Pets are good for your health

The power of the human animal bond is one that many people can relate to emotionally, but may find it hard to explain verbally.

cat on a keyboardIf you own a pet, consider yourself in good company. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, 36 percent of U.S. households own dogs and 30 percent of U.S. households own cats. This large number of pet owners doesn’t take into account all those who have birds, horses, rabbits, Guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, snakes, etc. For centuries, humans and animals have shared a special bond. Animals help us do our work, protect our homes, provide companionship and help us cope with every day stress. Michigan State University Extension has numerous articles on pets, domestic and farm animal health, and of course human health.

The human-animal bond and the subsequent benefit to the human is a phenomenon that we can talk about, feel and perhaps begin to explain, however the actual science of what benefits they provide is relatively young. Over the past six years, research studies have shown that there is actual proof of physical and emotional benefits. In particular, according to the National Institute of Health people who have suffered heart attacks are more likely to have better recovery rates, if they are dog owners. People recover from stressful events quicker when they are with their pets. Dog owners tend to get more exercise than non-dog owners.

The Centers for Disease Control states that pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and your feelings of loneliness. Pets can increase your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, and your opportunities for socialization.

In addition to being beneficial to pet owners, newer research is being done into the benefits of brining animals into clinical settings. For years we there have been pet assistant dogs such as guide dogs for the visually impaired. There are also other ‘working’ type dogs like seizure alert dogs, diabetic alert dogs, dogs for the hearing impaired and mobility assistant dogs. The type of breed and training is usually specific for a ‘working dog’. Pet therapy can include not only a variety of dog breeds, but also cats, birds, goats and even horses.

It’s good to know that there is some science to prove that pets are good for humans. It may be hard to explain, but very clear to see, just watch anyone interacting with a beloved pet and you can see the bond of affection and devotion. There are countless stories, books and movies about people and their animal companions that warm the heart and make you weep. When a pet dies, it can cause grieving just as powerful as losing a beloved family member. Personally, I didn’t need any research to tell me pets are good for my health. I know when I am sick or tired or grouchy, petting my cat always makes me feel better. It is a type of unconditional love that is very hard to explain, but it is real.

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