Your furry companion is more than just an adorable face — although you probably already know that. As many medical professionals can attest, it takes more than a healthcare degree to cure the sick and bring peace to patients. Just as human contact is important to maintaining mental and physical health, so is contact with animals. Especially beloved pets.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but getting your child a pet may reduce their likelihood of developing allergies. In a recent study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pediatrician James E. Gern, MD, found that babies who lived with a dog were 33% less likely to develop allergies. These children also had stronger immune systems and were less likely to have eczema. Other studies have confirmed Gern’s results. Some indicate that any animal with fur reduces the likelihood of allergies, including farm animals.
Fewer Sick Days
According to an article in Time magazine, common pets like cats and dogs can help a baby’s immune system develop faster and stronger. The natural germs that animals carry seem to mature a child’s immune system. This can make them more resistant to everything from the common cold to asthma. Fewer illnesses also mean that antibiotics won’t have to be used as often — staving off potential for new strains of drug-resistant bacteria.
Dogs in particular are known to increase the exercise levels of their owners. Because dogs need to be walked at least once a day, dog owners are forced to get off the couch and get moving. Trips to the dog park and play time also provide exercise opportunities for both dog and owner. Even playing with cats can provide an adequate amount of exercise for the elderly and others with movement limitations.
According to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Health Institute, those with pets receive several heart-healthy benefits. People with pets tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than those without. All of these factors decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Pet owners who do have a heart attack tend to recover more quickly. They also have higher survival rates than those who do not have an animal.
When we exercise or enjoy a laugh with friends, our brains release the feel good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Playing and cuddling with pets releases these same chemicals, which elevate mood. Dr. Greg Fricchione of Harvard’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine reports that when a human stares into the eyes of a dog, both receive a boost of oxytocin. Oxytocin, too, is a feel good chemical and one that aids in bonding. While a pet alone may not be enough to correct a chemical imbalance, enjoying the company of an animal companion undeniably serves as a natural mood elevator.
Just how beneficial are pets? One life insurance company in Ohio asks people over 75 if they own one. If they do, they may be eligible for slightly reduced rates. While you must think carefully about the responsibilities of pet ownership before adopting, be sure to remember all the benefits that come as well.
About the author: Shae Holland is a professional copywriter and writer for Western Governors University. She is also an avid animal lover with two springer spaniels named Laurel and Hearty, and likes to go horseback riding at every opportunity.