Hospital Study: Risk of Superbug Spread Via Therapy Dogs

TIME Health

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(NEW YORK) — Therapy dogs can bring more than joy and comfort to hospitalized kids. They can also bring stubborn germs.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore were suspicious that the dogs might pose an infection risk to patients with weakened immune systems. So they conducted some tests when Pippi, Poppy, Badger and Winnie visited 45 children getting cancer treatment.

They discovered that kids who spent more time with the dogs had a 6 times greater chance of coming away with superbug bacteria than kids who spent less time with the animals. But the study also found that washing the dogs before visits and using special wipes while they’re in the hospital took away the risk of spreading that bacteria.

The results of the unpublished study were released Friday at a scientific meeting in San Francisco.

One U.S. health official said the findings add to the growing understanding that while interactions with pets and therapy animals can be beneficial, they can also carry risk.

“Whether covered in fur, feathers or scales, animals have the potential to carry germs that make people sick,” said Casey Barton Behravesh of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pet therapy can help people recover from a range of health problems. Past studies have shown dogs or other animals can ease anxiety and sadness, lower blood pressure and even reduce the amount of medications some patients need.

But there have been episodes of the superbug MRSA riding around on healthy-looking therapy dogs.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, often live on the skin without causing symptoms. But they can become more dangerous if they enter the bloodstream, destroying heart valves or causing other damage. Health officials have tied MRSA to as many as 11,000 U.S. deaths a year.

The bacteria can spread in daycares, locker rooms and military barracks, but public health efforts have focused on hospitals and nursing homes.

The Baltimore study looked at 45 children who interacted with the four dogs — petting, hugging, feeding or playing with them — over 13 visits in 2016 and 2017.

Among kids who had no MRSA, the researchers found the superbug on about 10 percent of the samples taken from those kids after the dog visits. They also found MRSA on nearly 40 percent of the samples from the dogs. The researchers also determined that the more time someone spent with the animals, the greater the chance of ending up with the bacteria.

The researchers think the dogs were generally clean of MRSA when they first came to the hospital, but picked it up from patients or others while they were there, said one of the authors, Meghan Davis.

“Our hypothesis is it’s really person-to-person transmission, but it happened through contact with the fur,” said Davis, a Johns Hopkins public health researcher and veterinarian.

Under hospital protocols, therapy dogs must be bathed within a day of a visit and are checked for wounds or other health problems. Children who see them are supposed to use hand sanitizer “but that wasn’t strictly enforced,” said Kathryn Dalton, another one of the researchers.

Later in the study, the researchers asked the dogs’ owners to bathe the animals with a special shampoo before the visits. They also had the dogs patted down every five to 10 minutes with disinfecting wipes at the hospital.

Those steps dramatically decreased the bacteria level on the dogs, Dalton said.

She hopes further study will show that such cleanings can reduce any risk of superbug infection.

“I really had the opportunity to see how important these dogs were to the patients,” Dalton said. After the sessions with the dogs, the kids “would say how much this made their day.”

Olympic Skier Shuts Down Dog Farm In South Korea And Will Bring Puppies Home

Olympian Gus Kenworth managed to convince a South Korean dog farmer to shut down his farm, rescuing the farm’s dogs from a grisly fate. 

Mr Kenworth, a freestyle skier who’s competing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, has used the games to spotlight the inhumane treatment of dogs in South Korea.

Gus worked with the Humane Society International, to convince the farmer to shut down his farm, freeing 90 dogs and taking them to the US and Canada.

New Olympics. Same me.

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Well, almost all the dogs. Gus kept one for himself, a puppy he named Beemo.

In an Instagram post he wrote:

It’s not my place to impose western ideals on the people here. The way these animals are being treated, however, is completely inhumane and culture should never be a scapegoat for cruelty.

