Blog posts for April 2015

 

Specially trained dogs help children with autism World Autism Awareness Day (2nd April)

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Australian research shows animal contact improves personal development of children with autism.

Sydney, Australia – Thursday 2nd April, 2015 – A unique way to help children with autism has been found - pair them with specially trained dogs.

Assistance Dogs Australia recently launched PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support) that helps parents explore how a trained dog can help their children with autism. The success of PAWS is being celebrated on World Autism Awareness Day, an annual event held on 2nd April that encourages fundraising for projects that help people with the complex neurological disorder.

Ground-breaking research by the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition in partnership with the University of Queensland found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) benefited from exposure to animal-assisted activities within an 8-week period.1 The study concluded that animal-assisted activities may provide a relatively simple and cost-effective means of helping educators and families improve the social functioning of children with autism. 1

Autism is estimated to affect 230,000 Australians and is often diagnosed in early childhood.2 Those with autism often have different ways of learning, paying attention and reacting to sensations.2 Boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism.3,4

Assistance Dogs Australia is a national charity which trains Labradors and Golden Retrievers to offer freedom and independence for children and adults throughout Australia living with disabilities. Through an accredited training program, these incredible dogs learn how to master more than 50 specialized commands, including ways to develop the communication and empathy of a child with autism.

The charity is currently supporting 55 families across the country who have a child diagnosed with autism. Assistance Dogs Australia receives no government funding so relies heavily on the generosity of individuals and community support to carry out this work.

National Programs Manager of Assistance Dogs Australia, Alberto Alvarez-Campos, said: “Partnering trained dogs with children and young adults with autism is an approach that has brought consistently positive results. Specially trained dogs can significantly enhance a child’s self-reliance, communication skills and empathy to new situations and people.”

Australian universities, in partnership with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, have for decades conducted globally recognised research into the positive benefits of pet ownership.

Dr. Marguerite O’Haire, who conducted the research into autism and animal-assisted activities whilst at the University of Queensland, said: “Pets offer a range of physical and emotional benefits to their owners and the research shows contact with animals, such as dogs, can help improve the behaviour and social skills of children with autism. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that can help humans stay physically and emotionally healthy from childhood well into old age.”

The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, part of Mars Petcare, has been a leading scientific authority on pet nutrition and wellbeing for over fifty years. In 2013 alone, WALTHAM® published 39 peer reviewed scientific papers.

Mars Petcare General Manager, Sylvia Burbery, said: “Mars Petcare is proud to continue our support for research into the benefits of pet ownership. PAWS is another example of how dogs can bring so much value to people’s lives and in such diverse ways.”

 

More information and interview requests contact:

Ben Seal                                          Sonya Friesen
Palin Communications                      Palin Communications
0402 386 392                                  0423 495 392
ben@palin.com.au                          sonya@palin.com.au

 

References

  1. O’Haire, M, McKenzie, S, McCune S, Slaughter V (2013)  Effects of Classroom Animal-Assisted Activities on Social Functioning in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine. Volume 20, No.3, pp 162-168
  2. Autism Spectrum Australia. Factsheet (accessed 11th March 2015)
  3. Brugha, T., McManus, S., Bankart, J., Scott, F., Purdon, S., Smith, J., et al. (2011). Epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders in adults in the community in England. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(5), 459-466.
  4. Taylor, J., Seltzer, M. (2011). Employment and post-secondary educational activities for young adults with autism spectrum disorder during transition to adulthood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41, 566-574.

 

Notes to Editors:

Mars Petcare Australia

Mars Petcare is the world’s leading pet food and veterinary care business that strives to make A Better World for Pets® every day. Mars Petcare believes that pets make our lives better and that pet ownership brings joy and benefits which should be accessible to everyone. Mars Petcare has a number of leading brands including PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, DINE®, ADVANCED®, OPTIMUM®, SCHMACKOS®, ROYAL CANIN®, EUKANUBA®, IAMS®. Key specialty brands include the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition®, a leading scientific authority on pet nutrition and wellbeing.  Mars Petcare has more than 37,000 Associates worldwide.

Assistance Dogs Australia

Founded in 1996, Assistance Dogs Australia is a national charity which trains Labradors and Golden Retrievers to offer freedom and independence for children and adults throughout Australia with disability.  The dogs are trained to support a range of physical and developmental disability, from paraplegia and cerebral palsy to autism and post traumatic stress disorder.

