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Dr. Will Draper of The Village Vets
- Pets and health: cats can have plasmacytic gingivitis; get their teeth checked
- Pets and health: Cats do have an extra layer of cells behind retina; helps them see well in low light
- Pets and health: Cats purring doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy. Could be nerves, unhappy, etc.
- Pets and health: Myths: an 8 year old poodle is midlife; 8 year old great dane is 80 in human years
- Pets and health: Poodle has an odor. Pet soaps have different pH than human soaps. Use pet soaps not human
- Pets and health: Boxers do not have as long a nasal passage, and are more prone to respiratory problems
- Pets and health: Do not leave your pets in the car
- Pets and health: take your pets to a veterinarian if you have questions about possible ailments
- Pets and health: As dogs age, they sometimes get benign growths under their skin.
- Pets and health: Reverse sneezing possibly means pets have allergies or collapsed trachea.
- Pets and health: when pets are obese, most of the time owners are obese as well. Walks help both parties
- Unexpected psychological benefits of having a pet: it improves children’s role-playing skills.
- Village Vets started 10 years ago have practices in Decatur, Stone Mountain, and Buckhead.
Will Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood, CA before enrolling at Tuskegee University in Alabama (fourth generation) for both undergraduate and veterinary studies. After receiving his veterinary medical degree in 1991, he started practicing in Atlanta and eventually started The Village Vets practices in 2000.
In 2007, Dr. Will and his team opened Georgia’s first AAHA-accredited small animal after-hours emergency facility, Animal Emergency Center of Decatur. He and his AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) accredited practices have been consistently honored by Atlanta magazine as "Best Vet" since 2004. He was also recently honored as one of Atlanta’s FIVE STAR Veterinarians.
Dr. Will has appeared on many local news stations, as well as CNN. He has also had his own radio segment, "Critter Chatter," on 92.9 Dave FM’s Morning Show with Mara Davis. He is on the board of the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association and is active in many community and pet rescue organizations. He presently serves as a veterinary expert in WebMD.com’s Pet Health Community.
Dr. Will is a big fan of the Dave Matthews Band, having attended more than 30 concerts. He also enjoys painting and Atlanta Braves baseball (as well as his kids’ baseball and softball games). He and his wife, fellow veterinarian Dr. Francoise Tyler, have four children (a son and three daughters), four dogs (Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, Jack Russell terrier, and King Charles spaniel), and three cats (all domestics).
View a video of Dr. Will discussing pet adoption
Health Benefits of Having a Pet
"The old thinking was that if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. And if you came from an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided," says researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
However, a growing number of studies have suggested that kids growing up in a home with "furred animals" — whether it’s a pet cat or dog, or on a farm and exposed to large animals — will have less risk of allergies and asthma, he tells WebMD.
In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment.
If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies — 19% vs. 33%. They also were less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals — a sign of stronger immune system activation.
"Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system," Gern says.
Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking — a dog is a natural conversation starter.
This especially helps ease people out of social isolation or shyness, Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, tells WebMD.
"People ask about breed, they watch the dog’s tricks," Kaslow says. "Sometimes the conversation stays at the ‘dog level,’ sometimes it becomes a real social interchange."
Dogs for the Aged
"Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home," says Lynette Hart, PhD, associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
"Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog," says Hart
Walking a dog or just caring for a pet — for elderly people who are able — can provide exercise and companionship. One insurance company, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio, asks clients over age 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening — which often helps tip the scales in their favor.
Good for Mind and Soul
Pet owners with AIDS are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. "The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets," says researcher Judith Siegel, PhD.
In one study, stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did people without pets.
People in stress mode get into a "state of dis-ease," in which harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system, says Blair Justice, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health and author of Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health.
Studies show a link between these chemicals and plaque buildup in arteries, the red flag for heart disease, says Justice.
Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties, he tells WebMD.
"People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature," says Justice, who recently hiked the Colorado Rockies with his wife and two dogs.
Good for the Heart
Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies. Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease — lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels — than non-owners, researchers say.
Service Dogs for Diabetes
Recent studies in dogs with owners who had Type I diabetes showed that the dogs were able to alert their owners when their blood sugar was dangerously low.
