Beat the blues with a canine or feline

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
Adopt-a-Pet.com, pet adoption, health benefits, stress relief, euthanasia
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Pia Salk, PsyD, an animal advocate and spokesperson for Adopt-a-Pet.com, is on a mission to find homes for animals of all sizes. She is a contributing writer on Adopt-a-Pet.com and host of “The Save-a-Pet Show. She notes that not only can an adoption save an animal from euthanasia, it can also provide the adoptive family with innumerable health benefits. During an interview, Pia emphasized that adopting not only saves animals’ lives; it also is good parenting, promotes pro-social behavior in today’s youth, and lowers stress. In addition to dogs and cats, the website can lead you to other animals in need of a home, including rabbits, birds, horses, farm animals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Pia uses the following dog breeds to illustrate the benefits of pet ownership. Please note: these are tongue-in-cheek examples and do not imply that the specific breed cited is necessary for that specific health benefit:

Beat the blues with a canine or feline: When seniors face adversity, affection from pets takes on great meaning. Pets, by giving unconditional love, help fight depression and loneliness, and promote an interest in life. Their bonding behavior can also foster a sense of security. (Source: Between Pets and People - The Importance of Animal Companionship)

Lower your blood pressure with a beagle: A recent study at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that people with hypertension who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than those who did not own a pet. (Source: Dr. Karen Allen, State University of New York at Buffalo)

Stress Less… Walk a Weimaraner: According to an international study, just walking with a furry friend helps calm frayed nerves, offering instant relaxation. Studies conducted worldwide have shown that the impact of a stressful situation is less on pet owners, especially males, than on those who do not own a pet. (Source: Josephine M. Wills, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, United Kingdom)

Prevent Heart Disease with a Poodle: Because pets provide people with faithful companionship, research shows they may also provide their owners with greater psychological stability; therefore, they are a measure of protection from heart disease. (Source: National Institute of Health Technology Assessment Workshop: Health Benefits of Pets)

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Survive a Heart Attack… Adopt an Afgahan: A study by the U.S. Department of Health concluded that 28% of heart patients who have pets survive serious heart attacks, compared to only 6% of heart patients without pets. (Source: Ontario Veterinary Medical Association)

Switch from Lipitor to Labrador: Studies show that the cholesterol levels of pet owners are 2% lower than the cholesterol levels of people without pets. Plus, pet owners reduce their risk of having a heart attack by 4%. (Source: Ontario Veterinary Medical Association)

More Time with a Dalmatian Means Less Time with the Doctor: A U.S. survey of 1,000 Medicare patients showed that 40% of the elderly sought the services of a doctor less frequently than those without animal companions. (Source: Ontario Veterinary Medical Association)

Although many individuals hold the opinion that shelters contain unwanted animals with behavioral problems or other issues that caused their owner to reject them. Pia asserts that that is not the case. Most pets are given to a shelter because of situations such as relocation, foreclosures or divorce. Shelter personnel try to insure that a good match is made between the pets and adopted families. They will ascertain if the new pet will be compatible with other animals such as dogs and cats already living in the home. Sometimes, pairs are available for adoption (i.e., two dogs or a dog and a cat). Rescue groups may focus on a particular breed and are staffed by unpaid volunteers. An example is the greyhound rescue network. Before the network was founded, greyhounds that were injured or did not perform well in races were euthanized. Network volunteers retrieve the animals from greyhound parks, provide them with veterinary care (not uncommonly, the animals have a broken leg), and acclimate them to living in a household.

Pia notes that Adopt-a-Pet.com helps more than two million visitors each month search for their new best friend to adopt. She makes the following points:

More than 12,000 animal shelters and pet-rescue organizations use Adopt-a-Pet.com’s free service to find homes for the pets in their care. There are currently more than 190,000 adoptable pets on the website, and she believes there is a perfect home out there for each one of them.

Adopt-a-Pet.com is a totally free service, both for the public and for animal shelters, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, Nestle Purina and Bayer Animal Health. They not only support us financially but also work with us to introduce new programs that help homeless pets.

Adopt-a-Pet.com empowers people to help homeless pets through social media: Often times, people want to know how they can help even if they can’t adopt a pet themselves. Any caring pet lover can easily help by posting about adoptable pets on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Just visit Adopt-a-Pet.com, find an adoptable pet you want to help, sharing the link on Facebook...or “Twitter a Critter.” Another Adopt-a-Pet service is “Search Saver,” which notifies potential adopters when a new pet matching their search criteria is added to its website. In the past 30 days alone, we have sent out over three million of these “We found your pet!” emails. People can also find volunteer opportunities on adoptapet.com.

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