No Clear Health Benefits of Dogs and Cats for Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Layla Parast PhD Statistician RAND

Dr. Parast

Layla Parast PhD
Statistician
RAND

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This study examined the association between pet ownership, specifically dog or cat ownership, and children’s physical and mental health. There has been a lot of previous work looking at this association and these previous results seemed to show that kids with pets have better health than those without pets. The hypothesis has been that pets can improve children’s health by increasing physical activating and improving young people’s empathy skills.

We used data from over 5,000 households in California which was obtained from the California Health Interview Survey and looked at physical and mental health outcomes among children in households with pets vs. without pets.

We found that children in households with pets do have better health than those without pets, but that after we account for factors such as family income and housing type, for example, there is no evidence of an association between pet ownership and health. That is, households that have pets are more likely to be higher income, to be in a house as opposed to an apartment, and to have healthier adults in the household, for example – and these factors are also associated with better child health.

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Animal Visitation Programs Can Raise Infection Risks In Health Care Facilities

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Deborah Linder, DVM, MS, DACVN</strong> Research assistant professor Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Tufts University and Associate director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction

Dr. Linder

Deborah Linder, DVM, MS, DACVN
Research assistant professor
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Tufts University and
Associate director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: In our experience with our own therapy animal program, Tufts Paws for People, we have seen facilities and organizations put animals and people at risk by not following rigorous health and safety policies, and this certainly was confirmed by the results of our study. Lax health and safety policies typically aren’t intentional but occur as a result of enthusiasm for therapy animal programs without being aware of potential risks and what questions to ask. Also, it’s not just obvious problems that can occur, such as bites or allergies. It also can be an animal spreading infections due to diet or inadequate grooming, or unwanted stress on the animal.

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Exposure To Furry Pets During Pregnancy and Babyhood May Help Keep Your Child Lean

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Anita Kozyrskyj, PhD Department of Pediatrics Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry University of Alberta

Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj

Anita Kozyrskyj, PhD
Department of Pediatrics
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
University of Alberta

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We have known for a while that early-life exposure to household pets can reduce risk for allergic disease; new studies also suggest a benefit in preventing overweight. Our pilot study in 2013 showed that postnatal pet exposure increases the number of different beneficial microbes in the infant gut. My team of 12, including first author and Albert Innovates-Health Solutions (AIHS) postdoctoral fellow Hein Min Tun, took the science one step closer to understanding this connection in our recently published work in the Microbiome journal. In a study of 746 infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study (CHILD) birth cohort, we investigated the impact of pet exposure during pregnancy or afterwards on infant gut microbes, and whether this depended on how infants were born.

In infants born vaginally or by cesarean section, pet exposure during pregnancy or pre and postnatally up to 3 months after birth increased the amounts of 2 bacteria found on dogs and cats. One is Ruminococcus, linked to lower rates of allergies in children. The other is a relatively unknown microbe, Oscillospira, reported to promote leanness. Another important finding suggested that contact with pets during pregnancy could reduce transmission of vaginal GBS (group B Streptococcus) during birth.

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Your Pets’ Medications Can Poison Your Kids

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kristi Roberts, M.S., M.P.H. Research Project Coordinator Center for Injury Research and Policy Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus, Ohio

Kristi Roberts

Kristi Roberts, M.S., M.P.H.
Research Project Coordinator
Center for Injury Research and Policy
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, Ohio 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

  • We know that 74.1 million US households own at least one pet and one-half of households have a child age 19 years or younger living in the home so there is a potential for unintentional pediatric exposure to pet medication.
  • We realize that pets are common and an important part of families, especially those with young children. However, pets often require medications to keep them healthy and these medications could be dangerous to a child if the child is exposed (gets a hold of or swallows the medicine).
  • We looked at 15 years’ worth of data and found that over 1,400 children were exposed to a veterinary pharmaceutical product. That is about 95 each year or 2 children every week that are being exposure to medications intended for pets.
  • Children under 5 years old are the age group most frequently exposed to medications intended for pets. These young children typically ate or swallowed the medication after they found it when climbing on the counter or while the parent was trying to give the medication to a pet. Most of the calls were for medications intended for dogs.
  • Teenagers were also exposed to medications intended for pets but for different reasons. Many teens mistakenly took pet medication instead of human medication.
  • The majority of exposures occurred at home (96%) and were not expected to result in long-term or long-lasting health effects (97%).
  • While many people don’t think of their pet’s medication as harmful some medications, both human and veterinary, could be highly dangerous even at low dosages, especially for small children.

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Nexvet Translates Human Biologics Into Pet Therapeutics for Arthritis, Cancer and Pain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Mark Heffernan is a Nexvet co-founder, and has served as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Nexvet board of directors since April 2011. In 2003, Dr. Heffernan co-founded Opsona Therapeutics Ltd., an Irish biotechnology company focused on human mAbs for inflammatory and oncology diseases. He also worked in R&D and business development roles for two Australia biotechnology companies, Antisense Therapeutics Limited and Metabolic Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd., for a number of years. Dr. Heffernan has a BSc in Biochemistry and Pharmacology and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Monash University (Australia).

