Study: Babies With Dogs Are Healthier
Want a healthy baby? Get a dog. A new study suggests that babies who live with dogs are healthier and have fewer ear infections, coughs, and runny noses than those who don't, according to findings published Monday in Pediatrics. Though cats also offered some protection, the link wasn't as strong. The findings are based on an analysis of nearly 400 infants, whose parents filled out weekly diaries recording information on health as well as contact with pets. Researchers found that babies in dog-free homes were healthy for 65 percent of parents' weekly reports, compared to 72 to 76 percent for those who did have a dog at home. One possible explanation: Dogs bring dirt and bacteria into the home, which could boost babies' immune systems. There is "no reason to avoid animal contacts because of fear of infections, at least not respiratory infections," study author Eija Bergroth, a pediatrician who worked at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland at the time of the study, told HealthDay.
How to Lose Weight With Your Pet
Fat cats. Pudgy pooches. No doubt they're cute, but obesity is as weighty an issue for our four-legged friends as it is for us. Recent research suggests that 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats are overweight or obese.
Portly pets face a host of health issues, including osteoarthritis and joint problems; insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes; high blood pressure; and heart and respiratory diseases. Pet obesity has been shown to take at least two years off an animal's life. "It's a big problem," says veterinarian Marty Becker, author of more than 20 books, including Your Cat: The Owner's Manual and Your Dog: The Owner's Manual. "While they make cute cartoons, they're little tubby time bombs."
Plenty of factors are fueling the pet obesity epidemic. Pet foods today are more calorically dense than in years past, and owners are likely overfeeding their animals. Fido is giving you puppy dog eyes? The kitten is purring? Reward the cuteness with an extra scoop of food, or even some scraps off the table. That adds up—especially when coupled with too little exercise and, in general, a lack of knowledge about how much your pet should be eating and what he should weigh. (Dogs and cats 10 to 20 percent over their ideal body weight are considered overweight, and once they surpass the 20 percent mark, they become obese.)
That's why there's a growing movement to educate pet owners and encourage them to slim down with their furry friends. In January, Nestle Purina and Jenny Craig teamed up to help people and their pets get in shape with Project: Pet Slim Down. The free online program offers tips on feeding, weight loss tracking tools, and advice on exercising together. [Read more: How to Lose Weight With Your Pet]
Pet Health: Dangerous Foods for Dogs and Cats
Those puppy dog eyes and wagging tail. That purr. They'll get your pet everywhere and everything—maybe even scraps from the table and treats intended for humans. But little rewards here and there aren't always so innocent, and could jeopardize your dog or cat's health. To an animal, chocolate isn't just a savory sweet, and grapes aren't just a tasty break from dog or cat chow. Indeed, these items can lead to everything from kidney failure to death.
Be wary of these five dangerous foods for dogs:
1. Chocolate. Perhaps the most well-known of what's off-limits to dogs, chocolate and cocoa contain theobromide, a chemical that increases urination and can harm the heart, lungs, kidney, and central nervous system. Pure baking chocolate is most toxic, while milk chocolate is only dangerous when consumed in a higher dose. A 20-pound dog, for example, could become sick after having 2 ounces of baking chocolate, but it would take 20 ounces of milk chocolate to cause harm. Symptoms include tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate, and overheating.
2. Sugarless gum. It's packed with xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener that stimulates the canine pancreas to secrete insulin, leading to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and severe liver damage. "Your dog will seem drunk, just like a human—staggering around and acting erratic," says Jay Ryan, medical director at BluePearl Vet in Skokie, Ill. Just two pieces can cause hypoglycemia in a 20-pound dog. Within 30 to 60 minutes, your four-legged friend could appear weak, begin having seizures, or even collapse. Most dogs recover if they're treated early enough, but liver damage could be permanent. [Read more: Pet Health: Dangerous Foods for Dogs and Cats]
Angela Haupt is a health reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.