Author Archives: Dawn A. Marcus, MD

Dawn A. Marcus, MD

Dawn Marcus is a neurologist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, where she enjoys visiting patients under the watchful eye of two furry helpers, her therapy dog wheaten terriers. Understanding how a relationship with your dog can help improve your health led Dr. Marcus to write Fit As Fido: Follow Your Dog to Better Health and The Power of Wagging Tails: A Doctor’s Guide to Dog Therapy and Healing. You can also find Dr. Dawn Marcus on Google+.

Seat belt safety for pets

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Dogs should be restrained during car trips

When I was a kid, we all watched Batman on TV as he and Robin jumped into the Batmobile. Before taking off, both super heroes paused to buckle their seat belts. And if you wanted to be cool like the bat duo, you made certain you did the same.

Today, buckling up has become routine and the law in most states. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, over half of drivers and passengers killed in car crashes were not wearing a seat belt. They recommend wearing seat belts as the most effective step you can take to keep yourself safe in a motor vehicle. Since 1975, it is estimated seat belts have saved over 250,000 lives. Read More »

What’s in your pet’s tummy?

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Chewing is a natural and healthy behavior for dogs

My dog Wheatie loves sticks and paper towels. If he had his way, our daily walks would include many stops for munching on sticks, twigs, and paper towels scraps. His fascination with these items resulted in me teaching him an excellent “drop it.” Sometimes, now, I almost think he just picks up a stick or paper scrap to wait for my command so he can spit it out to get a yummy treat! Pets can eat crazy things. In an online survey, Petcurean asked 1,356 dog and cat owners about their pets. One of the questions they asked was to list the strangest thing their dog or cat had ever eaten. The top choices were:

  • Underwear — 12 percent
  • Books — 8 percent
  • Cell phone or wallet — 3 percent Read More »

Therapy dogs take people to new heights

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Therapy dogs do incredible work

Therapy dogs do incredible work. Therapy dogs are seemingly ordinary pet dogs that have been trained to meet with strangers to provide stress relief, comfort, and healing. If you read books about therapy dogs, like my book The Power of Wagging Tails, you’ll discover that therapy dogs can make an impact wherever people might be in distress. Most people are familiar with therapy dogs going to visit residents of nursing homes or patients in hospitals. Therapy dogs can also be found in libraries and schools, helping elementary students in reading programs. Some therapy dogs go to colleges, providing stress relief and a taste of home to undergraduate and graduate students. Therapy dogs may also provide grief support in funeral homes and comfort to the victims of crime waiting at court to testify. Read More »

Wanna get healthy? Meet a friend

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Your own dog can help you meet friends

“Meet two friends and call me in the morning” may be good advice from your doctor. Medical researchers are learning more and more how strong social connections are linked to good health. Researchers call this social capital. When we think of capital, we usually think of money. Social capital is like money in the bank from having strong social supports. People who are involved in their communities, talk to their neighbors, and have a wide circle of friends have a lot of social capital. Social capital provides emotional support and also is a key factor for overall physical health. Read More »

Honoring the power of wagging tails at American Cancer Society Bark For Life

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Pets can help those coping with cancer

Chances are you know someone with cancer. According to the latest cancer statistics published in the  journal CA: A Cancer Journal For Clinicians, one in every four deaths in the United States is caused by cancer. In 2013, it is estimated almost 1.7 million people will be newly diagnosed with cancer and over 580,000 people will die from cancer. There is good news — cancer survival continues to improve. Cancer survival is improving for all major cancer types, including lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Read More »

Pets and Falls

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Pets can cause falls and other accidents

Pets can be great companions, but pets can sometimes pull, bump, or get underfoot and cause falls. A survey in the United States found that 30 dog- or cat-related falls occur per 100,000 people per year. In this survey, almost 90 percent of injuries were caused by pet dogs rather than cats. A study in the journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention investigated dog-related injuries that resulted in emergency department visits. Over a 2-month period, 37 people visited the emergency department for a dog-related injury, mainly broken bones and soft tissue injuries. About half of the injuries affected the leg or ankle and half affected the arm or hand. In most cases, broken bones occurred in older individuals, while younger adults had soft tissue injuries. Here were the most common injuries: Read More »

Adding Fiber to Your Diet

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners


When you eat plants, your body can’t digest certain parts of the plant, giving you fiber. Fiber is a healthy part of your daily diet since it helps keep your bowels regular, reduce cholesterol, and help with glucose metabolism. In general, adult men should eat about 30–38 grams of fiber daily and women 21–25 grams. The lower recommendation is for men and women who are over 50 years old. Higher dietary fiber has been linked with reduced risk for developing heart disease and diabetes. Researchers are looking for new ways to boost dietary fiber, including adding leftover byproducts from cereal, fruit, and vegetable manufacturing (like fruit and vegetable peels) to processed foods. Read More »

Can You Have Pets When Your Immune System’s Compromised?

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Pets have healing power, just follow safety precautions

In The Power of Wagging Tails, we share countless stories and research about how human lives are made happier and healthier when they include a pet. Wagging tails have healing power and can help people fight and recover from a wide range of diseases. But what about when someone has a compromised immune system and they are more prone to getting infections? Is it safe to be around a pet? Read More »

Barking—How Dogs “Text” Their Friends?

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Dogs may howl to communicate with friends

We all know dogs are very social, serving as great role models for making and staying connected with friends. When my dogs are at home and one of their buddies passes by on the sidewalk, Wheatie is sure to make a few barks. You’ve gotta wonder—what’s he saying? Is barking a sign of stress? A way to show this is his territory? Or is it something else? Read More »

The Latest Tool for People with Diabetes Comes with a Leash

Filed under Healthy Pets and Owners

Service dogs can be trained trained to alert diabetics to changes in blood sugar levels

According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes. Diabetes is characterized by abnormal glucose metabolism, with decreases in insulin activity and increased blood sugar levels. When you have diabetes, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar and adjust your diet, activity, and medications to help keep your blood sugar levels closer to normal levels. Read More »