Dr. Mark Heffernan

Dr. Mark Heffernan PhD
Dr. Mark Heffernan is a Nexvet co-founder, and has served as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Nexvet board of directors since April 2011. In 2003, Dr. Heffernan co-founded Opsona Therapeutics Ltd., an Irish biotechnology company focused on human mAbs for inflammatory and oncology diseases. He also worked in R&D and business development roles for two Australia biotechnology companies, Antisense Therapeutics Limited and Metabolic Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd., for a number of years. Dr. Heffernan has a BSc in Biochemistry and Pharmacology and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Monash University (Australia).

MedicalResearch.com: Tell me about Nexvet and its background? What is the company’s mission statement or goal?

Dr. Heffernan:   Nexvet is a public (NASDAQ: NVET) clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing novel, species-specific biologics for companion animals (pets). We were founded five years ago and our mission has been to transform animal medicine by leading the introduction of biologic therapies (monoclonal antibodies and therapeutic proteins) into everyday veterinary practice. Many chronic conditions stand to benefit from biologic options, just as they have in human medicine, such as inflammation and cancer. Taking products with validation in human medicine is part of Nexvet’s development strategy, which leverages human data from these innovative therapies and rapidly advances the veterinary equivalents.

MedicalResearch.com: Can you tell us about the PETization™ platform? What is it designed to do?

Dr. Heffernan:   PETization™ is Nexvet’s proprietary approach to monoclonal antibody (mAb) candidate design. It uses an algorithmic approach, ‘crunching’ libraries of natural antibody sequence data to rapidly design mAbs that are “100% species-specific” to a target species. This significantly reduces the risk of an immunogenic reaction, while preserving the parent (or ‘starting’) mAb’s affinity for its target.

PETization has demonstrated a reduction in the time and cost typically associated with the development of monoclonal antibodies using conventional methods, such as CDR grafting and its affinity maturation. Thus far Nexvet has used PETization to successfully convert human and rodent mAbs into canine, feline and equine mAbs. These candidates have demonstrated safety and efficacy across the clinical development spectrum including proof-of-concept (every species) right through to late-stage pivotal studies (in dogs).

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Furry Pets May Reduce Allergies in Kids By Changing Gut Bacteria

Merja Nermes, MD Dept. of Pediatrics Turku University Hospital Turku, FinlandMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Merja Nermes, MD

Dept. of Pediatrics
Turku University Hospital
Turku, Finland

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Earlier it was thought that exposure to pets early in childhood was a risk factor for developing allergic disease.  Later epidemiologic studies have given contradictory results and even suggested that early exposure to pets may be protective against allergies, though the mechanisms of this protective effect have remained elusive. Our results are the first to show that specific bifidobacteria present in pets can be transferred to the infant gastrointestinal tract during a close contact.  Bifidobacteria in general are a part of the microbiota in healthy breast fed infants, and many studies have shown that human-specific bifidobacteria have beneficial effects to health, e.g. lower the risk of allergic disease. The same might hold true for bifidobacteria of animal origin which may  enhance and strengthen the development of the infants´ immune system to be protective against allergies.

Our results showed that animal-derived bifidobacteria were found in a higher proportion in infants of pet-keeping families than in those without such exposure.  We also found  that  B. thermophilum (pet-derived Bifidobacterium) was associated  with a lower risk for atopic sensitization  at  6 months of age.

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Easing of Pet Travel Restrictions Means More Dogs At Risk Of Rabies Entering Europe

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Siv Klevar, DVM,PhD.
Norwegian Veterinary Institute
Department of Diagnostics
Section of Immunology
Oslo

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Klevar:  Border control veterinary officers reported a surge in the number of imported dogs after the pet travel regulations were relaxed in 2012. At the same time rescue groups, through social media advertisement, encouraged and facilitated the adoption of dogs from shelters in Eastern Europe. The removal of the requirement regarding individual serological testing for antibodies to rabies before importing pets into UK, Ireland, Sweden, Malta and Norway, made it much easier to import pets into these countries. Previously import required several months of preparation and additional costs whereas under the new regulations it could be done after a single vaccination and a 3 week wait. The Norwegian Food Authority initiated a project to look at exotic pathogens in these re-homed dogs. This study reports the rabies antibody levels detected in some of the rehomed stray dogs entering Norway during 2012. The Norwegian Veterinary Institute and National Veterinary Institute in Sweden carried out the study.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Klevar: Our results showed that a high proportion of stray dogs, compared to a control group of pet dogs from Sweden, didn’t have sufficient protection against rabies virus after vaccination. Although we do not know exactly why this was the case, the exceedingly low levels of antibodies detected in some of the stray animals would suggest that they were not properly vaccinated, even though all the paperwork showed they were fully compliant with Pet Travel Regulations.

The main issue highlighted by this study is that the current regulations are not sufficient to prevent rabies introduction when importing rescue dogs from countries where the virus is present to countries free from the disease. The reason for this is that the current regulations do not require a check to see if the pet has been properly vaccinated (by testing the animal’s blood for antibodies). In addition to this, the 21 day waiting period after vaccination isn’t long enough for rabies to develop if the dog had been infected prior to vaccination.

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