Dogs Are the Most Admired Animal, Fish Are the Least

Humans are biased about pretty much everything, including, it turns out, animals.

We were struck by a recent report that included a chart on animal stereotypes, based on a 2015 study from Princeton’s Susan T. Fiske and Verónica Sevillano of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

The study asked 135 Americans to rate animals for warmth and competence, two factors that have been shown to play a major role in how we view almost everything. In short, we feel admiration for things rated warm and competent; contempt for the cold and incompetent; pity for the warm and incompetent; and envy for the cold and competent.

It turns out humans admire the hell out of dogs, with cats, horses, and monkeys as runners-up. These animals were grouped in the study as “companion” animals.

Meanwhile, lions, tigers, and bears — the “predators” — are seen as fairly competent but cold. The likes of rabbits, hamsters, and ducks — “prey” — are seen as warm but incompetent. Fish, lizards, snakes — called, perhaps unfairly, “pests” — are seen as cold and incompetent.

Animal stereotyping, as with most stereotyping, can be harmful if unchecked. As Fiske and Sevillano note: “[T]he negative image of hyenas in the United States makes them a perfect target for aggressive human practices. Recently, the image of wolves in the Unites States has suffered the same fate.”

It’s National Pet Day! Here Are Some Studies That Prove Pets Are Good For Your Health

If you have pets you already know the joy and love they bring to your life. Now science is confirming just how good they really are for you — both mentally and physically.

How do they help? One theory is that pets boost our oxytocin levels. Also known as the “bonding hormone” or “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin enhances social skills, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, boosts immune function and raises tolerance for pain. It also lowers stress, anger and depression.

No surprise then that keeping regular company with a dog or cat (or another beloved beast) appears to offer all these same benefits and more. Read on to discover the many impressive ways a pet can make you healthier, happier and more resilient.

1. Pets alleviate allergies and boost immune function

One of your immune system’s jobs is to identify potentially harmful substances and unleash antibodies to ward off the threat. But sometimes it overreacts and misidentifies harmless stuff as dangerous, causing an allergic reaction. Think red eyes, itchy skin, runny nose and wheezing. You’d think that having pets might trigger allergies by kicking up sneeze-and-wheeze-inducing dander and fur. But it turns out that living with a dog or cat during the first year of life not only cuts your chances of having pet allergies in childhood and later on but also revs up your immune system and lowers your risk of eczema and asthma. In fact, just a brief pet encounter can invigorate your disease-defense system. In one study, petting a dog for only 18 minutes raised immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels in college students’ saliva, a sign of robust immune function.

2. Pets up your fitness quotient

This one applies more to dog owners. If you like walking with your favorite canine, chances are you’re fitter and trimmer than your non-dog-walking counterparts and come closer to meeting recommended physical activity levels. One study of more than 2,000 adults found that regular dog walkers got more exercise and were less likely to be obese than those who didn’t walk a dog. In another study, older dog walkers (ages 71-82) walked faster and longer than non-pooch-walkers, plus they were more mobile at home.

3. Pets dial down stress

When stress comes your way, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, releasing hormones like cortisol to crank out more energy-boosting blood sugar and epinephrine to get your heart and blood pumping. All well and good for our ancestors who needed quick bursts of speed to dodge predatory saber-toothed tigers and stampeding mastodons. But when we live in a constant state of fight-or-flight from ongoing stress at work and the frenetic pace of modern life, these physical changes take their toll on our bodies, including raising our risk of heart disease and other dangerous conditions. Contact with pets seem to counteract this stress response by lowering stress hormones and heart rate. They also lower anxiety and fear levels (psychological responses to stress) and elevate feelings of calmness.

4. Pets boost heart health

Pets shower us with love so it’s not surprising they have a big impact on our love organ: the heart. Turns out time spent with a cherished critter is linked to better cardiovascular health, possibly due to the stress-busting effect mentioned above. Studies show that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Dogs also benefit patients who already have cardiovascular disease. They’re not only four time more likely to be alive after a year if they own a dog, but they’re also more likely to survive a heart attack. And don’t worry, cat owners — feline affection confers a similar effect. One 10-year study found that current and former cat owners were 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack and 30 percent less likely to die of other cardiovascular diseases.

