By Madeline Holcombe
When a family arrived at Koch Funeral Home in State College, Pennsylvania, to identify a loved one before cremation, Monroe took note — staying back to maintain the people’s privacy but ready to offer comfort if asked.
Monroe isn’t a grief counselor or therapist. She’s an Australian Shepherd and resident therapy dog at the funeral home.
“She has this affinity toward people who might be experiencing grief. She is drawn to them.”
Sure enough, when members of the family came out, they saw Monroe and asked to say hello. Petting her opened them up to telling others about their loss.
Petting a dog boosts activity in the frontal cortex of the brain, where thinking and planning occurs.
Some research has suggested that dogs, whether trained therapy and service animals or just friends in our homes, have a positive impact on human lives, said Colleen Dell, the research chair in One Health and Wellness and professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
Just 10 minutes spent with a dog helped reduce patients’ pain, according to a March study for which Dell served as lead author.
People often don’t talk about what they’re going through when grieving, Hook said. The process of mourning is as unique to a person as a fingerprint, and many don’t know how to be there for others who are going through it, she added.
For many people, dogs can offer intuitive, unconditional and loving support in times of grief, Dell said.
“We don’t give them the credit that’s due,” Dell said of the animals that provide needed support. “We don’t understand them to the extent that we should. When you start to pull it apart, there’s just so much going on there.”
• Canine cancers give clues about human health risks.
UQ researchers say dogs are a better proxy for human health than many people realize.
University of Queensland researchers are looking to dog owners for data on protecting pet and human health from environmental hazards.
Veterinary pathologist Professor Chiara Palmieri from UQ’s School of Veterinary Science is examining risk factors for canine health in Australia with a focus on chemical exposure, indoor air quality and outdoor air pollution.
“Pets can be the proverbial ‘canary in the coalmine’ when it comes to human health risks,” Professor Palmieri said.
“We love our dogs, but sadly they’re often the first to suffer from environmental health hazards in our households.
“A classic example is a dog developing mesothelioma after their owner’s house renovations reveal asbestos, or from over-application of certain flea repellents which can contain asbestos-like fibers.
“Chemicals like those found in tobacco smoke or garden products also put dogs at risk of common cancers like lymphoma or cancer of the bladder.”
Professor Palmieri said gathering data on canine exposure to environmental hazards is crucial to understanding the origin of spontaneous cancers.
“We’re working on the principle that if it’s toxic to our pets, it will be toxic to humans as well,” she said.
Professor Palmieri said dogs are a better proxy for human health than many people realise.
“Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, or even more,” she said.
“We estimate that a quarter of dogs will develop cancer at some point, increasing to almost 50 per cent of dogs over the age of 10.”
Professor Palmieri said canine cancer rates are rising, and for some of the same reasons as humans.
“Things like longer lifespans, more focus on health indicators, increased use of diagnostic tests and the isolation of specific exposure risks,” she said.
“If we can better understand the chronic exposures that are risky to dogs, we can do a better job of preventing them and decrease the incidence of certain tumours.”
Professor Palmieri’s research team has devised a brief survey for dog owners.
“We’re compiling basic information about a dog’s age, sex, breed, weight and vaccination status, grooming routine and the flea/tick control products used,” she said.
“But we’re also noting the location of the house, whether anyone in the house smokes and if the dog is exposed to herbicides and pesticides.
“It’s important to gather this data so we can better protect our canine companions while protecting ourselves at the same time.”
• Jeanette Pavinifeb
Over my 20-plus years of consumer reporting, one of the most common questions has been if pet insurance is worth the cost.
Unforeseen veterinary bills can come as quite a financial blow, so having pet insurance can well be worth it. But it wasn’t until I adopted my own dog that I realized the benefits and peace of mind that comes along with pet insurance. So, now the question becomes what type of pet insurance is best.
If you are on a budget, you can look for a policy that would take care of your pet in the event of something catastrophic. Each company will have their own list of what qualifies as catastrophic. Find out the deductibles and find out if all related care is covered.
For a general pet insurance policy there are certain questions you should get the answers to before signing up. There are policies in which once you pay the deductible for a particular condition, that deductible lasts for the entire time your pet is being treated for the condition. One advantage is if the condition is going to be with your pet for the rest of its life, you won’t have to pay a new deductible every year. This type of policy worked out very well for me. My dog developed a heart condition that was luckily caught very early. I paid the initial deductible, which was basically the cost of the echocardiogram, so I no longer will have to pay a deductible for this condition. Additionally, the medication that he will be on for the rest of his life, future echocardiograms and anything else related to this heart condition will be covered at 90%. That can add up to a significant savings. Compare the deductible plan for each policy you are considering. Some plans may offer annual deductibles which could work better for your needs.
One of the most important things to check before signing on the dotted line is the pre-existing condition clause. I have heard from a lot of people over the years that when it came to getting treatment for their pets, they were denied coverage because the treatment was for a pre-existing condition. Another question to ask is how the insurance company deals with diseases or conditions that are inherent to a particular breed. I did a story once on a woman who had a Bernese mountain dog. Her dog needed to have a surgery, but the insurance company denied the claim because certain genetic conditions were not covered. The bottom line is to find out if there are any exclusions for your pet.
Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection.