A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jun 21, 2011

Allergy Dogs Warn Children of Dangerous Allergens

For most people allergies can be uncomfortable, annoying, seasonal and inconvenient. For some, sensitivity is so severe that exposure can be life threatening. We have all heard of death or near death experiences resulting from bee stings, certain drugs, and, of course - peanuts. Fear of accidental encounters with allergens and their residue can severely impact the quality of life of the allergy sufferer. For afflicted children, the constant vigilance required to avoid the offending food can impair visits with friends, park play dates, and other social interactions.

Enter specially trained allergen sniffing service dogs!  These medical service dogs accompany children everywhere, such as school, parties, restaurants and movies, perform a sweep for the allergen before the child enters, and alerts the child if there is danger.

Recently we learned that exposure to pets in infancy may help prevent allergies, and now we see dogs able to protect against existing allergy attacks. How great is that! How great are dogs!

                            Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend.
                                                                                     Corey Ford, American writer

Jun 13, 2011

Exposing Infants to Pets May Reduce Allergies

Allergies to pets are often cited as the reason that pets are returned to shelters or prohibited from the home in the first place. Though people develop allergic reactions to the pet's saliva or dander, other allergens such as dust, pollen, or mold will lodge in the pet's coat thereby exacerbating other allergies not specific to the pet. Despite this, 70% of American households have a dog or cat and 10 million people suffer from pet allergies. Clearly, pets are either banned or borne. google images

A study, published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, followed 566 boys and girls from Detroit from birth to age 18, and monitored their allergic sensitivity throughout their lifetime exposure to dogs and cats. The findings suggested that infants younger than one year who lived with pets were less likely to develop allergies than children who acquired them later in life.  Specifically, boys and girls exposed to cats during infancy were 50% less likely to be allergic to them later, and the same was true of boys and dogs. Oddly, this was not found to be true with girls and dogs. Even odder, was the finding that boys and girls born via cesarean-section were 67% less likely to be sensitive to dogs than those with dogs during the first year of their life! All of this notwithstanding, these conclusions seem to debunk the long held notion that exposing a baby to a pet could trigger an allergic reaction and render the children more susceptible to allergies in later years.

Ganesa Wegienka, PhD, of the Department of Biostatistics and Research Epidemiology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit said:  “This research provides further evidence that experiences in the first year of life are associated with health status later in life, and that early life pet exposure does not put most children at risk of being sensitized to these animals later in life.”

However, if allergies are a problem there are some things that can be done to make the afflicted more comfortable such as washing the pet frequently, eliminating carpets, using HEPA air filters, vacuuming frequently, and not allowing the pet to sleep with the sufferer.

Finally, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. All dogs have saliva and skin. This "magical fix" received national attention when President Obama, rejected the idea of adopting a shelter dog in favor of an "allergy free" pure bred portuguese water dog as one of his daughters suffered from allergies. Some dog breeds simply shed less hair and dander but will activate allergy or asthma attacks in the susceptible. Such dog breeds include some terriers, poodles, schnauzers, water dogs, malteses and spaniels. Light colored female cats produce less allergen as well as some breeds such as the long haired siamese, the oriental short hair and some hairless cats. 

Many of these animals can be found in shelters and rescue groups at affordable prices providing relief for the homeless pet and the allergy sufferer.

Article first published as Exposing Infants to Pets May Reduce Allergies on Technorati.

Jun 6, 2011

Discrimination Against Black Dogs is a Real Problem

As school ends and summer draws near, many families consider adopting a dog.  This year consider a black dog and help combat Black Dog Syndrome

Black Dog Syndrome is a genuine phenomenon whereby black does are more difficult to adopt out or sell than lighter colored dogs.

One theory for this discrimination is a simple association with the color black with evil, aggression, scariness and bad things. Examples found in folklore (ghostly black dogs haunting cemeteries), Harry Potter stories (three headed black guard dog), and Winston Churchill referring to his depression as his "black dog" cultivate a subconscious fear of these animals.

However on a very conscious level, they simply look more ominous and chimera like as shelters are often poorly lit and these dogs recede into the walls as sad solemn shadows. Black dogs also appear older as many have wisps of white whiskers which suggest aging.

The effect is that more of these dogs will spend longer periods of time caged in shelters or shops with a greater likelihood of euthanasia. Ironically, clients that gravitate to these dogs first are more interested in a guard dog with a fierce look rather than a family pet.

spcaLA and other progressive shelters across the country struggle to make these dogs seem more attractive by housing them in the brightest kennels, showing them out of doors, adorning them with colorful kerchiefs, creating targeted promotions, and even offering discount prices.

Adopting a dog from a shelter rather than purchasing from pet stores, puppy mills and or questionable on line vendors is good karma – a single.

Adopting an older dog rather than a puppy is a good deed and more good karma – a double.

A willingness to open your home to a dog with special medical or behavior needs, perhaps one that was a victim of animal abuse –a good karma triple.

Make that a black dog – a karma home run.