WebMD expands expertise to four-legged clients

WebMD has some advice for our furry friendsThe popular medical reference guide WebMD today announced the unveiling of the WebMD Healthy Pets page on the company website.

The source of health information intends to use the new page to offer pet health and wellness advice to owners to improve and lengthen the lives of dogs and cats around the world, Reuters reports.

WebMD Healthy Pets will provide information, which will be reviewed by veterinarians, on pet diet, nutrition, behavior, training and preventive care. The advice will be disseminated through the website’s online newsletter, interactive slideshows, videos and expert blogs.

"[The website] provides pet owners with reliable health news and information on topics ranging from general wellness to disease – for all states of a pet’s life," said Nan-Kirsten Forte, executive vice president for WebMD.

Of the 60 million visitors to WebMD each month, more than 75 percent are pet owners who also care for their pet’s health, according to the news source. WebMD representatives hope the new service will help reduce unnecessary expenses and work toward better animal care.

The site will also focus on the benefits of pet ownership for humans, such as lower blood pressure and less anxiety.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association says that veterinary pet insurance can be used to protect pet health and ensure the financial stability of the pet’s family.

Guinness names Otto World’s Oldest Dog

There's something about the dachshund that promotes long livesThis week, Guinness World Records confirmed that the oldest living dog is a 20-year-old dachshund and terrier cross, living in Shrewsbury, England.

Otto, the vigorous hound, gained the title after the reigning record holder Chanel – also a dachshund – passed away in August, three months after turning 21, the Associated Press reports.

Lynn and Peter Jones, who have owned Otto since he was 6 weeks old, say that the secret to longevity is simple: a good diet, plenty of love and a bedtime at 8 p.m. sharp.

"He’s still going strong," Peter Jones told the news source. "In the last couple of years he’s got a bit of arthritis, but apart from that he’s quite well."

Though he might not be up for a walk each day, Mrs. Jones notes, "he’s still sprightly." A spirited walk may be considered an accomplishment for a dog that is nearly 147 in human years.

Guinness reports that the oldest dog on record was an Australian cattle dog that lived for 29 years and 5 months. According to the U.S. Humane Society, 12.8 years is the average life span of the average American or European dog.

One man’s financial problem: Watchdog consumer

A grateful dog owner can now buy a few video games, guilt free"The dog ate my homework." The feeble excuse has been used so often it has become a common American aphorism, and motto of the lethargic. One video game aficionado, however, woke up last week to find that his dog, Oscar, had somehow purchased 5,000 Microsoft points on his Xbox Live gaming system.

A writer named Greg on the video game blog Kotaku admits that in the past, Oscar has chewed up and torn apart pillows, sox, candles, toilet paper and bottles. This time, Greg awoke to find that his Xbox controller had been gnawed on during the night, and $62.50 worth of online Microsoft Points had been purchased.

After some elementary sleuthing, the dog owner concluded that Oscar, in a frenzy of chewing, somehow managed to press the buttons necessary to turn on the videogame system, enter the online store and purchase the points, which can be used toward Xbox merchandise.

Lenient in his pet care, Greg wrote on the blog, "All in all, I’m not mad. A bunch of new games to keep me busy and a reason to finally go buy that black controller I’ve been wanting."

While training dogs, the U.S. Humane Society recommends positive reinforcement and ignoring undesirable responses as the most effective methods.

Microchip technology helps find lost pets

A microchip can link pets to their ownersLost pets can cause distress to second-graders, businessmen and shelter owners alike. Aside from the emotional vacancy the pet leaves, missing animals cause a pet care burden to shelters which are already overpopulated with homeless cats and dogs. The good news is a new study has found that cats that are placed in animal shelters are 20 times more likely to be returned to their owners if they have been implanted with a microchip.

Linda Lord of Ohio State University visited 53 shelters in 23 states from August 2007 until March 2008, and found that less than 2 percent of admitted animals had a microchip on them.

However, 29 percent of cats with microchips were returned to their owners, compared to 2 percent without the chips. For dogs, 52 percent of those with chips were returned compared to 21 percent without the technology.

"Hopefully, this study will help the public become more aware of how important microchipping is," said Jill Lee, executive director of the Cat Welfare Association. "It’s a very simple thing to have done."

According to the U.S. Humane Society, the chips, which are the size of a grain of rice, contain a number that is revealed after the microchip is scanned. A shelter worker can then enter the number into a registry to obtain the pet owner’s information.

ASPCA honors prized pets and owners

The ASPCA this week will honor some amazing animals and their ownersGrammys, Nobel Prizes, road race trophies, gold stars – everyone gets an award nowadays. Few honorees, however have accomplished the outstanding feats that some pets and pet owners are able to boast.

This week, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) will hold the Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City to recognize the heroism and astonishing achievements performed by animal owners and their beloved pets.

"The ASPCA is proud to honor those who have demonstrated extraordinary compassion, bravery and commitment to furthering the human-animal bond," said ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres. "The Humane Awards celebrates the important role that animals play in our lives."

The ASPCA Dog of the Year award for 2009 will go to Archie, a black Labrador retriever that serves as an assistance dog for Sergeant Clay Rankin, who suffered spinal injuries while performing military service in Iraq. The Cat of the Year will be YouTube sensation, Nora, a former shelter pet who entertained the world this year with her dexterity on the piano.

The ASPCA also gives awards for Firefighter of the Year, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, and the Tommy Monahan Kid of the Year – an award named after a 9-year-old who took pet care to the next level, losing his life to save his pet from a house fire in 2007.

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