Measuring the Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

By Valdette Muller| February 28, 2017 | Blog

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While allergies and messy fur are par the course when owning pets, there are many healthy benefits to pet ownership as well.

Apart from the obvious benefits of animals such as guide dogs, animals have been trained to perform other therapeutic duties including assisting with speech and occupational therapy.

The aspect of companionship is also very prevalent in pets and several studies have been conducted to see if this companionship has real health benefits.

While difficult to measure accurately, some studies have suggested that pet owners take fewer sick days, get more exercise, are less prone to depression and in some cases even have healthier hearts.

One study in particular measured changes in heart rates and blood pressure among pet owners versus those who did own a pet.

On average the pet owners had lower heart rates and blood pressure going into the experiment as opposed to their non-pet owner counterparts. The pet owners also demonstrated less spikes in heart rate when exposed to stressful situations.

A similar study was performed on children making routine doctor visits. A dog was present in the consultation room for some checkups and was absent in others. The average anxiety levels for the children decreased when the dog was present. The findings were that pets can make it easier for people to relax and provide a social support structure in a similar way to support from friends and family. The difference being that there is less chance of the relationship with a pet becoming strained or turning negative.

Similarly, pets have been introduced among the elderly and have shown to improve quality of life and gave them a sense of responsibility.

There are numerous factors involved in studies such as these, from the age, gender, marital status and personality of the owner to the type of pet in question. For example, would a dog, cat or goldfish each have a similar impact on their owners. Individual experiences and situations can also heavily influence findings.

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Studies have also looked at how people have changed from before they had a pet, to during and after the pet was with them. Again findings have been mixed, but in the relatively small groups, the trend has been towards improvement in health and well-being among the pet owners.

The results mentioned above have paved the way for more studies to see if the trends can be more narrowly defined and the factors explained in more detail. Doctors, schools and care centres are looking for more ways to improve human health and policies are changing to consider animals as serious options to this end, basically confirming what pet owners have known all along, owning a pet is good for you.

Source: https://center4research.org/healthy-living-prevention/pets-and-health-the-impact-of-companion-animals/

 

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