5. Make you a social — and date — magnet

Four-legged companions (particularly the canine variety that pull us out of the house for daily walks) help us make more friends and appear more approachable, trustworthy and date-worthy. In one study, people in wheelchairs who had a dog received more smiles and had more conversations with passersby than those without a dog. In another study, college students who were asked to watch videos of two psychotherapists (depicted once with a dog and once without) said they felt more positively toward them when they had a dog and more likely to disclose personal information. And good news for guys: research shows that women are more willing to give out their number to men with a canine buddy.

6. Provides a social salve for Alzheimer’s patients

Just as non-human pals strengthen our social skills and connection, cats and dogs also offer furry, friendly comfort and social bonding to people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of brain-destroying dementia. Several canine caregiver programs now exist to assist at-home dementia patients with day-to-day tasks, such as fetching medication, reminding them to eat and guiding them home if they’ve wandered off course. Many assisted-living facilities also keep resident pets or offer therapy animal visits to support and stimulate patients. Studies show creature companions can reduce behavioral issues among dementia patients by boosting their moods and raising their nutritional intake.

7. Enhances social skills in kids with autism

One in nearly 70 American kids has autism (also known as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD), a developmental disability that makes it tough to communicate and interact socially. Not surprisingly, animals can also help these kids connect better to others. One study found that youngsters with ASD talked and laughed more, whined and cried less and were more social with peers when guinea pigs were present. A multitude of ASD animal-assisted therapy programs have sprung up in recent years, featuring everything from dogs and dolphins to alpacas, horses and even chickens.

8. Dampens depression and boosts mood

Pets keep loneliness and isolation at bay and make us smile. In other words, their creature camaraderie and ability to keep us engaged in daily life (via endearing demands for food, attention and walks) are good recipes for warding off the blues. Research is ongoing, but animal-assisted therapy is proving particularly potent in deterring depression and other mood disorders. Studies show that everyone from older men in a veterans hospital who were exposed to an aviary filled with songbirds to depressed college students who spent time with dogs reported feeling more positive.

9. Defeats PTSD

People haunted by trauma like combat, assault and natural disasters are particularly vulnerable to a mental health condition called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sure enough, studies show that the unconditional love — and oxytocin boost — of a pet can help remedy the flashbacks, emotional numbness and angry outbursts linked to PTSD. Even better, there are now several programs that pair specially trained service dogs and cats with veterans suffering from PTSD.

10. Fights cancer

Animal-assisted therapy helps cancer patients heal emotionally and physically. Preliminary findings of a clinical trial by the American Humane Association shows that therapy dogs not only erase loneliness, depression and stress in kids fighting cancer, but canines can also motivate them to eat and follow treatment recommendations better — in other words participate more actively in their own healing. Likewise, new research reveals a similar lift in emotional well-being for adults undergoing the physical rigors of cancer treatment. Even more astounding, dogs (with their stellar smelling skills) are now being trained to literally sniff out cancer.

Retired Circus Animals Leave The Big Top Behind For New Roles As Therapy Animals

When the Big Apple Circus closed midyear in 2016, it wasn’t just animal trainer Jenny Vidbel who found herself unemployed. The dogs and horses she had rescued over the years were now jobless too. Vidbel owned the well-trained menagerie so they retired with her to her 70-acre farm in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.

But “retired” is a relative term, especially when it comes to a third-generation circus performer and animals who certainly appear to enjoy an appreciative audience. Inspired by Big Apple’s programs for children with special needs, Vidbel created a foundation that will offer animal-based therapy for people, while benefiting the horses, dogs and the occasional pig that make up its starring cast.

“It’s about mentally healing one another. I know what animals have done for me and my life and what joy and peace they’ve given to me,” Vidbel states. “I saw it later in life when my grandparents couldn’t be alone anymore and they traveled with me in the circus. I could see how they benefited from the animals and the animals benefited from them being around. It was perfect on both ends and a beautiful relationship.”

‘Animals need a job’

Vidbel knows her animals well and is convinced that they wouldn’t be content spending their retirement grazing in a pasture with nothing to do.

“Animals need a job; they need to work,” she says. “Animals need to engage and particularly circus animals because they’re so used to human attention. Every time I go to practice with one horse, I have three horses looking at me, ‘When is it my turn?'”

The new nonprofit is the Al and Joyce Vidbel Foundation, named for Vidbel’s grandparents. For years, people visited their farm — where the animals are today — to learn how to work with animals.

“The foundation is named after my grandparents because they were such an inspiration to me and they taught me how to respect animals,” Vidbel says. “They’re why I fell in love with them and was around them so much as a little girl. This farm was an inspiration to so many people. We still get calls from people saying, ‘This farm changed my life.'”

Fulfilling tradition and destiny

Vidbel and her animal performers continue to do small shows here and there while the foundation raises money to get the programs up and running, which will include building an amphitheater for performances. Vidbel plans to open the program to seniors, special needs children and those who are economically disadvantaged. They may be able to take part in hands-on animal care, watch training sessions and experience the animals performing in intimate settings.

Right now, there are 30 horses, seven dogs and four pigs on the farm, but Vidbel says she continues to adopt horses in need of rescuing. She has the space, not to mention the abilities to train hard-to-rehabilitate animals that may not get a second look at a feed lot auction.

“I always say I couldn’t believe I got paid to do what I did. I got to tour the world, be with amazing people and be with my animals,” Vidbel says. “Now, the amount of support we’ve had (for the foundation) has been amazing and reassures me we’re on the right track … I feel like I’m carrying on a tradition and a destiny.”

Two New Mosquito Species Land in Florida

One month after being declared Zika-free by the Center for Disease Control, the state of Florida has been recognized as the home of two new mosquito species.

Two tropical disease-carrying mosquitoes have been found in the Florida Everglades; this is the first time they have ever been on the United States mainland. The new arrivals are from the Caribbean and Latin America. This brings the total up to nine new mosquito species found in Florida over the past decade.

An entomologist from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is responsible for the latest discovery.

“These two species are known to transmit pathogens that affect human and animal health,” said Nathan Burkett-Cadena, assistant professor of entomology at UF.

Burkett-Cadena predicts that the mosquitoes will likely spread throughout Florida and to neighboring states because of their widespread larval habitat. The research to support these findings is being published in the Journal of Medical Entomology and the Journal Acta Tropica.

After the December 2016 “Zika-free” declaration, public health officials made it clear that even though virus is gone, it could make a reappearance at a later date. At this time, officials say it’s too early to be alarmed by the new discoveries, despite the possibility of new mosquito-borne viruses.

Here Comes Custom Meal Delivery … For Your Dog

Pets are family. When you choose a food for them, chances are you look at ingredients and nutrition just like you would for the humans in your household. But a number of companies are taking things one step further. You can order personalized meals — often with fresh ingredients and no additives — and have them delivered right to your home, customized for your pet’s particular needs.

Brett Podolsky started The Farmer’s Dog as a solution to his Rottweiler Jada’s health issues.

“She had a lot of health problems, mostly surrounding a sensitive stomach … and was having loose stools every day,” Podolsky says. “It was heartbreaking to me to see that my dog was uncomfortable like that.”

Vets recommended foods to try and nothing helped, until one suggested that Podolsky try home-cooking for her for a few days.

“The solution I was so desperate to find was right in front of me,” he says. “And I found that a lot of people were looking for better food with better ingredients.”

Podolsky and his business partner, Jonathan Regev, offered their food to a few pet-owning friends, who helped spread the word. By the time their business launched in July, they had a waiting list with a few thousand names on it.

“The common denominator really is people that understand the power that food has on health. It pretty much is as simple as that,” Podolsky says. “All our customers love their dogs and treat them as part of the family. But really they all understand that food has a major effect on health.”

Although their company is based in Brooklyn with nary a pasture in sight, Podolsky and Regev named their company The Farmer’s Dog because they believe their mix of fresh ingredients is what a pastoral canine would eat.

“When you think of a farmer’s dog, you think of the healthiest, happiest dog. A happy dog eats fresh, real food and has a big yard to run around in,” Podolsky says. “The farmer’s dog embodies what we want all of our dogs to be.”

The Farmer’s Dog uses an algorithm developed by veterinary nutritionists and tech experts to determine the right formula for your pet. You answer a few questions about your dog’s age, breed, activity level and a few other features, and you get a personalized food recommendation. The food is then shipped directly to your dog’s doorstep.

Of course, this kind of personalized pet nutrition isn’t inexpensive, and can easily run three or four times the cost of even premium packaged foods.

“I can tell you from my own personal experience that I haven’t had to take my dog to the vet in 2 1/2 years except for her shots and I used to take her every month,” says Podolsky. “We tell people to give it a try and see the benefits and then reassess to see if you think it’s worth it.”

Here’s a look at four companies that offer customized, home-delivered foods for your dog. (Because prices range significantly depending on your dog’s size and the proteins in the food you choose, the examples below are based on the information entered for my dog — a 30-pound, border collie mix — so you can get an idea of cost.)

The Farmer’s Dog

After answering questions about your dog’s age, weight, breed — and how picky he is and how often you feed him treats — you’ll get a recommendation for meals that come in frozen, proportioned packages. Everything is made to order for your pet and shipped out shortly after it’s made.

Customer service reps will check in with you to monitor your dog’s progress so serving sizes can be adjusted accordingly if your dog is gaining or losing weight. And if your dog doesn’t like any of the food, the company will replace it and send a return label so the food can be donated to a shelter. There are also DIY recipes on the website if you want to try making your own food.

Although small dogs start at $3/day, Brodie’s recommendations were either the turkey, beef or pork formulas, which ranged from $36 to $39 a week. There’s also a free two-week trial.

Ollie

It’s the same plan at Ollie, where you enter info about your dog’s age, breed, activity level and any allergies. Then a formula spits out a recommendation for the right meal for your pet: hearty beef or chicken goodness. The beef comes from corn-fed, humanely treated cattle on family-run farms and the chickens are vegetable-fed with no hormones. There are no byproducts, fillers, artificial flavorings or preservatives.

The food arrives cold or frozen and comes in insulated, recyclable, sealed trays. It comes with a custom scoop so you can measure the exact amount recommended for your dog. All you have to do is scoop, serve and remember to wash your dog’s bowl after every meal. “You wouldn’t use the same salad bowl day after day without washing it would you?! Same goes for your pup when you’re serving them fresh food,” the Ollie website points out.

My dog could have his choice between hearty beef for $75.58/two weeks or chicken goodness for $84.66/two weeks.

Just Food for Dogs

Several years ago, founder Shawn Buckley became curious about what was in the commercial foods he was feeding his dogs. When he discovered all sort of byproducts, preservatives and chemicals, as well as cooking processes that reduced the nutritional value of healthy ingredients, he assembled a team of business partners, nutritionists, a pet chef and plenty of canine taste testers. Buckley opened a Just for Dogs kitchen and store in Newport Beach, California, where pet owners could come in and buy freshly made dog meals.

All ingredients are food-grade, certified for human consumption, with no preservatives. Every recipe is made in small batches for quality control in their kitchen and is immediately vacuum sealed and frozen to preserve nutritional value.

These days, Just Food for Dogs sells food out of four locations in California, delivers locally and ships nationwide. The company sells six regular recipes including fish and sweet potato, venison and squash, and beef and russet potato, and eight special recipes for pets with health issues, including skin, kidney and liver concerns. Company reps will also work with you and your vet on custom formulations for allergies, cancer and other health problems.

After filling out a simple questionnaire, you get several recommendations for diets and feeding amounts. You can also live chat with a nutrition consultant or send an email if your dog has health issues, dietary needs or you need help choosing a formula.

Brodie could choose any of the six regular recipes. One difficult thing to figure out in our case, however, is that the foods are not packaged in the same recommended feeding amounts (for example, it said to feed 16 ounces a day of the turkey mix, but it only comes in 7, 18 and 72 ounce packages). Prices depend on the protein, but in my dog’s case, it would be about $175 and up per month.

Just Right by Purina

Unlike the other options mentioned, Purina’s Just Right personalized offering is dry dog food. Unlike the other foods mentioned, it’s obviously a processed food, which means the price is considerably cheaper and (bonus!) you get your dog’s photo on each bag.

To find out which blend is right for your dog, you’ll answer similar questions about your dog’s age, breed, weight and activity level. You’ll also be asked about how quickly he eats his food, the quality of his coat and his stool, and whether you want to avoid grains or any other ingredients. Red meat, poultry and fish are the three main proteins. There are also grain-free formulas available.

In Brodie’s case, they suggested salmon with ground rice and oatmeal. It would cost $37.99 for 12 pounds (a month’s supply).

New FDA-Approved Drug Can Calm Anxious Dogs During Fourth Of July Fireworks

Dogs who love to stay outdoors likely wouldn’t fare well this firework-filled holiday weekend. Loud noises from fireworks, thunder and the elements can indeed make dogs anxious, extremely afraid and reeling from what’s called noise aversion.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, just recently approved the first and only drug made to help furry friends with this problem.

A low-dose version of canine sedatives, Sileo oromucosal gel hit the U.S. market last month after being approved in late 2015 for noise aversion treatment in dogs. This condition causes symptoms that range from panting and trembling to extreme panic to running away and injuring themselves as a result.

“It has rapid speed of onset, is easy to administer at home and works ‘in the moment,’ without any other treatments or training,” said Dr. Shelley L. Stanford, group director at Zoetis, the firm marketing the oromucosal gel product in the country.

Sileo is administered to dogs through placing the gel between the cheek and gum for oral transmucosal absorption. It usually takes effect within a half to a full hour after application – said to offer a calming effect without sedating.

Its manufacturer, Finnish company Orion, tested the medication on 144 dogs on New Year’s Eve and revealed that 75 percent of canines taking Sileo had less anxiety than expected during fireworks, compared to 33 percent of those on placebo. The results were based on dog owners who were asked to document their pets’ reactions.

“It’s not a tranquilizer, per say. It works on the nervous system to inhibit the release of adrenaline or nor-epinephrine,” explained veterinarian Dr. Gary Yarnell in a CBS News report, however cautioning that dogs suffering severe breathing, heart, kidney or liver issues should not be given the drug.

The first remedy, he added, is to comfort one’s pet first before turning to drugs. Those with serious noise aversion condition, for instance, should be accompanied at all times and never left at home alone.

Zoetis estimated that around one-third of dogs are affected by noise aversion, which could be incited by noise events such as July Fourth festivities. Fireworks in fact emerge as one of the leading triggers, with July Fifth as the busiest day for shelter intakes in the country.

Sileo is only one in a sea of pet remedies. Dog vest ThunderShirt promises to address anxiety through applying mild pressure. The previous week, a wearable device called the Calmz Anxiety Relief System was launched to provide “calming frequencies” for dogs to hear and feel.

Factors other than fireworks and other forms of noise can cause stress and anxiety in dogs. Yes, these include even mere hugging – a sign that the gesture meant to express affection could be differently interpreted by these creatures.

How To Protect Your Dog’s Paws From The Hot Florida Summer Pavement

Imagine walking down the sidewalk barefoot on a blistering hot day. You’d be in agony after a few seconds.

That’s how your dog likely feels when you head out for a stroll in the heat of the day. Pet owners often overlook how painful hot pavement can be for their four-legged companions. Here are some tips for protecting those paws when it’s hot outside:

Adjust your walk schedule

Avoid the middle of the day and take your walks in the early morning or evening hours suggests the Humane Society of the United States. That’s when the pavement isn’t so hot.

