine equivalent of the famous Framingham Heart Study. Morris (you may have seen the group promoted by its most famous board member, actor Betty White) has funded scientific research for 65 years. But this, Haworth said, is the largest veterinary study ever.

It could reveal information valuable to human health, too. Two cancers common in goldens — lymphoma and osteosarcoma — have so many molecular similarities to the human diseases that they’re considered models for studying the conditions in people.

But the primary purpose is to help dogs by examining the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that may contribute to cancer and other disorders. With that kind of information, in the future vets and pet owners might be able to find a cancer early enough to cure it — or even prevent it altogether.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell someone like Cali’s owner whether her dog has a high predisposition to a certain cancer so we can catch it really early?” Haworth said. “Or if we know what a cancer’s pathway is, our drug partners can find a way to intervene.”

Goldens are one of America’s most popular breeds. But Haworth (whose puppy Bridger is in the study) explained the main reason they’re using purebreds is because they are so genetically similar, it’s easier to detect differences that might be connected to disease.

Which prompted me to ask: Are mixed-breed dogs and cats healthier than purebreds?

He paused. “That’s controversial. There have been conflicting studies. For the most part, purebred dogs that are responsibly bred — by which I mean breeders are paying attention to health conditions — are as healthy as mixed breeds.”

It will be a while until results start coming out of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Meanwhile, we can do a lot to protect the furriest members of our families. Do your homework before you get a pet, and if you want a purebred, ask your vet how to find a reputable breeder. Look for changes in your dog or cat that might be a signal of trouble; as in people, some canine cancers can be successfully treated if caught early. Keep current on checkups (even if, unlike Cali, yours doesn’t adore the vet).

And if you have a healthy young golden, consider joining the study (get details at morrisanimalfoundation.org). You both could be doing a lot for your four-legged and two-legged friends.

Acacia Comer and Pet Partner Bonnie

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Acacia Comer and BonnieBonnie is a Shetland Sheepdog (also known as a “Sheltie”).