Aging, Author Interviews, Emergency Care, Lifestyle & Health, Orthopedics / 26.04.2023 Interview with: Ridge Maxson M.D. Candidate, Class of 2024 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Dog walking is an increasingly popular mode of physical activity for adults in the US, but its injury burden and associated risk factors are not fully understood. This study found that the 3 most common injuries sustained by adult dog walkers in the US were finger fracture, TBI, and shoulder sprain or strain. Dog walking-related injuries sent approximately 423,000 adults to US EDs between 2001 and 2020, with an annual average of more than 21,000 visits. During that 20-year period, the estimated annual injury incidence increased by more than 4-fold. Among injured dog walkers, older adults and women were particularly vulnerable to serious injury, such as fracture and TBI. (more…)
Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Environmental Risks / 30.06.2021 Interview with: Els M. Broens DVM, PhD, Dipl. ECVM, EBVS European Veteirnary Specialist in Veterinary Microbiology Associate Professor / Director VMDC Department Biomolecular Health Sciences (Clinical Infectiology) Faculty of Veterinary Medicine | Utrecht University What is the background for this study? Response: Several events have demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 can infect animals, felines and mustelids in particular. In companion animals these are currently considered to be incidents with a negligible risk for public health since the main force of the pandemic is transmission between humans. However, it is urgent to understand the potential risk of animal infections for public health in the later stages of the pandemic when SARS-CoV-2 transmission between humans is greatly reduced and a virus reservoir in animals could become more important. Incidental cases have shown that COVID-19 positive owners can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to their dog or cat. The close contact between owners and their dogs and cats and the interaction between dogs and cats from different households raises questions about the risk for pets to contract the disease and also about role of these animals in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. (more…)
Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Environmental Risks / 23.04.2021 Interview with: Margaret J. Hosie BVM&S, MRCVS, BSc. PhD. Professor of Comparative Virology MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research United Kingdom What is the background for this study? Response: SARS-CoV-2 is a new coronavirus of animal origin that recently jumped to humans and has spread rapidly across the world. It is likely that SARS-CoV-2 will establish as an endemic virus of humans, which has the potential to be transmitted to animals that live in close proximity to humans. There have been sporadic reports of infections in pet cats in households with COVID-19 patients, which demonstrates that cats are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and could act as virus reservoirs. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Pediatrics / 10.07.2020 Interview with: Cinnamon A. Dixon, DO, MPH Associate Professor of Pediatrics University of Colorado School of Medicine Children’s Hospital Colorado Senior Investigator | Center for Global Health Colorado School of Public Health Aurora, CO What is the background for this commentary? Response: Dog bites are a long-standing public health problem. Each year there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites across the Unites States (US),1 and global estimates suggest tens of millions of these injuries worldwide.2 Children are the most vulnerable population with nearly 1 million annual dog bites in the US and more severe injury outcomes.1 National organizations espouse consistent strategies on how to prevent dog bites to children, however studies reveal that most children have never received dog bite prevention education.3,4 Furthermore, children lack critical knowledge of how to prevent dog bites in high-risk “resource guarding” situations (such as when a dog is eating or chewing on toys).4 During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of US households are experiencing restrictions in activities. Children now spend more time in the home environment and presumably have increased exposure to their pet dogs. Parents and caregivers likely experience greater stress with more potential for competing interests and resultant decreased supervision of their children and dogs. Finally, pet dogs may be affected by the increased tension of their environment and be more likely to mirror the emotions of their human caregivers. We hypothesized that these combined elements compound the risk of dog bites to children during the COVID-19 pandemic. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections / 20.12.2019 Interview with: Konstans Wells, PhD Lecturer in Biosciences Swansea University What is the background for this study? Response:  Cross‐species transmission of harmful viruses between animals and humans is a major source of infectious diseases and a considerable global public health burden. We assessed patterns of virus sharing among a large diversity of mammals, including humans and domestic species. (more…)
