Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

The Power of Pets Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions

From a Feb 2018 US National Institutes of Health news release

Illustration of people with different types of pets

Nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Pets may also decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills.

An estimated 68% of U.S. households have a pet. But who benefits from an animal? And which type of pet brings health benefits?

Over the past 10 years, NIH has partnered with the Mars Corporation’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition to answer questions like these by funding research studies.

Scientists are looking at what the potential physical and mental health benefits are for different animals—from fish to guinea pigs to dogs and cats.

Possible Health Effects

Research on human-animal interactions is still relatively new. Some studies have shown positive health effects, but the results have been mixed.

Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.

Read the entire article at


February 16, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] The Power of Pets Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions

From the Feb 2018  NIH News in Health

February 5, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

[NY Times article] When Best Friends Can Visit

Excerpts from the 10 April 2013 NY Times article

Policies vary at the [few]  institutions that allow visits by patients’ pets, but many share some of the same requirements. A doctor’s order allowing the family pet to visit is typically necessary, as is an attestation from a veterinarian that the animal is healthy and up to date on all its shots. Most institutions require that dogs — the most common visitors, by far — be groomed within a day or so of a visit and on a leash when they walk through hospital corridors. Cats must be taken in and out of the institution in a carrier.

If a dog or cat wants to get up on a patient’s bed, a covering is laid down first. If an animal seems agitated or distressed when it comes into the hospital, staff members who meet the family and escort them to the patient’s room have the right to turn it away. If the patient shares a room with someone, that person must agree before a pet may visit.

“We have not had any problems,” said the Rev. Susan Roy, director of pastoral care services at the University of Maryland Medical Center, whose “your pet can visit” policy has been in place since 2008. If anything, she said, the visits can be hard on dogs, who often respond viscerally to an owner’s illness and may take a day or two to recover from a visit.

Rush University Medical Center spent three years studying the issue before its new pet visitation policy went into effect in February. Diane Gallagher, the hospital’s associate vice president of nursing operations, described some of the questions: Would animals transmit infections to patients, or vice versa? What were the liability issues? Could allowing pets to visit interfere with patient care — if, for instance, a family dog became alarmed and protective of the sick person when a doctor, a nurse or a technician came into the room?

In the end, officials decided that the benefits — comfort and reduced stress for patients — were more substantial than the risks.

Although research has shown that hospital therapy dogs can pick up germs and potentially transmit bacteria that can cause dangerous infections, those animals typically wander from room to room, while people’s own pets are expected to stay with the patient they are visiting. If someone has an open wound or an active infection, a visit from a family pet is discouraged, according to most hospital policies.

Research on the value of personal pets visiting patients in the hospital hasn’t been done. One small 2010 study of 10 healthy dog owners by researchers atVirginia Commonwealth’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that both unfamiliar and familiar dogs provoked similar reactions: a relaxation response and reduction in blood pressure and levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, according to Dr. Sandra Barker, director of the center and a professor of psychiatry.

Read the entire article here



November 5, 2013 Posted by | health care, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Robots and Dogs Necessary to Enhance our Humanness?

This morning I came across two blog items through the Tag Surfer option at WordPress. It made me ponder if reliance on machines and animals for some needs made us more or less human.  These two blog items centered around situations where people lived alone. When people live more communally is there such a need for robots and pets? Should more of our resources be used to build communities of people rather than places where many folks live alone?

One blog (New Siblings for Health Care Robots) described  emotionally intelligent robots which can read human emotions through facial expressions and body language, sending messages for assistance when needed.  These robots can help older people remain independent through helping them stay connected through family and friends . They can also act as reminders in their daily activities (as taking meds).

The other blog item ( Let’s hear it for Fido friendly cities) made a case for more pet friendly cities because pets helped reduce mental health costs, especially in cases where people lived alone.

December 6, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Are Pets Good For Human Health? The Truth Is “Nobody Really Knows”

From the 3 August 2011 Medical News Today article

How often do you read about a study that says a pet is good for your health? Most of us would say fairly often. Apparently, only those that demonstrate health benefits hit the headlines, while others that either have no evidence or reveal some unpleasant data are ignored, researcher Howard Herzog revealed in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science. Professor Herzog, from Western Carolina University Psychology Department, says that prior studies on the impact pets might have on longevity and health have produced a mishmash of conflicting results…

Read entire article here

August 8, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Health Tip: Prevent Illness From Infected Pets

From a November 3, 2010 Health Day news item By Diana Kohnle

(HealthDay News) — Pets typically are prized members of the family. But as with their human counterparts, they can also spread disease, the Nemours Foundation says.