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This morning Matt and I had a heart-wrenching visit to one of the 17,000 dog farms here in South Korea. Across the country there are 2.5 million dogs being raised for food in some of the most disturbing conditions imaginable. Yes, there is an argument to be made that eating dogs is a part of Korean culture. And, while don't personally agree with it, I do agree that it's not my place to impose western ideals on the people here. The way these animals are being treated, however, is completely inhumane and culture should never be a scapegoat for cruelty. I was told that the dogs on this particular farm were kept in "good conditions" by comparison to other farms. The dogs here are malnourished and physically abused, crammed into tiny wire-floored pens, and exposed to the freezing winter elements and scorching summer conditions. When it comes time to put one down it is done so in front of the other dogs by means of electrocution sometimes taking up to 20 agonizing minutes. Despite the beliefs of some, these dogs are no different from the ones we call pets back home. Some of them were even pets at one time and were stolen or found and sold into the dog meat trade. Luckily, this particular farm (thanks to the hard work of the Humane Society International and the cooperation of a farmer who's seen the error of his ways) is being permanently shut down and all 90 of the dogs here will be brought to the US and Canada where they'll find their fur-ever homes. I adopted the sweet baby in the first pic (we named her Beemo) and she'll be coming to the US to live with me as soon as she's through with her vaccinations in a short couple of weeks. I cannot wait to give her the best life possible! There are still millions of dogs here in need of help though (like the Great Pyrenees in the 2nd pic who was truly the sweetest dog ever). I'm hoping to use this visit as an opportunity to raise awareness to the inhumanity of the dog meat trade and the plight of dogs everywhere, including back home in the US where millions of dogs are in need of loving homes! Go to @hsiglobal's page to see how you can help. #dogsarefriendsnotfood #adoptdontshop ❤️🐶

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Kenworthy has something of a reputation for rescuing dogs while competing at the Olympics. In 2014, while competing at the Sochi games in Russia he saved five strays who were roaming the city.

Eating dog meat, known locally as Gaegogi, has a long tradition in Korea where it’s used in recipes designed to restore virility. The practice, however, remains controversial due to sanitary and animal rights concerns.

While South Korea adopted its first Animal Protection Law in May, 1991, it never prohibited the slaughter of dogs for their meat, simply banning the killing of animals in brutal ways.

Olympic Skier Shuts Down Dog Farm In South Korea And Will Bring Puppies Home 1024px Gaegogi 01Gaegogi (dog meat) stew by Rhett Sutphin

Despite this, unlike beef, pork or chicken, dog meat is excluded from the list of livestock under the Livestock Processing Act of 1962.

This means that there are no regulations when it comes to slaughtering dogs for meat and this leads to them being killed in numerous cruel ways, including electrocution, strangulation and some are even allegedly beaten to death.

Teamed up with @jossiwells today and won the #DewTour team challenge for our sponsor Atomic! Click the link in my bio to watch our winning runs! 🙏🏼 📷:@bishopjosh

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Proponents of Gaegogi believe that the meat should be regulated like any other to ensure that the meat is prepared in humane and sanitary ways.

Others, however, believe the practice should be banned entirely.

Thankfully the practice seems to be dying out in South Korea. A 2007 survey by the Korean Ministry of Agriculture revealed that 59 percent of Koreans under 30 would not eat dog.

Patient Rule-Abiding Dog Outside Café Is Really Winning People Over

assured Twitter that his owner was just outside the frame of the photo, and the dog only actually had to endure the punishment of staying outside the café solo for “maybe a minute or two.”

In his moment of existential angst, however, we can all relate to this dog’s clear yearning to enter the kitchen area. After all — he’s just a dog, sitting outside of a café, asking to be let in.

These 30+ Photos Of Ingo The Dog And His Owl Friends Is The Only Thing You Need To See Today

Some friendships might seem unlikely, but in reality, move mountains and melt hearts. A few years ago we wrote about a beautiful, yet uncommon, the friendship between a shepherd dog Ingo and an owl Poldi and today we present even more feathered friends of the pup.

Ingo and friends are the members of Tanja Brandt’s family who is an incredible animal photographer. These furry and feathered beauties are perfect models to portray beautiful, sweet and unexpected moments between two extremely different species.

“I’ve always loved animals, since I was a baby, unlike the rest of my family”- said Tanja to Bored Panda in 2015. “When I was little, I found every sort of pet and then hid it from my parents. I love the beauty, power, loyalty, courage, and friendship of animals. Many people could learn from them.”

Below you can find some of the most amazing pictures of unlikely friends ever. Which one is your favorite?

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