Dogs, just like humans, can have problems with learning, memory and attention, particularly as they get older. Several tests of cognitive ability in dogs have been used in research with a particular focus on the effects of ageing. What is less well understood is how diseases affect these cognitive abilities. In an article in CAB Reviews, Lena Provoost, Margret Casal and Carlo Siracusa discuss how changes in behaviour, such as loss of appetite, house soiling or changes in sleeping are often the first indicators to the pet’s owners that there is a problem. The team from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania say that while those changes could be caused by mental decline, they could be secondary effects of other medical causes, such as pain from infection swellings or kidney disease.
One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day November 3rd 2016
The term ‘One health’ was created to emphasise the fact that health of humans and animals were inter-linked and that the control of zoonotic diseases is best achieved by breaking down the barriers between human and veterinary medicine, developing an holistic approach. The disaster of BSE and the emergence of a new human disease, variant-CJD, and the risk of another pandemic of avian influenza, strengthened the case for One-health, and it has been adopted by the WHO, OIE, and many other relevant organizations.
Within the area of One-health, interest has been growing on the modern phenomenon of companion animals. In many parts of the world, particularly in developed countries, pets – mainly dogs and cats, are kept as companions, and are treated as one of the family. They are pampered and treated to expensive veterinary treatments when they become ill, whereas in earlier times, a sick pet would be destroyed and replaced. This attitude to animals is particularly well established in the UK, a nation of animal lovers, with an estimated 12 million (46%) households incorporating about 65 million companion animals, and where it is not unusual to see a sign on the door of a pub saying “No children, dogs welcomed”.
The beneficial health effects that animals can have on people has been recognised with such schemes as riding for the disabled and therapy dogs that are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with autism. The term ‘human animal bond’ was coined to describe this mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviours that are essential to the health and well-being of both.
Image: Leroy Skalstad, Pixabay.com
One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day on November 3rd 2016
While ‘One Health’ is a well-established concept, a new term ‘One Welfare’ is also emerging, extending the One Health theme beyond physical health and recognising that animal welfare and human wellbeing are intrinsically connected. In an article in the Veterinary Record, Rebeca García Pinillos and other One Welfare advocates introduce this concept for debate, with an aim to “improve animal welfare and human wellbeing worldwide.”
A One Welfare approach will help to empower the animal welfare field to address the connections between science and policy more effectively in various areas of human society, including environmental science and sustainability, the authors say. “It could also help promote key global objectives such as supporting food security, reducing human suffering (e.g., abuse of vulnerable people) and improving productivity within the farming sector through a better understanding of the value of high welfare standards.”
While One Health initiatives have tended to focus on threats to human and animal health, particularly zoonoses, there is a growing body of research into the mental and physical health benefits of the human-animal bond. In addition, because poor animal welfare can often act as an indicator of poor human welfare (and vice versa), there is a need to understand the psychosocial impacts of human-animal interactions.
"World Rabies Day" is September 28th. Copyright: CC, Global Alliance for Rabies Control
Rabies: a contagious and fatal viral disease of dogs and other mammals, transmissible through the saliva to humans and causing madness and convulsions. Rabies is fatal once symptoms appear.
Latin America is doing far better at managing, controlling and ultimately eliminating rabies from the region. Africa is failing to make the same gains and a rethink is required: can the lessons learned in Latin America be applied or adapted to Africa?
At the biennial RSTMH meeting “Challenges in Disease Elimination” held in Cambridge [September 12-16th, 2016], Katie Hampson [University of Glasgow] described the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)'s surveillance & management framework operating in Mexico and Brazil, and devised to support the elimination of rabies in 25 PAHO countries. She also described the work of Tanzanian colleagues who have developed a “pragmatic approach to surveillance” for the African setting where resources are constrained.
Current situation of rabies control in Latin America vs Africa
The short answer is that in Latin America, PAHO, which exists to “strengthen national and local health systems and improve the health of the peoples of the Americas”, has concentrated on vaccinating the dog population against rabies and interrupting transmission. African countries have no similar regional support structure for their health ministries and rely on post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) of humans bitten by dogs, to achieve a form of control of rabies. PEP vaccination only saves lives if the bitten person has timely access to a well-stocked clinic, and the money to pay for the shots. In remote and rural areas, this can lead to grim choices: which child do you treat if you only have money for one? We heard at the RSTMH of an African mother with several children bitten by the “family dog”, who having travelled a great distance to reach the vaccine, was then faced with that very choice.
Idolised in Ancient Egypt, then vilified in Medieval
Europe, the domestication of cats has taken them on an interesting route from
uninvited guests chasing mice in our grain stores to the moggies we cuddle
today. At John Bradshaw’s talk at Blackwell’s
in Oxford last month, evidence of their interesting history was just around the
corner at the Pitt Rivers Museum, where mummified cats are
part of its unusual collection. Dogs, on the other hand, have a long history of
being companions to humans, bred into many shapes and sizes to make them capable
of a number of tasks that have played a key role both in human and canine
“Can we have a pet for Christmas?” is something I hear a lot each December. The answer, much to my children’s disappointment, is always no.
In addition to the fact that we are often told that Christmas is not the best time to introduce a new animal into a household [e.g. see PetRescue.Com article: No Christmas Puppies, Please!], I can’t think of any pet that is both practical and fulfils the necessary fluffy/cute criteria that my kids are requesting. (Apparently the stick insects that we have are not ‘proper’ pets!).
After listening to experts talk at CABI’s Human-Animal Bond Symposium last month, I can appreciate the benefits that introducing something cuddly into the family could bring. Professor Alan Beck, of Purdue University, described some of the ways that pets can benefit human health and welfare. For example, dog ownership generally results in increased exercise and greater social contact through talking with other dog owners; people with dogs or cats have been found to have lower blood pressure, heart rates and reduced cholesterol than those without; and even staring at a fish tank can provide enough of a distraction from our worries to induce a relaxation response. Animals can also help teach children about responsibility and compassion.