Author Interviews / 22.10.2019 Interview with: Mwenya Mubanga, MD, PhD Postdoctoral Researcher Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics  | Karolinska Institutet Childhood Allergy and Asthma Stockholm What is the background for this study? Response: In a previous study we showed that dog ownership was associated with a lower risk of composite cardiovascular death and all-cause death as compared to non-dog owners.1 In this follow-up, we assessed the hypothesis that dog ownership was associated with better survival after either an acute myocardial infarction or an ischemic stroke. Using the rich Swedish national registers, we identified more than 300,000 adults aged 45 to 80 and linked their individual-level health records to information on socio-economic, demographic and death data. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks / 26.07.2019 Interview with: Patricia Pendry Ph.D. Associate Professor of Human Development Graduate Faculty in Prevention Science Washington State University CAHNRS Pullman, WA 99164 What is the background for this study? Response: Over the last decade, university students have reported increasingly high levels of academic stress, depressive symptomology, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. This is a serious problem as students who report these symptoms tend to have lower GPAs and are more likely to drop out of college. Since academic stress is considered an inevitable part of college life, it is important that we identify effective academic stress management programs. One stress management approach that has been enthusiastically received by University administrators and students is the use of campus-based Animal Visitation Programs (AVPs). Established in nearly 1,000 U.S. college campuses to date, most AVPs provide the general student population the opportunity to engage in 5-30 minutes of petting of animals in small-group settings. While students much enjoy these types of programs, relatively little sound scientific evidence is known about the efficacy of such programs to actually reduce stress. We thus embarked on a study that experimentally teased out the effects of hands-on interaction from the effects of waiting in line while watching others engage in hands-on interactions, sitting quietly without social media or other stimuli, or watching pictures of the same animals on students’ level of salivary cortisol, a stress hormone that has been linked to various physical and mental health outcomes. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, ENT, Pediatrics / 06.06.2019 Interview with: Dr. Garth Essig, MD Otolaryngologist The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Dog bites are a significant yet modifiable public health concern, but the true magnitude is difficult to estimate with such wide ranges in reporting, severity of injury and varieties of breeds that bite.  We reviewed bites from reports in the literature and from two regionally distinct medical centers. We concluded that bite frequency and severity could be attributed to certain breeds in this sample, if the breed is known. Our study also acknowledged the significant risk of biting with the mixed breed population, which creates a dilemma with identification. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research / 17.05.2019 Interview with: Tove Fall PhD Senior author of the study Associate Professor in Epidemiology Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory Uppsala University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: Dog ownership is common in the Western society but little is known about what actually makes people get a dog. We conducted a twin study to understand whether the genetic make-up has an influence on this choice. We found that more than 50% of the differences in dog ownership is explained by genetic variants.  (more…)
Allergies, Asthma, Author Interviews, Pediatrics, Science / 16.11.2018 Interview with: "Dogs and Kids Mix Well" by Tony Alter is licensed under CC BY 2.0Catarina Almqvist Malmros MD, PhD Professor | Consultant Pediatrician Dept of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics | Karolinska Institutet Lung and Allergy Unit | Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital Stockholm, Sweden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We have previously shown an association between growing up with dogs and a lower risk of childhood asthma (doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3219) but it has been unknown whether this link is modified by characteristics of the dog. Sex of the dog may have an effect on expressed allergens, and uncastrated male dogs release more of a certain allergen than castrated male dogs and female dogs. Some breeds are also described as ‘hypoallergenic’, but there is no scientific evidence whether they are more suitable for people with allergies. We examined how variables such as sex, breed, number of dogs or size of dog are associated with the risk of asthma and allergy among children with a dog in their home during the first year of life. We included all Swedish children born between January 2001 and December 2004 whose parents had a registered dog in a dog-owner register and linked the data to the Swedish population- and health data registers. Main findings are that children raised with only female dogs at home had a 16 per cent lower risk of asthma than those with male dogs, and that children living with two or more dogs had a 21 per cent lower risk of asthma than those with only one dog. Importantly, families with parental asthma or allergies had ‘hypoallergenic’ breeds more often than children whose parents did not have asthma or allergies; 11.7% compared to 7.6 . Exposure to these breeds was associated with a 27 per cent higher risk of allergy and no decreased risk of asthma.  (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, Infections / 26.09.2018 Interview with: "Siberian Husky Puppies 2013-05-25" by Jeffrey Beall is licensed under CC BY 2.0Mark Laughlin, DVM Veterinary Medical Officer CDC What is the background for this study? How common are Campylobacter infections?  