Through an accredited training program, these incredible dogs aptly learn how to master more than 50 specialized commands - from loading a washing machine and opening doors to developing the communication and empathy of a child with autism.

To train each dog to this level takes two years and costs in excess of $27,000. To date more than 190 Assistance Dogs have been placed throughout Australia, free of charge, providing up to 10 years of support for every client matched with an Assistance Dog.  The charity is currently supporting 55 families across the country who have a child diagnosed with autism. The charity receives no government funding so relies heavily on the generosity of individuals and community support to carry out this work.

About the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition:

Celebrating over 50 years of innovative science, the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition serves as a leading scientific authority in advancing the frontiers of research into the nutrition and health of companion animals. Located in Leicestershire, England, the renowned state-of-the-art science institute for Mars, Incorporated generates knowledge that enables the development of innovative products that meet pets’ needs in a practical way. Since the publication of its first original research in 1963, WALTHAM® has pioneered many important breakthroughs in the field of pet nutrition and human-animal interaction, resulting in more than 1,700 publications, including over 600 peer-review scientific papers. Today, WALTHAM® continues to collaborate with the world’s foremost scientific institutes, driving Mars' Petcare vision to create a better world for pets and providing the science and expertise that underpins leading Mars brands such as WHISKAS®, PEDIGREE®, NUTRO®, TRILL®, CESAR®, SHEBA®, KITEKAT®, DREAMIES™, AQUARIAN®, WINERGY®, BANFIELD® Pet Hospital and the ROYAL CANIN brand.

 

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Blog: Animal-Assisted Intervention

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By: Professor Marguerite O’Haire

For many people, there is something uniquely positive about pet-ownership. From the elderly man who walks his loyal dog every morning, to the young woman whose kitten makes the transition to a new city easier, the joy of pet-ownership can make going about daily business an easier more fulfilling experience.

However, to some, pet ownership extends further than the simple day-to-day experiences. It may help to promote mental and psychological development and become a significant force in someone’s life.

In recent years, researchers have begun to investigate the relationship between animal-assisted intervention and autism in children. Often diagnosed in childhood, autism can severely impact the social skills that children develop in their first few years of school. While most Aussie kids spend their elementary school days playing sport, learning how to interact with classmates and forging lifelong friendships, children with autism often struggle to participate and can face social exclusion. When isolated, school can become a lonely, difficult experience for children with autism of which there are an estimated 230,000 in Australia.1

Studies over the last ten years have showcased how animals, especially horses and dogs, can help to foster the connection needed to assist children with autism in their social development. Whether providing them with a furry friend or helping to facilitate social interactions with other people, research suggests that four-legged friends may do more good then we realise. Studies have provided initial evidence that animal-assisted intervention may provide a complementary tool to enhance autism care in early childhood.

In 2013, WALTHAM and The University of Queensland conducted a landmark project that studied exposure to animal-assisted activities and its effects on children with autism. Over a period of 8 weeks, the study showed that the animals improved the children’s social functioning. Both teachers and parents reported that their children who participated in the project showed more confidence when approaching others, and decreases in their withdrawal behaviours. This marked a step forward in the field of animal-assisted intervention. 2

Coinciding with a growing body of research supporting animal-assisted intervention, more programs are being developed every day that leverage animals as a partner for helping children with autism.

Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA) recently kick-started a new initiative, PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support) that partners 18-week-old golden retriever or lab puppies with families of a child with autism. The program focuses on enabling the development of both the puppy and person – building a relationship between the family and the puppy early and helping to forge a bond that acts as an important coping mechanism for the child, bettering the chances of social development. 3

The PAWS program and their furry little recruits are currently working with and supporting over 55 families and have seen a positive response so far.

Whether it’s a cute and energetic puppy, a gentle horse or even a guinea pig, animals have been reported to support and enhance the lives of humans in numerous ways. The field of animal-assisted intervention continues to be explored by researchers worldwide, and requires continued rigorous scientific attention to validate the outcomes reported by those who have experienced it.

