The Health Benefits of Having a Pet

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health benefits of having a pet

Our pets have a tremendous impact on our lives, from quality of life to staving off depression.  They keep us company and provide unconditional love and emotional support.  There are a great many proven, as well as anecdotal, benefits of having a pet.

You Make Me Feel So Young

Often older people live alone, with children grown and gone, and perhaps a spouse as well, a pet can provide companionship, a reason to get out and walk or get fresh air.  The presence of pets has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure, create more social interaction with others, and relieve anxiety.  Matching pet to person is an important issue.  Many older people are not physically able to look after a puppy or kitten, as they require more attention, but an older dog or cat makes an ideal companion.  It is a win/win situation for both senior and pet.  There are many, many wonderful older pets waiting to be adopted.  Many times they are overlooked in favor of a puppy or kitten, but older pets, being more sedate and requiring less care than a baby animal, is the best of both worlds – all the benefits of pet parenting without the time and energy needs required by a puppy or kitten.

Achoo!

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, children who grow up with a cat or dog may be protected from developing asthma.  It was once thought that children, being exposed to a pet in the home, were at a greater risk for allergies, but the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that being exposed to the allergy trigger of pet dander as a young child can reduce the instances of pet allergies by 33 percent.

Nature’s Antidepressant

Just being in the room with your pet can cause an actual physical response that decreases stress and enhances overall mood.  Pets make us feel better, physically and emotionally.  Therapists have even prescribed pets as a tool to help their patients recover from depression.

It Doesn’t Come in a Pill

Having a pet has shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce the instance of death from cardiac disease, increase physical fitness and lower risk of stroke. Owning a pet has also been shown to  lower risk of asthma in children, increase comfort in counseling patients, reduce symptoms of ADHD in children, calm a child with autism, warn of an impending seizure, and calm Alzheimer’s patients.

Canine Cancer Detection

There are many stories of dogs that can smell cancer, either on a person’s breath, in a urine sample, and on or under the skin.  The evidence is mixed, with complaints about studies, seeming to show what is being called a 95% success rate, being unscientific or the sampling too small to be trusted.  Because of the problems inherent in using animals in a medical setting, it is unlikely this method will ever gain wide-spread popularity.

Conclusion

Pets give themselves to us fully and enhance and improve our lives in so many ways, asking little in return.  The bond between humans and animals is one of a kind and the health benefits of having a pet is just one more way they make our lives so much better.

Photo Credit:  istockphoto.com

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