Tag Archives: dogs

Good News Monday Bonus Round

Sharing some warm, fuzzy, anti-Omicron holiday news.

Photo by Heather White on Pexels.com

Dogs are boosting owners’ mental health during pandemic, making them less likely to be depressed

by Study Finds

ST. LOUIS — Dogs are the light of many pet owners’ lives and now a new study finds they’re also lighting the way out of depression for many Americans. Researchers found that dogs are boosting their owners’ mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Study authors say pets have also increased amounts of social support by fueling friendships. The findings come from a review of more than 1,500 people in the U.S. — half of whom own dogs.

Dog owners reported having significantly more social support available to them compared to potential dog owners, and their depression scores were also lower, compared to potential dog owners,” the study’s corresponding author Dr. Francois Martin of Nestle Purina Research writes in the journal PLOS One.

“There were no differences in anxiety and happiness scores between the two groups. Dog owners had a significantly more positive attitude towards and commitment to pets. Taken together, our results suggest that dog ownership may have provided people with a stronger sense of social support, which in turn may have helped buffer some of the negative psychological impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers report.

Dog walking can be a stress reliever

Researchers defined potential dog owners as individuals interested in owning a dog in the future. Both groups answered an online survey during the study. Results show the dog owners also had a significantly more positive attitude towards and commitment to their pets. However, the team did not find any differences in anxiety and happiness scores between these groups.

“Dog walking during confinements may have alleviated stressors and motivated self-care,” Dr. Martin’s team writes.

Other recent studies suggest pet ownership improves mood, leads to less loneliness, greater social support, and less stress by increasing exercise. Owners also said their dogs helped them cope with emotional stressors (91%) and maintain physical activity (96%) during lockdown.

“However, recent studies have also reported that pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic may have negatively affected people because of limited availability to resources,” the researchers write, noting that these resources include veterinary care and pet supplies.

“The present study aimed to understand if pet dogs offered their owners social support and contributed to better wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they continue. “It was hypothesized that pet dog ownership would act as a buffer against negative impacts caused by the pandemic.”

Each group answered validated “psychometric” questionnaires on depression, anxiety, and happiness.

“Other types of pets are also likely to provide social support to humans. However, it is unclear if this support is equivalent and if the psychological mechanisms involved are the same as human-dog relationships,” Dr. Martin writes.

Furry friends help during difficult times

In the context of the pandemic, there is emerging evidence the relationship and attitude of people towards their pets may vary according to the species. Therefore, the team only included dog and potential dog owners in the investigation. All the participants were over 18 years of age.

Study authors excluded people owning other types of pets or those who failed to complete the entire survey. Those who owned more than one dog were asked to answer for the pet they felt closest to. The final sample comprised 1,535 volunteers, including 768 and 767 dog and potential dog owners, respectively.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected diverse populations and our results provide evidence that pet owners and potential pet owners have also been impacted,” Dr. Martin concludes.

“Our results show that pet dog owners were significantly less depressed than non-pet owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are attached and committed to their dogs and they reported more social support available to them. Our work adds to the corpus of scientific literature demonstrating that pet dogs may positively contribute to the wellbeing of owners during difficult times.”

Study authors are calling for more work to better understand the relationship between pet ownership and well-being. Future research, the team says, would focus on people with low and moderate social support and include owners with diverse dog attachment level.

Good News Monday: Can Dogs Detect COVID-19?

Here’s a bow-WOW from the world of science: Dogs’ acute sense of smell may mean they can sniff out people carrying the virus — say, before they get on an airplane.

[from StudyFinds.org]

Dogs trained to detect people infected with COVID-19 – by sniffing their armpits

MAISONS-ALFORT, France — While a vaccine for the coronavirus will help stop the pandemic’s spread, finding everyone who may be carrying the virus is still an issue. Luckily, man’s best friend is now on the case. Researchers in France are helping to specially train dogs to detect people infected with COVID-19 — by sniffing their armpits.

A new study that has seen pilot programs spring up around the world has discovered that dogs can sniff out coronavirus in the sweat of humans. Thanks to their famously acute sense of smell, dogs have been rooting out drugs, explosives, and even successfully pick up diseases like cancer for years.

COVID-sniffing dog
A team of French scientists have now shown man’s best friend can also help save lives during the pandemic by spotting the virus. (Image credit: National Veterinary School of Alfort)

The French scientists are now showing how our furry friends can also help save lives during the pandemic by spotting virus clues. An early experiment suggested canines could be between 75 and 100 percent effective at detecting the disease with their noses.

Dogs paw-trolling airports for COVID?

The technique has already been piloted in several countries including the UEA, Lebanon, Finland, Australia, and elsewhere. Travelers may already have seen the specially trained dogs at some airports, but researchers are still trying to prove without a doubt that dogs can pick up the scent before the method is fully adopted.

The team behind the study hope their findings will mean dogs could help with COVID aid in parts of the world without the infrastructure for expensive mass testing programs. The loveable animals could be used anywhere however, with the hope that invasive nasal swabs could be replaced by a simple sweat sample taken from under the armpit for a dog to sniff.

Mass testing alternative?

Professor Dominique Grandjean, from the National Veterinary School of Alfort in France, says the dogs could check a large number of people in a short period of time.

“The results are good and I’m happy, really happy,” Grandjean says in a statement, per SWNS. “It is a success technically and scientifically and it’s surprising because we didn’t know what we were going to have as results.”

COVID-sniffing dogs
During the study, which started in March, the researchers recruited six dogs previously trained to sniff out bombs, colon cancer, or were used in search and rescue missions and re-trained to detect COVID-19. (Image credit: National Veterinary School of Alfort)

“We have been validated by the World Health Organization and they have given us a bit of money which is good. “Probably the country which is the most advanced now is the UAE, where they have dogs in three international airports. They are deploying some mobile units to go to the villages and to the people that might be more exposed to the virus,” the professor explains.

“For us here the idea was, of course, the airports but I can imagine a small city having a couple of dogs and just saying to the population ‘you can be tested whenever you want.’ You just come and put a swab under your armpit and give that to the dog and he will tell you yes or no. The dogs would be able to do that very quickly on a large number of people.”

Ending the pandemic one sniff at a time

Grandjean adds that dogs could also be used where people are reluctant to have uncomfortable nasal swab tests. During the study, which started in March, the researchers recruited six dogs previously trained to sniff out bombs, colon cancer, or used in search-and-rescue missions and re-trained to detect COVID-19.

They then collected sweat samples from 177 people (95 with COVID-19 and 82 without) and then placed the samples inside cones for the dogs to sniff. In trials, the dogs successfully picked out the infected sweat when examining a line-up of mock and negative samples.

Although the published study is just a “proof of concept” and cannot be taken as absolute proof, Prof. Grandjean and his team have now carried out further studies to validate their results and have more planned in 2021. They have also issued a “practical guide” to other academics to help others in their research and are building up a set of “international training standards” for dogs.

“We have been working with lots of countries. I think we have 20 countries working for us. It’s amazing, really amazing,” Prof. Grandjean concludes.

The study was published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

SWNS writer William Janes contributed to this report.