The foundation suggests how to help reduce the transmission of disease from pets:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands after feeding your pet, touching your pet or removing its waste.
  • Don’t allow pets to eat from your plates or utensils.
  • Don’t kiss your pet on the mouth.
  • Make sure your pet’s space is clean, and don’t let children play in areas where there’s pet waste.
  • Keep pets away from areas where food is prepared or handled.
  • Don’t bathe your pet in the sink or bathtub.
  • Never make a wild animal a pet.


A few good pet care Web sites (via the Internet Public Library, specifically Pets)

  • Healthy Pets
    Information about veterinary care, provided by the American Animal Hospital Association.
    Extensive information on pet care (dogs, cats, birds, and small mammals), relocation/travel, pet behavior, and more.
  • Dog Informant “is dedicated to providing access to high quality, prescreened and reviewed resources, as well as to make available high-quality local content”
  • Hot Spots for Birds contains many informative articles on bird care, including safety, nutrition, and health care tips.





November 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Purchasing Pet Drugs Online: Buyer Beware (video)

From the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Consumers should be cautious when buying pet drugs online and should not let Internet pharmacies evaluate their pets. Watch this video to learn more and/or read this article.


“Discount pet drugs—no prescription required” may appeal to pet owners surfing the Web, but FDA experts say it can be risky to buy drugs online from sites that tout this message and others like it.

Some of the Internet sites that sell pet drugs represent legitimate, reputable pharmacies, says Martine Hartogensis, D.V.M., deputy director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). But others are fronts for unscrupulous businesses operating against the law.

FDA has found companies that sell unapproved pet drugs and counterfeit pet products, make fraudulent claims, dispense prescription drugs without requiring a prescription, and sell expired drugs.

Pet owners who purchase drugs from these companies may think they are saving money, says Hartogensis, but in reality, they may be short-changing their pet’s health and putting its life at risk.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Your Pet’s Health: Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants

Thinking about buying a plant, but wondering how it will affect your animal companion or pet?

A listing of over 400 common plants (not all!) may be found here.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has created this list for informational purposes only. If an animal is sick or if it may have poisoned itself, it is strongly advised that you contact your local veterinarian or their 24-hour emergency poison hotline directly at 1-888-426-4435.

A few related sites from the Internet Public Library Pets Section (IPL) and searching the IPL with the word “pets”

Pet Care (ASPCA) – Focuses on behavior, nutrition, poison control, veterinary medicine and the human-animal bond; dog, cat, horse, and small pets

Care for Animals(American Veterinary Medical Association) – Covers information related to keeping pets healthy , including advice on vet selection, pet selection, pet loss, disaster preparedness; Pet Care section includes food recalls and first aid; links for educators, those interested in health awareness events, and more Animal Hospital Association) Extensive information on most aspects of pet care (as behavior, health, parasites, health insurance). Links for kids and just for fun activities. Animal hospital directory, book recommendations, “Find A Pet”, “Ask-A-Vet”, and more.

Healthy Pets, Healthy People(US Centers for Disease Control) Disease information (caused by germs) and prevention tools.

September 22, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , | Leave a comment

Your Pet’s Food Dish Could Serve Up Salmonella

Study tracks the gut bugs’ progress from tainted dry food to children’s tummies


This new study, “re-emphasizes the importance of washing your hands whenever you deal with anything from a pet, including petting him, touching his mouth or cleaning up after him, especially for children whose immune systems are very weak in comparison to adults,” said Dr. Philip Tierno, clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City and author of The Secret Life of Germs.

“Hand washing is the single most important thing anyone can do to protect their health, and that’s within everyone’s purview if you teach them,” Tierno said. “You can do that and not be afraid.”

Another precaution is to have well-packaged, well-stored pet food, keeping it out of the reach of infants and toddlers, said Richel.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment


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