Get off the concrete

Have your dog walk in the grass or dirt instead of the sidewalk or other hot surfaces. Those surfaces are much cooler, and there’s a much lower chance the dog’s pads will get burned.

Try it for yourself

Before you bring your dog outside, test to see how hot the concrete or blacktop is. Press the back of your hand against the concrete for seven to 10 seconds to see if it will be comfortable for your dog to walk on. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws, says the Humane Society of Charlotte.

Cover up

Consider protective booties or paw wax, which creates a barrier against the elements. They will create a protective layer between your dog’s feet and hot surfaces.

Build up calluses

Walk your dog on concrete during the cooler part of the day to help build up calluses on the pads of her feet, suggests the Oregon Humane Society.

Be careful at the beach, too

Sand can get as hot as pavement. Use the hand test in this setting as well before taking your pet out to the beach. Your dog’s paw pads may be more sensitive after being in the water, so pay special attention to her feet if she’s just been swimming or splashing around.

What to look for

If you’ve been out with your dog on a hot day, it’s a good idea to check their feet for any problems. Here are signs of possible burned paw pads:

  • limping or refusing to keep walking
  • licking or chewing at feet
  • pads that are darker in color than normal
  • blisters or redness on the feet
  • missing part of paw pad

If you think your dog might have burned her paw pads, here’s what to do:

  • Carry your dog to a grassy, cool area.
  • Immediately rinse with cool water.
  • Apply a gentle antibacterial cream or liquid.
  • Keep your pet from licking her paws.
  • If burns are minor, apply an antibacterial ointment and loosely bandage.
  • For serious burns, see your vet to prevent infection.

Can the Zika Virus Affect Pets?

The once-obscure Zika virus is now making daily headlines as it surfaces in more countries and health officials rush to make recommendations to keep it from spreading.

We know the virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes. Only about one in five people infected with Zika virus will get sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even then the symptoms are usually mild. However, the disease has been linked to serious birth defects and other major health problems. We know it is of most concern to pregnant women and there is at least one case of it being spread by sexual contact.

But we don’t know if our pets are at risk.

“I think unless you’re talking about pet monkeys, which should be extremely rare cases, as far as dogs and cats, I don’t know of any information or scientific studies on that topic,” says Chris Barker, a researcher in the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at the University of California, Davis. Barker studies the epidemiology of mosquito-transmitted diseases.

Of two common mosquito species that spread Zika — Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus — the former prefers biting humans and the latter has a broader palate. CDC researcher Roberto Barrera found that up to 20 percent of bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito in several rural communities in Puerto Rico were on dogs.

“Certainly there’s the potential for a pet to become infected,” says Barker. “What we don’t know is what that means for the health of the animal.”

If a dog or cat were to become infected, we also don’t know if they could spread the virus to humans.

“What would ultimately matter in terms of whether a pet would play a role in transmission is how much virus would be in the animals’ blood,” Barker says.

Although there have been no cases of Zika being transmitted via mosquito in the United States, the mosquitoes that are capable of transmitting the virus do live in the U.S. So one of the best ways to protect people (and pets) from possible infection is to practice good mosquito control on your property.

“Encourage people to limit mosquito production from their own backyards, and they should encourage their neighbors to do the same. That’s one of the best measures we can take,” says Barker. “Where we do have the mosquitoes, we want to do everything we can to minimize the mosquitoes and limit the transmission risk.”

Children With Pets Have Less Anxiety

Children who grow up with pets reap a variety of benefits. Studies show they have reduced rates of allergies and asthma, and they’re more compassionate and emotionally intelligent. And recently, researchers discovered yet another benefit to having pets in the home: They may reduce childhood anxiety.

During an 18-month study in upstate New York, researchers from the Basset Medical Center, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Dartmouth Medical School analyzed 643 children to determine whether dog ownership affected certain aspects of kids’ health. Participating parents answered a series of questions about their children’s mental health, physical activity, body mass index, screen time and pet ownership, and researchers analyzed the data.

