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The Role of Pets in Human Healthy Active Aging

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An overview of the role pets might play in healthy active human ageing.
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... It is estimated that by 2030 20% of the American population will be 65À85 years old and by 2050, the number of adults over 80 will triple, globally. 1 Today, almost half of adults who occupy hospital beds are ages 65 years or older. This proportion is expected to increase as the population ages. ...
... This pilot study along with other literature provides good reasons to motivate hospital leaders to consider including AAA interventions to improve the patient experience. 18,19,1 ...
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Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) is a non-medical intervention that has been shown to reduce anxiety among nursing home patients in various settings. However, AAA has not been tested among acute care hospitalized older adult patients ages 65 and older. This pilot study explored if a visit from a trained dog and its handler would decrease anxiety among hospitalized, older adult patients ages 65 and greater. The participants were recruited from medical surgical/oncology units, and the Speilberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) 6-item short form was used to measure anxiety both pre- and post-interactions with the AAA-team. The data revealed that a one-time, 12–20-min visit, allowing the patients to pet and to interact with the dog, reduced (p = .000) the participants’ self-reported anxiety.
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Despite increasing information on enhancing client communication and compliance/adherence in veterinary medicine, literature focusing on special cases remains limited: working with clients with special needs, challenges or disabilities, or when the patient is an assistance or emotional support animal. This paper summarizes current recommendations on how best to build successful working relationships with these clients, including action items to implement in practice. In addition, this paper reviews current literature on important considerations for care of assistance dogs as patients.
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Oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) are neuropeptides with diverse effects on social behavior, cognition and stress responses. Recent studies suggest that OT facilitates and responds to affiliative forms of human–animal interaction (HAI). However, previous studies measuring OT and AVP in dogs have been limited to measures from blood or urine, which present concerns related to the invasiveness of sample collection, the potential for matrix interference in immunoassays, and whether samples can be collected at precise time points to assess event-linked endocrine responses. Previous studies from our laboratory validated salivary measures of OT and AVP in dogs, however, it is currently unknown whether these measures respond dynamically to aspects of HAI. Here, we investigated the effects of affiliative forms of HAI on both plasma and salivary OT and AVP in dogs. We employed a within- and between-subjects design with a group of Labrador retrievers and Labrador retriever × golden retriever crosses (23 females, 15 males). Half of the dogs engaged in 10 min of free-form friendly interaction with a human experimenter (HAI condition), and the other half rested quietly in the same environment, without human interaction (control condition). We collected blood and saliva samples before, and immediately following both experimental conditions, and all samples were analyzed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) following previously validated protocols. Dogs participating in HAI exhibited a significant increase in both salivary OT (+39%) and plasma OT (+5.7%) whereas dogs in the control group did not. Salivary AVP showed no change in the HAI group but increased significantly (+33%) in the control group. Plasma AVP decreased significantly following HAI (-13%) but did not change across time in the control condition. Within the dogs exposed to HAI, increases in salivary OT, and decreases in plasma AVP, were predicted by the extent of affiliative behavior between the dog and human (indexed by scores from a principal components analysis of social behaviors between the dog and human). Collectively our results suggest that measures of salivary OT and AVP provide useful biomarkers in studies of HAI, and afford a flexible and non-invasive toolkit than can be employed in diverse research contexts.
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Background: Dog ownership has been suggested to encourage physical activity in older adults and may enhance resilience to poor environmental conditions. This study investigates the role of dog ownership and walking as a means of supporting the maintenance of physical activity in older adults during periods of inclement weather. Methods: The analysis used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Norfolk cohort. Daily physical activity (counts per minute) and minutes of sedentary behaviour were measured using accelerometers over 7 days. Three types of environmental conditions, day length, precipitation and maximum temperature, were date matched with daily physical activity. A multilevel first-order autoregressive time-series model quantified the moderating effect of self-reported dog ownership and walking on the association between physical activity and weather factors. Results: Among the 3123 participants, 18% reported having a dog in their households and two-thirds of dog owners walked their dogs at least once a day. Regular dog walkers were more active and less sedentary on days with the poorest conditions than non-dog owners were on the days with the best conditions. In days with the worst conditions, those who walked their dogs had 20% higher activity levels than non-dog owners and spent 30 min/day less sedentary. Conclusion: Those who walked dogs were consistently more physically active than those who did not regardless of environmental conditions. These large differences suggest that dog walking, where appropriate, can be a component of interventions to support physical activity in older adults.
