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Pets: More Than Just Pretty Paws

Updated on April 30, 2013

Pet ownership. It is a demanding responsibility. Nevertheless, the rewards are more than anyone could ever expect. Not only do you have companionship and love, but also having a pet is actually beneficial for your health.

No, this is not simply me as a pet person talking. I am also not strictly referring to search-and-rescue dogs that save lives every day. According to current and past research (Serpell, 1991; O'Haire, 2013) having a pet in your life is physically and emotionally favourable. Several different studies have reached the conclusion that pet owners have known for decades. Having a pet is innately good for your whole being. Having a pet is indeed a form of holistic health.

Health Benefits

Researchers in Melbourne, Australia at the Baker ID Heart and Diabetes Institute undertook a study involving 5,741 patients. Of this number, 781 had pets. Researchers found that those who had pets had “significantly lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglycerides than non-owners.” This indicates pet owners are less at risk for cardiac risk.

The lower blood pressure may be not the result of some magical ingredient of pet ownership. It can relate to the necessity for exercise. Dog owners find themselves on the other end of the leash at least twice a day. They need to take their dog outside. This results in exercise of varied forms. It depends upon the dog and the individual.

Another side effect of this exercise is socializing. Walking a dog is a great way to meet people of all types. Dog people converge in parks and walk in neighbourhoods. This results in contact with other dog walkers and pet owners. Sometimes, information is exchanged leading to further walks or play sessions.

Dog interaction leads to human interaction of all types. You may find yourself talking to complete strangers and getting to know your neighbours. In doggie parks across North America and Europe, people exchange information about their dog’s habits, requirements, vets and character. It is a way for humans to discover more about each other while discovering more information about canine behaviour.

Canine and Feline Benefits

While your dog may get you active, cats and dogs help improve your emotional health. Both animals provide people with comfort. Cats and some dogs sit on laps. They encourage stroking which has been shown to reduce stress levels. In cases of depression, animals help reduce those feelings of anxiety and lack of control. Even Guniea Pigs and other small animals have helped individuals with autism spectrum

St. John’s Ambulance (who started animal visits to institutions in Peterborough in 1992) has proven time-and-time again the positive effects of bringing dogs into hospitals. These Therapy animals now visit as part of many retirement homes’ regular programs. They also provide help with children’s programmes. Paws 4 Stories encourages children to read in a distinctive manner. Children between age 6 and 10 sit down with a dog and read to him or her. This is a non-judgmental approach to helping children improve their reading skills.

The term “therapy dogs” has come to embrace many diverse aspects of our lives. Therapy dogs can help students at university’s adapt to living away from home. They are distinguished, however, from those trained canines called service dogs.

Service dogs address certain special needs. Although seeing-eye or Guide dogs have long been a common practice, today, you can also find dogs who help those with hearing deficits and people with specific medical conditions including seizures and emotional issues.

Conclusion

A pet is not simply a pet. Even a goldfish can reduce your blood pressure. Having responsibility for an animal also encourages you to get out of yourself. It gives you a reason to get up every day. Having a dog, a cat, a goldfish, a snake or any other form of living being is truly rewarding in all aspects of your life.

Further Reading

Does Pet Ownership Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease? InterActions, (1992),10(3): 12-13.

Friedmann, E. & Son, H. (2009). “The Human-Companion Animal Bond: How Humans Benefit.” Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 39:293–326.

Grandgeorge, M. & Hausberger, M. (2011). “Human-Animal Relationships: From Daily Life to Animal-Assisted Therapies.” Ann. Ist. Super. Sanità. 47(4)http://www.scielosp.org/scielo.php?pid=S0021-25712011000400012&script=sci_arttext.

O'Haire, M. E.; McKenzie, S. J.; Beck, A. M. & Slaughter, V. (2013).“Social Behaviors
Increase in Children with Autism in the Presence of Animals Compared to Toys.” http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0057010.

Serpell, J. (1991). “Beneficial effects of pet ownership on some aspects of human health and behaviour.” J R Soc Med. 84(12): 717–720.

Wells, D. L. (2009). “The Effects of Animals on Human Health and Well-Being.” J Soc Issues 65: 523–543.


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