Sunday, November 11, 2007

Owning a pet = better health?

There have been many studies involving pet ownership/companionship and human health. On the face of things, you can see why it can be beneficial for a person’s health to have a pet.

For example, if you have a dog and you don’t have a yard, you are forced to take the pup out for a walk regularly. This enforces exercise and often encourages socialization. Many people have met others pet owners over the countless walks over the months and years. Pets need love and care. They need to be fed, no matter how unwell you may feel. They often demand a cuddle or a hug (dogs especially!), sometimes at just the right moment when you’re feeling your worst.

In a study undertaken by Karen Allen, PhD, Pets and Human Cardiovascular Health, Dr Allen writes, people with pets had a significantly lower basal heart rate and lower blood pressure, and they were able to do mental arithmetic at a quicker rate, as well as recover from stresses quicker, than did non-pet owners. In another study, Dr. Allen found, “Participants with dogs present in their homes had significantly reduced resting BP (that is, to within the normal range), reactivity to stress, as well as ambulatory blood pressure, even while at work, while those in the transcendental meditation program exhibited no significant changes. Lowest ambulatory BP was recorded on the day participants took their dogs to work. This pattern of response was replicated 3 months after the control group acquired their dogs. These findings suggest that control of borderline hypertension can be assisted by a behavioral intervention involving a pet dog.”

In 2005, a study appeared in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), by June McNicholas et al, which reviewed the evidence of pet ownership evidence and issues. She writes:
- “People do not own pets specifically to enhance their health, rather they value the relationship and the contribution their pet makes to their quality of life.
- Greater understanding among health professionals is needed to assure people that they do not need to choose between pet ownership and compliance with health advice.” That last point is particularly important in situations where people are chronically ill or who are dying. The presence of a pet in a palliative care setting can be an enormous comfort to both the one who is dying and the family and friends.

Why the post on pets today?

Yesterday, we welcomed another greyhound into our home. She will be 9 years old next month and is a retired brood mom. She’s gorgeous and charming and an absolute doll. If you love dogs, please consider welcoming a greyhound into your life. As a lover of all dog breeds, I never thought I would be smitten by one breed in particular, but after Oscar came into my life in 2004, I was sold on the gentle and loving nature of these dogs – and so many of them need forever homes. Please contact me if you would like to learn more about greyhounds and what they are truly like – not the myths of energetic, nervous, excitable hounds, but the loving companions they are.


Clare2e said...

Congrats on the new charmer! And such a nice retirement for what I understand (from other Greyhound lovers) is a super-sweet breed.

At least a couple of us WOM are dog people, and I guess none of us animal roommates are surprised by the beneficial effects. One thing I value about my pets (if later) is that they keep me grounded. My head floats into the clouds with subplots and fictional characters, and there's nothing like a little vomit in the corner or a cold nose in the face to keep it real.

Marijke Vroomen-Durning said...

LOL! You are so right. They do keep us here on earth.