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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Can Your Pet Keep You Healthy?

Can Your Pet Keep You Healthy?

North America has officially gone to the dogs; 39% of U.S. households own at least one dog, 33% have at least one cat, and the numbers in Canada are similar. That doesn’t even cover all of the rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, lizards, snakes, turtles, mice, chinchillas, potbellied pigs, and other animal companions out there. Many animal lovers see their pets as bona fide members of the family. If you have pets, you may have even more reason to love your four-legged friends.

Results of a handful of medical studies done in recent years have shown that owning a pet can have a positive impact on a person’s health. Here’s a look at just some of the ways that our animal companions can promote wellness:

Stress Reduction: Study after study has shown that people who own pets are less likely to suffer from the ill effects of a stressful life than those who don’t. Stroking, cuddling, or even talking to an animal releases endorphins, mood-enhancing chemicals in our bodies that fight off the harmful effects of stress. Because our relationships with pets are uncomplicated (unlike those with people) and free of judgment, we are able to be completely ourselves with our pets. This, in turn, promotes …

Heart Health: Having a pet can actually lead to measurable improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, sometimes even more effectively than medication. One study placed pets with some New York stockbrokers who suffered from hypertension. Those who received pets ended the study with lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t have pets. Stress reduction is a part of this, but it doesn’t hurt that pets can also give us a reason to get moving. Which brings us to …

Physical Fitness: Walking, playing ball, or even teasing a cat with a piece of string are all great motivations for being more active. Dogs, especially, are some of the best workout partners around. In fact, one study even proved this. Nursing home residents who needed more exercise were divided into two groups. One group was asked to walk dogs at a local animal shelter, while the other group was paired up with human walking buddies. The dog-walkers ended the study more physically fit than those with human partners. While the human buddies often talked one another out of exercising, the dogs were always happy to get out, and their human companions felt more accountable to them.

Depression: Just as pets can reduce stress, the endorphins released by interacting with an animal can fight depression. Their sweetness and unconditional love can serve as a reminder that life isn’t all bad. Being responsible for another creature’s wellbeing can also help to deflect attention away from your own problems. One of the reasons this may be true is that pets promote …

Social Wellness: Pets can keep us from feeling lonely by providing companionship. More than that, though, pets can help us to create healthy relationships with people, too. Walking or playing with a pet makes people seem more friendly and approachable. Someone who wouldn’t usually dream of talking to a stranger will often feel differently about asking about that same stranger’s pet. If you have a dog, you might meet other dog lovers at your local park or on a walk. Setting up a puppy play-date is also a great way to get to know neighbors or co-workers a little better.

Allergies: Though many kids and adults suffer from allergies to pet dander, having a pet at a young age is actually the best way to prevent pet allergies. Kids who grow up in homes where pets or farm animals are present are less likely to suffer from allergies, skin conditions, or asthma than kids who grow up without pets.

Now, if only medical insurance would cover the cost of pet food …

2 comments

1 Kenna Glassford { 06.04.14 at 1:15 am }

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2 msmariette { 03.02.11 at 10:51 am }

I know that what I tell my husband and he is very needy and wont let me have a pet….but I am going to get one anyway!

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