They found that while BMI, physical activity and screen time didn’t differ among children with or without dogs, those with dogs scored lower on clinical measures of anxiety. Twenty-one percent of kids without dogs met the clinical threshold to be screened for anxiety and other disorders compared with 12 percent of children with pet dogs.

When asked what kind of anxiety their children displayed, parents detailed several types that researchers say dogs can help alleviate.

“Significant differences between groups were found for the separation anxiety component (‘My child is afraid to be alone in the house’) and social anxiety component (‘My child is shy’) favoring pet ownership,” the study authors wrote in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

PHOTO FUN: 16 unlikely animal friendships

What is it about dogs that helps reduce childhood anxiety?

According to Dr. Anna Gadomski, one of the study authors, a pet dog can serve as an icebreaker and stimulate conversation, which helps relieve anxiety. Pets also provide comfort and companionship, which can be especially beneficial for children.

“From a mental health standpoint, children aged 7 to 8 often ranked pets higher than humans as providers of comfort and self-esteem and as confidants,” the authors wrote. “Animal-assisted therapy with dogs affects children’s mental health and developmental disorders by reducing anxiety and arousal or enhancing attachment. Because dogs follow human communicative cues, they may be particularly effective agents for children’s emotional development.”

But are dogs the only pets that can provide such benefits?

Gadomski says not necessarily, noting that her team looked at dogs simply because there’s already so much research on man’s best friend.

“It doesn’t mean that cats can’t do the same thing,” she told NBC News.

So if you’re a parent, here’s the bottom line: Your kid’s argument to get a puppy just got a whole lot stronger.

Medical Marijuana For Dogs? It’s Here, and Not As Crazy As It Sounds

Is it okay to give medical marijuana to pets? It’s a question that I get a lot in my email and social media inboxes. And to be honest, I first scoffed at the idea, assuming that these owners just wanted a reason to get their pets high.

But the idea isn’t so far-fetched. In fact, many veterinarians across the country are now recommending marijuana for pets to help treat various ailments. One company, the California-based VetCBD, estimates it now sells medical pot to as many as thousands of patients, who are, of course, pet owners. And there are other similar companies: Canna Companions and Canna-Pet in Washington state and Treatibles Kitchen in California.

Now, this does not mean you should rush out and get your dog high next time you see him limping or sick. These companies generally work with strains of pot that don’t get pets high — dogs, cats, and other animals simply don’t do well under those effects. The companies instead provide non-psychoactive versions of marijuana that contain all the other promising medical effects.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: You should under almost no circumstance get your pet stoned. Animals don’t know how to cope with the psychoactive effects of pot, so it’s almost certain that they’ll suffer instead of enjoy the experience. And they can suffer pretty bad consequences, including depression, seizures, vomiting, and comas. What’s worse, these issues can last for days, since pot can take longer to work through some bigger dogs and other animals.

“If you never heard of marijuana or alcohol and I gave you a [pot] brownie, you’d feel the effects of this without knowing why,” Tim Shu, a veterinarian and founder of VetCBD, said, drawing an analogy to what pets go through while high. “Being in the dark like that, it would freak you out.”

But the pot VetCBD and other companies provide to pets doesn’t get them high.

Vets use one of two marijuana products: either pure cannabidiol (CBD), which doesn’t produce a high but contains some medicinal effects, or high-CBD, low-THC marijuana, which emphasizes CBD for its medical properties but contains almost no THC, which is the compound that leads to a high.

The argument for pure CBD is that it produces many of the medicinal effects of marijuana without any risk of a high. It’s also more widely legal, accessible, and affordable, so more doctors and vets tend to use it.

The argument for using high-CBD, low-THC marijuana is rooted in what’s known as the “entourage effect”: how different compounds work together in marijuana to create a stronger effect. Since it’s unclear which of pot’s more than 500 active ingredients and 70 cannabinoids best compound one another, scientists aren’t yet able to pick specific ingredients they want from marijuana to make a very focused drug. So instead they’ve limited the psychoactive effect (by limiting the THC), emphasized the medical effects (by upping the CBD), and kept the other chemicals in pot so they can work together with the CBD. “These groups of cannabinoids work better together, even in low amounts,” Shu said.