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Background There is some evidence to suggest that dog ownership may improve physical activity (PA) among older adults, but to date, studies examining this, have either depended on self-report or incomplete datasets due to the type of activity monitor used to record physical activity. Additionally, the effect of dog ownership on sedentary behaviour (SB) has not been explored. The aim of the current study was to address these issues by using activPAL monitors to evaluate the influence of dog ownership on health enhancing PA and SB in a longitudinal study of independently-mobile, community-dwelling older adults. Methods Study participants (43 pairs of dog owners and non-dog owners, matched on a range of demographic variables) wore an activPAL monitor continuously for three, one-week data collection periods over the course of a year. Participants also reported information about their own and their dog demographics, caring responsibilities, and completed a diary of wake times. Diary data was used to isolate waking times, and outcome measures of time spent walking, time spent walking at a moderate cadence (>100 steps/min), time spent standing, time spent sitting, number of sitting events (continuous periods of sitting), and the number of and of time spent sitting in prolonged events (>30 min). For each measure, a linear mixed effects model with dog ownership as a fixed effect, and a random effects structure of measurement point nested in participant nested in pair was used to assess the effect of dog ownership. Results Owning a dog indicated a large, potentially health improving, average effect of 22 min additional time spent walking, 95%CI (12, 34), and 2760 additional steps per day, 95%CI (1667, 3991), with this additional walking undertaken at a moderate intensity cadence. Dog owners had significantly fewer sitting events. However, there were no significant differences between the groups for either the total time spent sitting, or the number or duration of prolonged sedentary events. Conclusions The scale of the influence of dog ownership on PA found in this study, indicates that future research regarding PA in older adults should assess and report dog ownership and/or dog walking status. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4422-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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The aim of this report is to raise awareness of the importance of research concerning the economic impact of companion animals on society. • This report was inspired by the seminal Council for Science and Society (CSS) report Companion Animals in Society (1988), and updates and extends its evaluation of the value that companion animals bring to society. • Data available from the UK are used as examples throughout, but many of the points raised relate to industrialized nations globally. • It highlights potential direct and indirect costs and benefits of companion animals to the economy, and the value of exploring these further. • There is currently a lack of high quality data for some aspects of this evaluation which needs to be addressed to enable a more confident analysis; however, given the scale of the potential impact (added economic value and savings possible) the matter should not be ignored for this reason. • When evaluating the contribution of companion animals to the UK economy both positive and negative aspects should be considered. • Employing a conservative version of methods used in the best study of its kind to date examining healthcare savings through reduced number of doctor visits, we estimate that pet ownership in the UK may reduce use of the National Health Service (NHS) to the value of £2.45 billion/year. • The cost of NHS treatment for bites and strikes from dogs is estimated as £3 million/year (i.e. approximately 0.1% of the health savings). • We conclude that research into companion animals that relates to their potential economic impact on society should be supported by government.
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Dogs are a major reservoir for zoonotic infections. Dogs transmit several viral and bacterial diseases to humans. Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted to human by infected saliva, aerosols, contaminated urine or feces and direct contact with the dog. Viral infections such as rabies and norovirus and bacterial infections including Pasteurella, Salmonella, Brucella, Yersinia enterocolitica, Campylobacter, Capnocytophaga, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Coxiella burnetii, Leptospira, Staphylococcus intermedius and Methicillin resistance staphylococcus aureus are the most common viral and bacterial zoonotic infections transmitted to humans by dogs. This review, focused on the mentioned infectious diseases by describing general information, signs and symptoms, transmission ways, prevention and treatment of the infection. As far as the infections are concerned, the increase of the knowledge and the awareness of dog owners and the general population regarding zoonotic infections could significantly mitigate zoonoses transmission and consequently their fatal complications.
