World Dog Day: A dog’s health is our health.
World Dog Day (August 26th) celebrates the bond between humans and dogs that has evolved over thousands of years in cultures all over the world. Dogs are highly adapted to living with and understanding humans. While this makes them wonderful companions, it also makes dogs fully dependent on us for their health and well-being. When we neglect our responsibilities to our dogs, people, dogs and the bond between us suffers.
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) works to improve the well-being of dogs throughout the world by supporting and developing projects that raise the quality of care that people provide to dogs.
Kate Atema, IFAW Program Director for Companion Animals: “Our projects, whether in South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, China, North America or Germany, see common problems that are caused by failures of communities to ensure that dogs have the basic requirements for physical and psychological health. Neglected, abused and sick dogs result from, and exacerbate, societal problems. Everywhere we go the lives and well-being of dogs and humans are integrally linked.”
Common problems that affect dogs all over the world include lack of vaccination against infectious diseases, inadequate and inappropriate nutrition, insufficient exercise, boredom, deprived social environments, unmanaged reproductive activity and behavior problems. Behavior problems often result from a neglect of several of these issues together, and are the most common reason for which dogs are abandoned and abused.
Atema: “IFAW offers help to communities to understand and solve conflicts that arise from poor management of dogs. Through a process we call Humane Community Development, stakeholders in the community work together to understand their responsibilities to the dogs with whom people closely share their lives and environments. It’s not difficult for dogs and people to live happily together, it just takes some thought and planning.”
Through community education and veterinary capacity building, IFAW brings the importance of disease prevention and well-being to the forefront of dog and community health. Because of the close relationship between dogs and people, the welfare of each is dependent on the other.
Prevention of disease is key to healthy dogs. This includes vaccination against common dog diseases, which prevents a great deal of suffering, particularly of puppies. Protection of dogs against some pathogens, such as rabies and certain parasites, is also essential to the protection of human health. The survival of endangered wildlife species also depends in part on the prevention of disease in domestic dogs.
Dogs are quite versatile in their ability to meet their nutritional needs, as are humans. But lack of food and poor quality food makes animals vulnerable to infectious and other diseases, and causes conflicts that result from dogs having to roam and compete for food. Similarly, over-feeding and inappropriate nutrition, such as seen with some pet dogs, results in many metabolic problems and dogs who suffer an unnecessarily poor quality of life.
Integral to disease prevention and psychological health are physical activity and behavioral opportunities that keep dogs busy and happy. Dogs become bored, frustrated, and sad if they cannot engage in enough of these, and if they spend too much time alone. Dogs need to learn appropriate behaviors that allow them to live easily alongside people. Behavioral rules must be taught in a way that inspires confidence and clarity, just as for a child, or dogs grow fearful and confused. Behavioral problems develop as a consequence of failures to meet any of these needs. In turn, behavioral problems in dogs result in frustrated people, conflicted communities, and suffering dogs.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.