Pets don’t smoke this, of course. The marijuana oil is instead directly fed to the pet, or it can be put in the pet’s food.

So why put your pet through all of this? The short answer: Medical marijuana can help where conventional medicines are failing.

Medical marijuana can help pets where conventional medicine falls short.

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The arguments for giving pets medical marijuana are very similar to those for giving it to humans: The conventional medications aren’t effective or have bad side effects, so medical marijuana, which produces many of the benefits of typical drugs without the side effects, is a good alternative. This is exactly why many people turn to marijuana and its compounds — whether it’s CBD; high-CBD, low-THC pot; or the traditional plant — for medical uses.

To date, the most comprehensive review of the research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found medical marijuana can help treat chronic pain and muscle stiffness. Anecdotal evidence also suggests it can help treat nausea and loss of appetite, epilepsy and seizures, and anxiety. (The chronic pain finding is particularly promising, since it suggests marijuana can substitute opioid painkillers without the risk of deadly overdose and without as big a risk of addiction.)

Generally, pure CBD can treat some of these issues. But the full marijuana plant, which is low on THC and high on CBD for pets but can come in high-THC strains for humans, is much more potent.

The results are anecdotal, but they seem promising: VetCBD’s patients claim to have successfully treated their pets for arthritis, loss of appetite, nausea, and even noise and separation anxiety — all symptoms medical marijuana can treat in humans. The company’s website is filled with thankful testimonials. And pet owners have praised medical marijuana from other companies for helping their sick and elderly animals, as Alice Truong reported in Quartz in April.

“If you look at the original studies for CBD and other cannabinoids, they were all done in animals,” Shu said. “They took these animal models and extrapolated that to apply it to the human field. So what we’re doing is going back a step and bringing it back to the animals.”

According to Shu, pet owners claim they see all these benefits without the side effects they had with other drugs. For example, pets with a lot of anxiety are prescribed drugs similar to what humans get, like Xanax — but can get the same nasty side effects you see in humans, such as drowsiness, loss of balance, or irritability. Medical marijuana can substitute for anti-anxiety drugs without the negative effects in humans, and it seems like it can function the same way in pets, too.

Many pet owners, of course, are uncomfortable with giving their dogs and cats these kinds of drugs. But if the choice is having your dog freak out due to the noise from fireworks or giving that dog something that will relax him or temporarily knock him out, many pet owners prefer the latter, seeing it as more humane.

But getting these drugs isn’t an easy task, and it’s actually impossible (at least to do legally) in most states. That’s because medical marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and prohibited in 27 states.

Federal prohibition makes it harder to get these medicines

Just like medical marijuana for humans, federal and state laws make it much harder to get pot even for medicinal uses, particularly for pets.

As it stands, many doctors and vets resort to hemp-based CBD, since it’s considered legal in more places and even sold on Amazon. But since this is based on the type of marijuana plant that’s meant to make paper and fibers, it doesn’t contain nearly as many active ingredients with medical benefits. “Marijuana was bred to have a lot of cannabinoids, a lot of resin, a lot of flower, so it can be consumed,” Shu said. “Hemp was bred so that it can have a lot of seed, a lot of stock, so it can be used for fiber.”

If patients want to use high-CBD, low-THC marijuana, it’s still technically illegal under federal law, but legal for human medical needs — although not necessarily pets — in 23 states, including California. But the federal ban means the drugs can’t be transported between states, so companies like VetCBD have to work entirely within their states to grow, cultivate, and test their products. If they want to operate in other states, they have to start a full operation there. (Imagine if Ford had to launch a car factory in every single state and country in which it’s active, instead of shipping the cars across the world. It would be enormously expensive and inefficient.)

The legal restrictions effectively make medical marijuana less accessible and more expensive. And it’s still entirely illegal in most states. That leaves this promising drug not only out of the hands of many human patients, but out of the paws of a lot of pet patients, too.