According to the APPA National Pet Owners Survey, a record 68 percent of American households have opened their homes and hearts to pets, with dog ownership swelling to 56.7 million households and cat ownership growing to 45.3 million.
When it comes to pet ownership, besides simple companionship, there are a number of proven physical, mental and emotional health benefits that pet ownership can provide. Here are just a few:
- Lessens risk of allergies and asthma – University of Wisconsin-Madison pediatrician James E. Gern has conducted a number of studies that indicate having a pet can lower a child’s likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent. In fact, his research shows that children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall.
- Reduces anxiety, stress and blood pressure – Interacting with a pet increases serotonin and dopamine, which produce feelings of contentment and relaxation. One study has shown that people conducting stressful tasks experienced less stress when their pet was with them than when their friends or spouse was present.
- Decreased Cardiovascular risk – Research shows that pet owners have fewer signs of heart disease — lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels — than non-owners. Several studies have shown that heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without. A National Institutes of Health study of 421 adults found that dog owners had a better one-year survival after a heart attack, compared to those who did not own dogs. And research from the University of Minnesota found that cat ownership was related to a 40% lower risk of suffering a fatal heart attack.
- Companionship – Not only do animals provide a sense of comfort and trust, they offer unconditional love and can give owners a sense of purpose. They also encourage socialization and communication with others. Walking the dog can be a more effective means of spending quality time with family and friends, and pets can make for good conversation starters.
- Exercise – Pets can provide you with routine motivation to get out of the house and move. Research conducted by the National Institute of Health found that dog owners responsible for walking their pups are less likely to be obese than dog owners who pass the duty off to someone else or those who don’t own dogs at all.
So have fun with your pooch or feline friend, because it turns out that all pets, not just therapy pets, are good for your mind, body and spirit.
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