In the study, among the dog owners, 138, or 65 percent, said their dog had shown a behavioral reaction to at least one of their hypoglycemic episodes. About a third of the animals had reacted to 11 or more events, with 31.9 percent of animals reacting to 11 or more events. The dogs got their owners’ attention by barking and whining, (61.5 percent), licking (49.2 percent), nuzzling (40.6 percent), jumping on top of them (30.4 percent), and/or staring intently at their faces (41.3 percent). A small percentage of the dogs reportedly tremble in fear at the time of a hypoglycemic attack.
Can Dogs Smell Cancer?
It has been known since the 80’s that tumors exude tiny amounts of alkanes and benzene derivatives not found in healthy tissue.
Other researchers have shown that dogs, whose noses can pick up odors in the low parts-per-billion range, can be trained to detect skin cancers or react differently to dried urine from healthy people and those with bladder cancer.
Fact: Humans Can Make Pets Sick
It’s not common, but it happens. H1N1 "swine" flu has hit cats, dogs, and ferrets — contracted from their sick owners. Most often it’s mild, but a few pets have died, so vets advise frequent hand washing and separate beds when the owner is sick. Dogs and people can also share the same strains of E. coli bacteria. And MRSA, the "superbug," can move between humans and dogs.
Fact: Dogs Can Smell Diabetes
It sounds like a Lassie TV episode, but it’s truth, not fiction. Dogs can sniff out a dangerous drop in blood sugar in a diabetic owner and alert the person to take action by pawing, licking, whining, or barking. A few dogs have even been trained and placed as diabetic service dogs. Their nose for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is correct 90% of the time, according to their trainers.
Fact: Dogs Have a Look of Love
When your dog locks eyes with you, it may genuinely be a look of love, and not simply a form of begging. Dogs can develop this atypical behavior with close human companions — while between dogs or with a strange person, a direct stare is a threat. Of course not every glance from Fido is loving — he may simply want your dinner. Or, if his body is tense and ears flattened, he may be telling you to back off.
Fact: Cats May Love Too Much
Behavior experts confirm that some cats really do experience separation anxiety when apart from a favorite person — and that’s one reason a sweet kitty may pee on your clothes when you’re at work. Other signs: the cat paces, vocalizes, or blocks the owner’s path to the door. Left alone, she may vomit or be too worried to eat. For cats who love too much, behavior therapy can help — along with anti-anxiety medications for severely affected cats.
Fact: Dogs Can Learn 250 Words
The smartest, best-trained breeds are similar to a 2-year-old child in their ability to understand human speech, according to researcher Stanley Coren, PhD. These dogs understand up to 250 words, while the average dog can understand 150 words.
Top Dog: Border collie, poodle, German shepherd, golden retriever, Doberman pincher
Beauty Before Brains: Borzoi, chow chow, bull dog, basenji, Afghan hound.
Fact: A Limp Can Mean Lung Trouble
Dogs sometimes come to the vet for a limp and leave with a diagnosis of lung cancer. Cancer in the chest can activate the leg bones to grow new tissue — causing swelling and pain in the legs. A more typical symptom of lung cancer is a cough, although about 25% of dogs have no symptoms until cancer is detected on chest X-ray. The leg changes — called hypertrophic osteopathy — go away once the cancer is treated.
Fact: Smoking Kills Cats and Dogs
Secondhand smoke increases the risk of at least two fatal cancers in cats: lymphoma and oral carcinoma. Housecats get a double dose of toxins by breathing cigarette smoke in the air and by licking the residue off their fur when grooming. Dogs with long noses may develop cancerous nasal tumors from living with a smoker — and short-nosed breeds are more prone to lung cancer.
Myth: Small Amounts of Chocolate Are Deadly to Dogs
Many pet owners think that just one bite of chocolate kill your dog, but the truth is, a large dog would have to eat a lot of milk chocolate to get sick — more than a couple of pounds.
But even though chocolate is not necessarily deadly, that doesn’t mean you should give it out as treats.
"The rule of thumb is, the darker the chocolate, and the smaller the dog, the more dangerous it is," Becker said.
Myth: Temperature extremes don’t affect pets as much as humans
Perhaps because they seem more "wild" then we are, we tend to think pets can handle high or low temperatures better than we do. But not so, especially for pets who are unfit, chronically ill or aged. Always protect pets from cold or heat, using shelter, protective gear and — for heat — having lots of cool water available.
Myth: Chomping on Poinsettias Can Be Deadly
Especially around the holidays, pet owners are concerned that animals that decide to make a snack out of the festive poinsettias could be eating a deadly plant.
But Becker said that the plant is far from deadly, but could give your pet an upset stomach.