Having a pet is good for your health! For starters if you have a dog and you WALK your dog, you are getting outside, getting fresh air and walking too. But even if you are elderly or physically challenged in some way, owners of pets report consistently that they feel healthier. Research shows that Alzheimer’s patients have less anxiety attacks with a dog around and the very nature of pets who will cuddle and sit with you, provides companionship for the elderly and those living alone.
Such positive information about loving and caring for a pet makes Celebrate Shelter Pets Day even more important in our communities. On this day you can contact local shelters or rescue groups by clicking on the link www.theshelterpetproject.org. The site also contains adoption success stories and lots of information about the process of adoption. And you will be helping an animal as only 29% of those in American homes were adopted from a shelter or rescue. And though each year approximately 3-4 million pets are adopted, 2.7 million still lose their lives each year for lack of a home.
Animal behaviorist, Patricia McConnell, writes in her book, For the Love of a Dog, that levels of oxytocin, a mood-affecting neurotransmitter or feel-good brain hormone, can increase when one just pets a dog. That’s great news for your personal health. And Dr. Horst Becket of the Berlin Longevity Institute states that cats have a calming effect on people, lowering blood pressure and slowing heart rates. This can add an average of 10.3 years of life to people who have owned cats since childhood, Becket claims.
But what about children getting allergies from owning a pet? That’s changed, writes pediatrician James E. Gern MD in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Studies now show that children growing up with “furred animals” dog or cat, or on a farm with small or large animals, have less risk of asthma and allergies. Blood tests on infants at birth and then a year later who lived with animals were less likely to reveal evidence of pet allergies: 19% vs 33%. Dr. Gern concluded that the exposure to allergens strengthened the immune response.
Watch this video about Jules, and see if you don’t immediately fall in love.
Animals lovers and researchers have first-hand knowledge of how much pets help humans stay healthy and connected:
- many studies point to the fact that regular contact with pets helps reduce or lower cholesterol levels and speed recovery after illness
- a study in the UK showed pet owners dealt better with a loss in the family than those who did not have a pet; possibly they were able to share feelings with their pet in a time when it was difficult to talk to humans
- caregivers report that being around dogs and cats is beneficial to seniors, helping to remind them of normal home life and making them feel more comfortable and at ease; seniors get a sense of purpose and a cure for loneliness when caring for a pet
- children who grow up with a pet often have an easier time forming relationships with family members and friends as well as gaining confidence; having an animal also provides a means for making new friends.
So on this Celebrate Shelter Pets Day think about what a wonderful difference a pet could make in your family. Or maybe you have already rescued a wonderful animal that has improved your life. If so, share you story. I am happy to help animals who need to be rescued and wrote this piece in partnership with Element Associates.