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Objectives: To assess the association of pet ownership and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality over a long-term follow-up among elderly treated hypertensive participants. Methods: Pet-ownership data from a subcohort of the Second Australian National Blood Pressure study were used. Participants were aged 65-84 years at enrolment (1995-1997) and responded to a pet-ownership questionnaire during year 2000. Participants' survival information was determined over a median of 10.9 years that includes Second Australian National Blood Pressure in-trial period (median 4.2 years) together with posttrial follow-up period (median 6.9 years). For the current study, end points were any fatal cardiovascular event and all-cause fatal events. Results: Of those who responded to a pet-ownership questionnaire (4039/6018 - 67%), 86% (3490/4039) owned at least one pet at any-time during their life (current or previous pet owner), with 36% (1456/4039) owning at least one pet at the time of the survey. During the follow-up period, 958 participants died including 499 deaths of cardiovascular origin. Using a Cox proportional hazard regression model adjusting for possible confounders, there was a 22 and 26% reduction in cardiovascular mortality observed among previous and current pet owners, respectively, compared with those who had never owned one. A similar nonsignificant trend was observed for all-cause mortality once adjusted for potential confounders. Conclusion: Pet ownership was associated with an improved cardiovascular disease survival in a treated elderly hypertensive population.
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Background We examined the relationship between dog walking and physical activity within and between four US cities and Australia and investigated if dog walking is associated with higher perceived safety in US and Australian cities. Methods Dog owners (n = 1113) in the Pet Connections Study completed a cross-sectional survey. Data were collected across four study sites; three in the US (San Diego, Nashville, Portland) and a fourth in Australia (Perth). Physical activity, local walking, dog walking, and individual and community perceptions of safety were analysed for dog walkers and non-dog walkers for each study site. Between-city comparisons were examined for dog walkers. ResultsAcross all study sites, dog walkers walked with their dog 5–6 times/week for a total of 93–109 min/week and achieved ≥30mins of physical activity on more days/week and walked in their neighbourhood more often/week, compared with non-dog walkers (all p ≤ 0.01). Compared with Perth, significantly fewer dog walkers walked in their local park in the three US study sites. San Diego dog walkers walked more often in their neighborhood/week compared with Perth dog walkers (all p ≤ 0.05).In Portland, dog walkers perceived significantly more neighborhood problems and in Nashville dog walkers perceived a significantly higher level of neighborhood natural surveillance (i.e., ‘eyes on the street’), compared with non-dog walkers (both p ≤ 0.05). Among dog walkers, females were more likely than males to feel safer walking with their dog in their neighborhood (OR = 2.49; 95 % CI = 1.76, 3.53). Compared with dog walkers in Perth, dog walkers from each of the US study sites felt safer in their neighborhood and perceived there was more neighborhood surveillance (all p ≤ 0.001). Conclusion This multi-site international study provides further support for the potential for dog walking to increase levels of daily physical activity. Walking with a dog may be a mechanism for increasing perceptions of neighborhood safety and getting to know the neighborhood, however significant between-country differences exist. Further international research is required to understand the drivers for these between-country differences. Community based programs and policies aimed at improving safety and social connectedness should consider the wider community benefits of dog walking and include strategies for supporting more dog walking.
Article
Background Animal-assisted intervention (AAI) programs are increasing in popularity, but it is unknown to what extent therapy animal organizations that provide AAI and the hospitals and eldercare facilities they work with implement effective animal health and safety policies to ensure safety of both animals and humans. Our study objective was to survey hospitals, eldercare facilities, and therapy animal organizations on their AAI policies and procedures. Methods A survey of United States hospitals, eldercare facilities, and therapy animal organizations was administered to assess existing health and safety policies related to AAI programs. Results Forty-five eldercare facilities, 45 hospitals, and 27 therapy animal organizations were surveyed. Health and safety policies varied widely and potentially compromised human and animal safety. For example, 70% of therapy animal organizations potentially put patients at risk by allowing therapy animals eating raw meat diets to visit facilities. In general, hospitals had stricter requirements than eldercare facilities. Discussion This information suggests that there are gaps between the policies of facilities and therapy animal organizations compared with recent guidelines for animal visitation in hospitals. Conclusions Facilities with AAI programs need to review their policies to address recent AAI guidelines to ensure the safety of animals and humans involved.