Thursday, 30 August 2012

10 Bizarre Medical Treatments Involving Animals

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Humans have long depended on the natural world as the source of our most powerful treatments, from the use of sheep-gut thread to sew wounds up in ancient times, to the bacteria-killing properties of penicillin discovered in the first half of the 20th century. Yet, whether everyday or downright disgusting, some of these remedies can be pretty surprising to Western eyes. In Cambodia, for instance, cattle are sacred animals, and itÕs apparently considered quite healthy to drink cow urine. And, unbelievably enough, the techniques used for modern heart and lung transplants were partly inspired by Soviet experiments in creating two-headed dogs during the 1950s. We list our top ten strangest medical treatments involving animals.

10. Fish Psoriasis Treatments

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Originating in Turkey, fish therapy is a relatively common treatment for the symptoms of skin conditions like psoriasis. The patient immerses their affected locations in mineral water containing the fish, which proceed to slough off dead skin with their mouths in their quest for food Ð a bit like a more beneficial school of piranhas! Doctor fish (Garra rufa obtusas), the species used, is believed to nibble away the dead and unhealthy skin while leaving healthy skin untouched. This practice has been banned in some of the US provinces due sanitary concerns but is still legal in the UK and other countries.

9. Bee Venom Arthritis Treatment

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Bee stings may be painful, but apparently they can also soothe the joints of those affected by rheumatoid arthritis. A number of alternative medicine systems, including Chinese traditional medicine, use live bee stings to treat the condition Ð as well as shingles and eczema. Amazingly enough, a study by the University of San Paulo in 2010 found that bee venom produces higher levels of inflammation-preventing hormones, supporting claims that practitioners have been making for centuries. Their findings showed that bee stings may not only alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, but may also even prevent it from taking hold in the first place!

8. Snake Massage

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Anyone interested in a really unconventional massage should check out Ms. Ada BarakÕs snake salon in Israel, which offers clients a sensual back rub from up to six serpents at once. Various species are used, including California and Florida king snakes, corn snakes, and milk snakes, with the larger species being used to treat deep muscle cramps and pain and their smaller counterparts to create a ÒflutteringÓ effect. Ms. Barak said that she got the idea from observing that her friends tended to become more relaxed after holding her collection of snakes for an extended period of time. At $70 a session, itÕs also a bit cheaper than some of the other therapies on this list!

7. Maggot Debridement Therapy

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In maggot debridement therapy, fly larvae are placed in a wound, where they secrete digestive juices that break down dead flesh while leaving healthy tissues intact. Throughout history, many cultures have used this treatment, from ancient Aboriginal tribes, to surgeons of the Napoleonic era and American Civil War period. As disgusting as it may look, this form of therapy is gaining ground again amongst physicians, thanks to its efficiency in cleaning wounds. A study carried out in Caen, France in 2012 found that patients’ wounds treated with maggots were cleansed significantly faster and had less dead tissue than those treated with more conventional methods, and with no increase in pain. Anecdotal reports that maggots provide significant healing or antibacterial benefits have yet to be supported by scientific evidence, however.

6. Dolphin Therapy

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Dolphins are symbols of peace and serenity in many cultures. Small wonder, then, that the act of bonding with them is now used as a treatment for some forms of mental illness. A study by the University of Leicester in 2005 showed that playing in the water with ÒFlipperÓ and his buddies in short sessions over a period of two weeks can provide significant benefits for patients with depression. The treatment has also been used for autistic children who have problems with verbal communication. Interacting with animals can help to alter the dysfunctional social patterns of people with depression, so itÕs not surprising that spending time with one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet can help to raise someoneÕs mood.

5. Ant Mandible Sutures

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The heads of African driver ants boast mandibles that act as seriously strong natural pincers. Presumably for hundreds of years, traditional medicine has been taking advantage of this fact to close open wounds. To put the sutures in place, the healer holds the edges of the gash together and then places the antÕs head lengthwise against the wound. The insectÕs natural instinct is to bite down, which closes the gash, and the healer then twists and breaks off the rest of the body. This very efficient, if primitive, form of emergency medicine is still practiced even today.

4. Leeching

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Bloodletting with leeches was a very common treatment in medieval and early modern medicine. It was used to prevent inflammation of wounds, relieve fevers, and to treat practically every other kind of ailment. Sessions of bloodletting were often continued until the sufferer had fainted or was on the verge of falling unconscious. Famously, as a cure it was spectacularly harmful, generally causing as many problems to patients as the original condition. However, leeching has now been reintroduced in certain circumstances; for example, as a way of removing congested blood from a finger that has been reattached. It is more effective than many other forms of medical treatment because the leech secretes chemicals with anti-clotting agents, which prevent blood vessels from closing up and atrophying.

