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Want a Friend to Help your Health? Get a Pet

Harold Mandel's picture
Man's best friends

A dog is a man's best friend in more ways than you might imagine.


There have been anecdotal stories for as long as we can remember about how a dog is a man's best friend. The emotional bond which is often seen between dog owners and their pets is generally very impressive. To add to the psychological benefits of dog ownership there are also considerations of improved physical health from taking care of your pet.

A prescription for a pet may be a good idea

A prescription for a pet is a novel idea that could really pay off. Overall, pet owners have been found to be better off than non-owners, particularly when they nurture a higher-quality relationship with their pets. The majority of families in the United States have at least one pet,
as reported on by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are many health benefits of owning pets.

It has been found that pets can decrease your:

1: Blood pressure

2: Cholesterol levels

3: Triglyceride levels

4: Feelings of loneliness

Pets can also increase your:

1: Opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities

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2: Opportunities for socialization

Research confirms the belief that overall owning a dog is really good for your health, as reported
upon in the journal Psychology and Society. This study was done by researchers associated with the Psychology Department at the University of Tromsø, Norway. It has been shown that the owner's attachment to their pets influences taking time to walk their dogs which is of course very beneficial for their health.

It has been observed that owners of dogs do not visit the doctor as often as non pet owners. And so dog owners also have lower health care costs than non dog owners. There have also been reports that having a dog as a companion is associated with a lower rate of depressive symptoms. People who lack social supports from family and friends often gain great emotional benefits from having a dog as a pet. Dog owners therefore appear to be better physically and emotionally fit than non dog owners.

The dramatic health benefits of owning a dog have been witnessed not only from exercising with a dog, but also from simply being with a dog. It appears that walking a dog offers potentially more health benefits due to an actual benefit for cardiac health from the bonding between man and dog. Owners of pets have been found to have lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglycerides than non pet owners. It has been found that after a myocardial infarction, one year survival is improved by owning a dog. Having a pet may lower your risk of heart disease, writes
Emaxhealth reporter Teresa Tanoos.

The physical health of children is often also improved from having a dog. Children have been found to suffer from fewer colds and attacks of influenza when they own a dog. However, caution should be taken in children who have asthma, since being around a dog can increase symptoms of bronchitis in these kids.

Dog ownership appears to benefit emotional well being in adults and kids. It has been observed that pets can lower owners’ depression and anxiety levels. In fact simply touching an animal may lower a person's anxiety and physiological arousal, which can roll over into significant health effects. And just playing with pets can increase a person's socialization.

As has been said to occur with human relationships, it appears that higher levels of attachment to a pet have been associated with improvements in emotional and physical health. Owners of pets generally discuss them as being part of their family. In this context, the more quality time which is spent between an owner and a dog, the stronger the companionship bond becomes.
Pet owners appear to be happier, healthier, and to have more self-esteem than non-owners., writes EmaxHealth reporter Kathleen Blanchard, RN .

Pet owners appear to be healthier in body and mind

The bottom line is dog owners and other pet owners appear to be healthier in body and mind than non pet owners. Owning a pet is generally a great motivator to exercise more and to socialize more. The positive impact of a strong emotional attachment to your dog can roll over into more quality time being spent walking your dog and therefore even better cardiovascular health and weight control. The perceived of physical and psychological benefits of pet ownership are significant and are associated with real overall health benefits.

It is my professional opinion that the prescription of pets is generally a great idea for kids and adults alike. Of course precautions must be taken when dealing with asthma and severe allergies, in which case a naturopath or allergist should be consulted. Otherwise, pet ownership simply appears to make better people out of us all. The individual benefits from increased exercise which is associated with improvements in heart health and weight are compelling. And I generally perceive of significant emotional benefits not just from more exercise, but also due to the nurturing of responsible positive emotions in pet owners.

Although the most benefits for daily exercise are seen with dog ownership, I have witnessed a significant amount of emotional bonding with small pets such as rabbits, which therefore also
offer significant health benefits for their owners. It is a positive sign in an otherwise chaotic and violent society that there are laws to protect pets from harm. Pets are living things which can help people improve their lives if you will bring them into your life. They deserve similar legal protections from harm as people do.