SFAFA VET CARE GRANTS
The future may be looking a little brighter for some local dogs. See page 11 to read about the city’s new WOOF program, which pairs shelter dogs with former homeless people. Through another ground-breaking program, San Francisco Aid for Animals (SFAFA) has started offering small financial aid grants to families who need help with veterinary bills. All cash grants SFAFA makes to pet guardians must be matched by in-kind services from the participating veterinarians.
A project of the San Francisco Veterinary Medical Association, SFAFA was founded when local veterinarians noticed a sad spike in the number of pets euthanized or surrendered simply because their guardians could not afford to pay for needed medical care. Funding for the project comes from the Community Initiatives organization and private donors.
SFAFA began distributing grant funds to SF Veterinary Medical Association members in July. Local pet owners may seek care and apply for assistance through SFVMA member veterinarians. Recipients must show financial need, and there must be a reasonable expectation that the pet’s medical condition is curable. Grant amounts will depend on available program funds.
Visit sfaidforanimals.org for more information and to donate to San Francisco Aid for Animals.
DOGS MAY HELP KIDS’ HEALTH
Two new studies suggest that children who are raised in homes with one or more dogs may derive respiratory health benefits.
Recent research from the University of California at San Francisco and the University of Michigan found that exposure to dust from homes with dogs appeared to help prevent illness caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In humans, RSV is associated with a higher risk of developing childhood asthma.
A second study discovered that Finnish babies who lived with a dog (or, to a lesser extent, a cat) spent fewer weeks with ear infections, coughs, or runny noses. They were also less likely to need antibiotics than infants in pet-free homes.
“These results suggest that dog contacts may have a protective effect on respiratory tract infections during the first year of life,” the Finnish study said. “Our findings support the theory that during the first year of life, animal contacts are important, possibly leading to better resistance to infectious respiratory illnesses during childhood.”
Researchers explain these findings by suggesting that the dirt and germs brought into a home by the family pet may stimulate a child’s immune system into maturing more quickly.
NEW CONTENDER OWNS “UGLY”
Maybe Yoda knew her work here was done. Last year’s reigning “World’s Ugliest Dog” title-holder, a 15-year-old Chinese Crested-Chihuahua mix, missed the chance to defend her crown at the 2012 competition in June. Her fairy tale ascent had taken her from abandonment in a field near Hanford, California, to victory at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, where the reverse beauty contest is held each year. Yoda, alas, died peacefully in her sleep last spring.
We like to think she would be pleased that this year’s honors went to another fine representative of her breed. Mugly, an 8-year-old Chinese Crested rescue, crossed an ocean to claim his victory as 2012’s World’s Ugliest Dog. Mugly also holds Britain’s 2005 Ugliest Dog title.
In addition to a trophy many times his size, Mugly and his guardian won a $1,000 grand prize, a year’s worth of dog cookies, and a stay in the luxurious Loft Suite at the local Sheraton.
The contest was followed by the fair’s annual Rescue Dog Parade.
FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE
Check out these recent research findings of interest to dog lovers:
Dogs try to comfort humans in distress. Researchers at the University of London have confirmed that domestic dogs identify and respond to emotional states in humans (is that a collective, “Duh!” we hear?). What’s more, the study found the subject dogs’ behavior “consistent with empathic concern and comfort-offering,” whether or not the human subject was known to the dog.
Newly aggressive dogs may be reacting to pain. According to the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Spanish researchers who looked into the sudden onset of aggression problems in 12 dogs found that all were experiencing pain, most often from hip dysplasia.
Dogs respond to human yawns. It’s well known that yawns can be “catching” in people, and that this contagion probably is caused by empathy. Animal Cognition reports on a Portuguese study showing that, “Not only were dogs found to catch human yawns, but they were also found to yawn more at [the sound of] familiar than unfamiliar yawns.”
Dogs can suffer brain damage from PTSD. Psychology Today discusses a new book asserting that deeply stressful events have a lasting negative effect on brain plasticity and learning, even in pet dogs. “My Puppy, My Self” recommends active play as one of the best ways to treat dogs who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of such stressors as physical abuse, prolonged illness, and attacks from other animals.