3. Fish Swallowing for Asthma

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Another fish-related cure is practiced by the Bathini Goud brothers in India, who every year treat thousands of visitors with their patented asthma medication Ð administered in the mouth of a live murrel fish. The herbal medicine is a family secret that (so the legend claims) was originally given to the brothersÕ grandfather by a Hindu holy man more than 160 years ago. The movements of the small fish are meant to help alleviate phlegm in the nose and throat and help ease congestion. Three successive cycles of the medicine are prescribed normally, and they are administered 15 days apart. Traditional, maybe, but we still find it pretty hard to swallow!

2. Terrapin Healing

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As previously mentioned, animals such as cows are associated with healing in Cambodia and are used in a number of different traditional forms of medicine. Terrapins also feature prominently in many Cambodian treatments, both as the ingredients for remedies and in more mystical ways. Why? Because they are believed to be able to cure rheumatism and other bodily ailments by touch. In this picture, a turtle is held to the mouth of a villager in the Kandal province. It is estimated that more than a third of CambodiaÕs native species are used in remedies, but many of the animals are threatened or high priorities for conservation. ItÕs a shame so many traditional cures involve killing the creatures for medicine that may have little more than a placebo effect.

1. Diabetes-Attack Preventing Dogs

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One well-known fact about dogs is that some of their senses are significantly more acute than those of their human companions. But did you know that manÕs best friend can also detect the symptoms of a diabetic attack? Diabetes Alert Dogs (DADs) can tell from their ownerÕs odor whether their blood sugar is too low or too high, and are trained to warn them either by fetching a special stick or fetching the diabetes kit and bringing it to their owner. This is especially useful for the care of young children who might not wake up if they enter hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia during the night. What’s more, it saves mom and dad from having to set the alarm clock to check on them every couple of hours.

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Monday, 27 August 2012

Don’t Call me Two-Face! Venus is Star on YouTube

When there seems to be a new cute kitten gaining YouTube fame each week, it’s tough to stand out from the cat crowd.

But that’s certainly not a problem for Venus – the ‘two-faced’ cat who is the internet star du jour.

The feline’s face is perfectly divided in two – one half is jet black while the other is calico. And, as if this wasn’t enough, her eyes are different colours too – one is ice blue, the other is green.

Venus - with her face perfectly divided into two colours and with her different coloured eyesWho you calling two-faced? Venus - with her face perfectly divided into two colours and with her different coloured eyes - is the internet star of the moment

Venus is known as a chimera cat because of her genetic composition and her different eye colours are caused by heterochromia.

Venus has several YouTube videos which have been seen about 154,000 times with thousands clicking the 'like' button.

Venus has attracted world-wide fame thanks to her striking appearance

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Seriously sweet: Venus has attracted world-wide fame thanks to her striking appearance

Unsurprisingly, Venus now has her own Facebook page too where she has attracted more than 22,000 fans.

However, Venus is learning that world-wide fame has its downsides too as she has been unfavourably likened to Harvey Dent, Batman’s nemesis Two-Face.

Venus’ proud owner describes her lovingly as a ‘gentle’ and ‘perfect’ pet with a deceptively big appetite.

‘As tiny as she is she likes to pick the giant pieces of food from the dog food bowl rather than eat her cat food,’ the owner writes on Venus’ Facebook page.

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Two-face: Venus has been unfavourably compared to Harvey Dent a.k.a Two-Face, Batman's nemesis

Watch video here

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Thursday, 23 August 2012

5 Hot Hounds Find Creative Ways To Cool Off!

With the temperatures rising, people and pets are finding some rather creative ways to stay cool these days!  Check out these determined dogs (and cat) who found some non-traditional ways to beat the heat.

1. 'Can we go ahead and bring my dog bed in here while you're at it?'

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2. 'I don't normally drink beer, but when I do, it's root beer..."

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3. This is just ducky!

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4. Bulldog on ice -- so very nice.

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5. Cooler Kitteh Iz Blocking Your Chunkey Monkey.

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Monday, 13 August 2012

No, Her Name’s Not Spike!

Bella Mae, a three-year-old bulldog from Oklahoma, learned a lesson she probably won't forget after she tangled with a porcupine and was left with 500 quills stuck in her face.

Veterinarians in Norman undertook emergency surgery on her to remove the prickly spines from her head and her feet.

Some of the quills are still inside her body, veterinarians believe, though she is now recovering from the attack.

Ouch

Ouch: Veterinarians say Bella Mae, a three-year-old Oklahoma bulldog, had 500 quills embedded in her face after a run-in with a porcupine

trouble

Trouble: Bella Mae was playing with other dogs near her owners' pond when she apparently got too close to a porcupine

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Badly injured: The veterinarian who led the procedure said he had never seen a pet so badly attacked by a porcupine

Jerry and Allison Noles told KWTV the bulldog was playing with their other pets near their pond on July 29, when they encountered an ambling porcupine.

The bristly rodents are typically nocturnal, slow and passive.

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The Noleses believe the porcupine visited their pond to drink because water is becoming scarce in Oklahoma.

They think Bella Mae got a little too close for comfort and provoked the animal's ire -- prompting the prickly attack.

procedure

Procedure: The veterinarians didn't count, but they estimate that they pulled 500 quills from Bella Mae's face, head, neck, chest and feet

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Common threat: Porcupines are prevalent in Oklahoma and unwary pets often have run-ins with the slow-moving rodents

lip service

Lip service: Veterinarians has to pull back Bella Mae's jowls to remove some of the quills in her mouth, tongue and lips

Doctors at the Animal Emergency Center worked on the operating table to dig the quills out of the bulldog's face, neck, legs and chest.

The lucky pooch was not hit in the eyes.

Veterinarian Leonardo Baez told KWTV he has never seen such a horrific porcupine attack against a pet before.

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Recovery: The lucky pooch is healing from the attack, though veterinarians are still keeping an eye on her

'I've seen some greyhounds and bird dogs come in (contact) with them, but it's not very often it happens, especially here in the city,' he said.

Bella May remains on antibiotics because of the quills remain embedded in her skin, where veterinarians could not dig them out.

News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

20 Incredible Coconut Crab Photos

Imagine you are lying in a hammock on the beach, relaxing and enjoying a spot of fresh air, when suddenly a ten-legged beast, measuring about three feet across, starts slowly climbing up the palm tree in front of you, or, worse, drops down right next to you. It'd almost be enough to make you drop your piña colada with horror and run for cover.

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Photo: Bo Floyd

The coconut crab, the largest crab on land, and indeed world’s largest land-based arthropod, can have that effect on people.

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Photo: Angelo O'Connor Villagomez

Coconut crabs, also known as robber crabs or palm thieves, might be large – the length of their bodies alone can extend upwards of a foot – but sadly their numbers are not. These huge creatures were once quite plentiful, but thanks to human appetites for crabmeat, they are now on the IUCN Red List as Data Deficient, meaning we don’t know exactly how many are left but that the numbers are most likely low.

Here, we'd like to share some amazing pictures and a few equally amazing facts about these unusual crabs, all of which demonstrates that they’re definitely a species worth preserving.

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Photo: Angelo O'Connor Villagomez

This photograph should give you some idea of just how big these crabs really are. As you can see, these are two impressively sized critters! The man holding them is obviously either very brave or familiar enough with coconut crabs to know how to handle them. As mentioned earlier, these crabs can grow up to a foot in length, sometimes more, but it is not only their body size that is arresting – just look at those claws!

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Photo: Eddy Rademaker

Here’s a wonderful specimen of this giant crab from Christmas Island. The photographer, Eddy Rademaker, reports that this particular crab measured 18 inches across! Rademaker was careful to stay out of reach of those pincers while taking this picture, which sounds like a very wise idea. If you want to see a coconut crab in the wild for yourself, Christmas Island is a good destination as it reportedly has the biggest population of the species in the world.

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Photo: JR Manuel

Blue is the most common color for coconut crabs, although they can also be found in more orangey or reddish shades. The coconut crab is actually not a proper crab at all, but rather a type of hermit crab. Whereas true crabs have smaller abdomens that they tuck under their bodies, coconut crabs – as you can see from this picture – have large abdomens that are hardened for protection, like those of lobsters.

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Photo: Rebecca Dominguez

Those pincers may look pretty powerful, but how effective they are at cracking open coconuts on their own is debatable. They can, however, be used to tear the husks off coconuts, as well as to cut open fruit, shred carrion – or even, in one reported incident, to catch and eat a rat. You certainly wouldn’t want to tangle with those pincers. As a creepy aside, coconut crabs may even have been responsible for the disappearance of legendary aviator Amelia Earhart’s body, as reported by Environmental Graffiti here.

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Photo: Island-Life

This has to be one happy coconut crab: it’s enjoying its namesake meal, after all. Coconut crabs have a few tricks up their sleeves (or do we mean claws?) when it comes to getting inside the hard exterior of the fruit. One method observed is that the crabs climb up a palm tree, coconut in tow, and drop it from a height. The crab itself then drops from the tree (which they can do from a height of 15 feet, unharmed) to hopefully find its meal conveniently cracked open from the fall.