Resources

  1. Autism Spectrum Australia. Factsheet (accessed 11th March 2015)
  2. O’Haire, M, McKenzie, S, McCune S, Slaughter V (2013) Effects of Classroom Animal-Assisted Activities on Social Functioning in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine. Volume 20, No.3, pp 162-168
  3. More information: http://www.assistancedogs.org.au/pages/paws-program.html

 

 

 

 

 

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When Doctors’ Orders are to Adopt a Pet: New Report Calls for Creative Solutions to help Senior Citizens’ Benefit from Pet Ownership

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Creative solutions can enable older adults to spend more time with pets enjoying the emotional and physical benefits that this bonding experience can bring. Researchers at the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition, University of Montana and The Ohio State University have released new recommendations that highlight potential solutions to overcome both perceived and real barriers to pet ownership.

Scientists Reinforce Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interaction, Particularly for Older Adults

Creative solutions can enable older adults to spend more time with pets enjoying the emotional and physical benefits that this bonding experience can bring. Researchers at the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition, University of Montana and The Ohio State University have released new recommendations that highlight potential solutions to overcome both perceived and real barriers to pet ownership.

Existing schemes to help older adults include financial help with adoption fees, home delivery of pet food (Meals on Wheels for pets) and programs to help look after or rehome pets if adults become unable to care for them. New solutions could include ‘pet-adoption prescriptions’ for older adults affected with grief or isolation, trial adoptions from shelters and guidance on pet species and breed to match the individual’s needs.

“Many older adults would love to spend time with a pet and would benefit greatly from the positive effects the companionship brings, yet they worry about how they can afford or care for a pet,” said Sandra McCune, PhD, Head of Human Animal Interaction Research at WALTHAM®. “In many cases, these barriers are easy to overcome. This new report shines a light on the services that exist, and inspires communities, institutions and policymakers to find new and innovative solutions. We envision a future in which fostering human-animal bonds is no longer seen as alternative care, but a standard of care.”

To find out more about the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition, click here.

Media contact: Abigail Stevenson. 

Telephone:  44 7966 920486  Email: Abigail.stevenson@effem.com

About the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition:

Celebrating over 50 years of innovative science, the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition serves as a leading scientific authority in advancing the frontiers of research into the nutrition and health of companion animals. Located in Leicestershire, England, the renowned state-of-the-art science institute for Mars, Incorporated generates knowledge that enables the development of innovative products that meet pets’ needs in a practical way. Since the publication of its first original research in 1963, WALTHAM® has pioneered many important breakthroughs in the field of pet nutrition and human-animal interaction, resulting in more than 1,700 publications, including over 600 peer-review scientific papers. Today, WALTHAM® continues to collaborate with the world’s foremost scientific institutes, driving Mars' Petcare vision to create a better world for pets and providing the science and expertise that underpins leading Mars brands such as WHISKAS®, PEDIGREE®, NUTRO®, TRILL®, CESAR®, SHEBA®, KITEKAT®, DREAMIES™, AQUARIAN®, WINERGY®, BANFIELD® Pet Hospital and the ROYAL CANIN brand.

About Mars, Incorporated:

Based in McLean, Virginia, Mars has net sales of more than $33 billion, six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, Symbioscience, and more than 75,000 Associates worldwide that are putting its Principles into action to make a difference for people and the planet through its performance.

Mars brands include: Petcare – PEDIGREE®, ROYAL CANIN®, WHISKAS®, BANFIELD® Pet Hospital, CESAR®, SHEBA®, DREAMIES® and NUTRO®; Chocolate – M&M’S®, SNICKERS®, DOVE®, GALAXY®, MARS®, MILKY WAY® and TWIX®; Wrigley – DOUBLEMINT®, EXTRA®, ORBIT® and 5™ chewing gums, SKITTLES® and STARBURST® candies, and ALTOIDS® AND LIFESAVERS® mints.  Food – UNCLE BEN’S®, DOLMIO®, EBLY®, MASTERFOODS®, SEEDS OF CHANGE® and ROYCO®; Drinks – ALTERRA COFFEE ROASTERS™, THE BRIGHT TEA COMPANY™, KLIX® and FLAVIA®; Symbioscience – COCOAVIA® and WISDOM PANEL®.

For more information, please visit mars.com.  Follow us: facebook.com/mars, twitter.com/marsglobal, youtube.com/mars, linkedin.com/company/mars

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