How does a Campylobacter infection typically present?  Response: Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States, causing an estimated 1.3 million illnesses each year. Most people with Campylobacter infection usually have diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and abdominal cramps. The diarrhea may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually start within 2 to 5 days after exposure and last about a week. Most illnesses from Campylobacter likely occur due to eating raw or undercooked poultry, or from eating something that touched raw or undercooked poultry. Some illnesses can occur from contact with contaminated water, contact with animals, or from drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk. Since 2009, 13 outbreaks of human Campylobacter infections linked to contact with dogs have been reported to CDC. These outbreaks account for a reported 47 illnesses and 2 hospitalizations. (more…)
Author Interviews / 14.08.2018 Interview with: “Pets” by GRANT DAWSON is licensed under CC BY 2.0Derek S. Mason, MPH Colorado University School of Medicine MD Candidate, Class of 2022 Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The background for this report stems from a focus group of veterinarians that was held and identified that opioid diversion could be occurring within clinics. After this, we became concerned that human patients were indeed diverting opioids for abuse and misuse and we wanted to get a broader sense from the veterinary medical community if they had been aware of opioid diversion happening within their clinics. Additionally, we noticed that there was a gap in the scientific literature on how the veterinary medical community feels about the opioid epidemic. As prescribers of opioids, we felt that their input was highly valuable and should be included in the discussion on how to prevent opioid abuse and misuse.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics / 02.05.2018 Interview with: “dog” by Neil Mullins is licensed under CC BY 2.0Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Stefan O. Reber Laboratory for Molecular Psychosomatics Clinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy University Clinic Ulm Ulm, Germany What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our hypothesis was that people who grew up in cities with more than 100.000 inhabitants  and without pets will show a more pronounced immune activation towards psychosocial stressors compared with people raised in rural areas in the presence of farm animals. This hypothesis is based on the fact that stress-associated psychiatric disorders, which are linked to or even promoted by an over(re)active immune system and chronic low grade inflammation,  are more prevalent in urban compared with rural areas. One possible explanation for a hyper(re)active immune system in people raised in urban relative to rural environments might be a reduced contact to immunoregulatory microorganisms (the so called “old friends”), which is significantly increased in rural people with regular contact with farm animals compared with urban people in the absence of pets. Our results show that a standardized laboratory psychosocial stressor causes a greater inflammatory response in young healthy participants with an urban upbringing in the absence of pets, relative to young healthy participants with a rural upbringing in the presence of farm animals. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Lifestyle & Health / 20.11.2017 Interview with: Tove Fall PhD Senior author of the study Associate Professor in Epidemiology Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory Uppsala University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Loneliness and sedentary lifestyle are two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and mortality, but are notoriously difficult to prevent in the general population. Previous studies have shown that dogs may serve as a strong motivator for daily exercise, provide substantial social support and have a positive effect on the owner’s gut microbiome. The effects of pet dogs on health outcomes in the general population are largely unknown. (more…)
Author Interviews, Pediatrics / 10.08.2017 Interview with: Layla Parast PhD Statistician RAND 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. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections / 22.06.2017 Interview with: 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 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. (more…)
Allergies, Author Interviews, Microbiome, Pediatrics / 10.04.2017 Interview with: Anita Kozyrskyj, PhD Department of Pediatrics Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry University of Alberta 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. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Pediatrics / 08.02.2017 Interview with: Kristi Roberts, M.S., M.P.H. Research Project Coordinator Center for Injury Research and Policy Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus, Ohio 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.
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy / 29.01.2016 Interview with: 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). 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. 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). (more…)
Allergies, Author Interviews, Pediatrics / 12.09.2015

Merja Nermes, MD Dept. of Pediatrics Turku University Hospital Turku, 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. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Infections, Vaccine Studies / 26.06.2015 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. (more…)