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Photo: Brocken Inaglory

Coconut crabs use the pointed tips of their second and third pairs of legs and the pincer-like endings on their fourth legs to climb trees. They can get up to 20 feet high this way, which must be quite a sight for those who aren’t expecting it. Once they’re up there, they can drop the coconuts they're carrying to be broken open on the ground below.

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Photo: fearlessRich

We’re not sure what’s at the top of the tree that has interested this coconut crab so much. Maybe some fruit? Coconut crabs have a very keen sense of smell and can detect the odor of fruit, or rotting flesh, from a long way off. This is just as well, since the crabs don’t see very well, although they can detect vibrations in the ground, much the way snakes do.

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Photo: Laura Beauregard/USFWS

Coconut crabs, like this one pictured on Palmyra Atoll, south of Hawaii, are scavengers that sometimes mistake human objects for food. This is the origin of their other names, ‘robber crab’ and ‘palm thief’. They especially like shiny items and, during WWII, were known for stealing from soldiers’ trenches.

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Photo:

John Tann

Once again, here are a couple of Christmas Island crabs. According to photographer John Tann, this is a rather curious critter that wandered up to him for a closer look. Although this is obviously a daytime snap, coconut crabs are actually mostly nocturnal. During the day, they either hide in crevices or dig themselves burrows in sand or loose dirt.

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Photo: James Humphreys

The beautiful blue hue of this Cook Islands crab makes it look lovely, rather than scary. However, as you can see, in comparison to the person holding it, it’s still one very large arthropod. The front claws alone are enormous! You can also see in this picture how the coconut crab's body is divided into two sections – the front and the abdomen. Also clearly visible are the crab’s four front pairs of legs. The fifth pair is normally kept tucked into the upper part of the exoskeleton, or carapace.

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Photo: The Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust

It’s not only the juicy contents of the coconut that these crabs use, either. They also utilize the husks, like those pictured, to line their burrows. Once in their underground lairs, coconut crabs seal the entrance, using their large pincers as spades. This serves the double purpose of both keeping the crabs protected and ensuring that the air in their burrows is kept nice and damp, making it easier for them to breathe.

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Photo: Jebulon

Here's another coconut crab, looking a little spider-like, on its way up to grab a tasty coconut snack. On some islands, these formidable creatures have spiritual significance. For example, Mariana Islanders believe that the crabs may be the returned spirits of deceased humans.

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Photo: Angela Kirkpatrick

The name coconut crab doesn’t necessarily refer only to the species’ diet. When they are young (like this one), coconut crabs will use the discarded shells of mollusks or gastropods for protection, just as hermit crabs do. When they can’t find a suitable mollusk shell, they will occasionally use a coconut’s. Then, once they’ve grown their own hardened exoskeleton, they no longer need to use these second-hand coverings.

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Photo: Drew Avery

One reason for the massive size of coconut crabs is that they continue to grow all through their lives – which can span 60 years! So the bigger a crab, the older it is. Although they are not the largest species of crab (there are bigger specimens in the ocean, with the Japanese spider crab the largest of all living arthropods), they are certainly the largest that live on land.

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Photo: yemaria

Here’s another formidable looking crab. Note the gorgeous blue and purple colors of its exoskeleton. Although unlikely to attack a person unprovoked, a coconut crab will snap at someone they consider threatening. And just in case you are ever caught in one of those vice-like grips, you can try a trick reportedly used by the Micronesians; that is, tickle the crab on the soft parts of its body until it lets go. Better yet, stay out of the crabs’ way in the first place!

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Photo: Ryshard Antonio

Looks like it’s time for this coconut crab to leave the tree hollow and go look for some food. According to Ryshard Antonio, who took this photograph, the crabs are easier to hear than to see at night. They apparently make a loud clanking noise that he describes as being similar to a rock hitting the ground. Not hard to believe, looking at those huge pincers.

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Photo: Ryukyu Mike

Coconut crabs have a wide-ranging habitat and can be found on shores in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans; like this one, from Sesoko Island, Japan. We love its stylish-looking blue stripes! Unfortunately for coconut crabs, their shells are prized as souvenirs, just as their meat is sought after for eating. Because of human appetites, the crabs no longer exist in heavily populated areas like Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea or Madagascar. And they face a similar fate in places like Guam and the Solomon Islands.

Staring coconut crabPhoto: S Glenum

Although it might seem impossible to stop the harvesting of these tough yet vulnerable creatures entirely, several countries, including Guam and Vanuatu, are trying to minimize the dangers to their coconut crab populations. The nature reserve of Palmyra Atoll also provides the crabs with a safe habitat in which to live. While farming the creature has also been considered, a lot still has to be learned about coconut crab reproduction for this to be viable.

Hopefully, these combined efforts will see coconut crabs continue to climb palm trees, grow to amazing sizes, and live out their long lives for generations to come.

Sources: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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