Live Longer – Get a Pet!
By Ed Kostro
Recent studies at UCLA have found that pet ownership corresponds to overall better health, both physical and emotional, and far fewer medical visits – as many as 21 percent fewer trips to the doctor.
Whether we walk our dogs because they need it, or because we enjoy a walk more when we have some companionship, dog owners tend to do far more walking than non-pet owners. And, because exercise is beneficial for stress management and overall health, owning a dog can be credited with increasing these health benefits.
Dogs have also been shown to reduce blood pressure. Studies in women undergoing stress tests, have demonstrated that the presence of a dog had more of an effect on lowering blood pressure than the presence of friends. Similarly, children who had a dog present during their physical examination showed lower heart rate, blood pressure, and behavioral distress than when the dog was not present. Stockbrokers who had dogs in their offices when they had to carry out stressful tasks had smaller increases in blood pressure than those who did not have a pet present.
Dog ownership even increases the odds for survival in persons who have had a heart attack. Only 6 percent of non-dog owners survived versus 28 percent of people living with dogs.
Owning a cat can significantly boost the health and happiness of seniors and people living alone, giving them a feeling of purpose, and the knowledge that they are still needed. Cats are ideal pets for seniors as they are relatively low-maintenance in comparison to dogs. They don’t need formal exercise like regular walks, or constant trips to the backyard, since they take care of their own exercise routine during play, and they confine their bathroom habits to a single area.
Dogs and Cats
For those of us who love animals, we also know it’s virtually impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving dog eyes meets yours, or when a purring cat lovingly rubs up against your hand or stretches out on your lap.
Both dogs and cats are always there for us in ways that people simply can’t be. They offer unconditional love and companionship, and they also enjoy comfortable silences with us, keep our secrets, and are excellent snugglers.
And, both dogs and cats are an excellent antidote to loneliness. In fact, research shows that nursing home residents report far less loneliness when visited by dogs and cats than when they just spend time with other people.
All of these benefits to pet ownership can reduce the amount of stress people experience in response to feelings of social isolation and lack of social support from other people. Older adults often lack companionship, social connections, and opportunities for recreation during their retirement years. A loving pet can solve these problems.
Pets and Children
One study even found that children living with pets were 13-18 percent less likely to miss school due to illness than children without pets. Researchers who measured the salivary immunologobulin levels of young pet owners found that their immune function was less likely to be in the sub-normal range than those of non-pet-owners. Additionally, cats can provide particular therapeutic benefits for children with conditions such as autism, especially those who suffer from motor coordination problems.
I’ve been extremely fortunate my entire life. Both my grandparents and my parents knew the value and benefit of having both cats and dogs in our lives, and in our households.
In fact, since early childhood, I’ve never lived any length of time without a pet in my life, even when I was in the military. And today, I still have a house filled with both extremely loving dogs and cats. All of them rescued from the streets or from an animal shelter.
I’m heading out right now to walk my dogs; and tonight, I’ll be watching T.V., with a loving feline or two, happily perched on my lap.
Want to feel better? Get Yourself a Pet. There are thousands of adorable, loving, health-enhancing dogs and cats waiting for you right now, at animal shelters all across this vast nation.