Pet Ownership and Your Health

Your pets provide companionship, unconditional love and plenty of smiles, but they also make you healthier just by living with you. The health benefits of owning a pet are both physical and psychological, and they extend throughout an owner’s life. By keeping your furry companion healthy and happy, you're actually improving your own health and the health of your entire family.

Pets and a Healthy Heart

While eating right and exercise are important components of maintaining a healthy heart, sharing your home with a pet can be another way to boost your cardiovascular health, according to health research institutes. Owning a pet is linked to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and lower triglyceride levels.

Exercise and Your Pet

If you have a dog, your daily walk together gives both of you needed exercise. Cats often enjoy active play with an owner-controlled string or fishing-pole toy, so it's easy to get small bursts of activity in throughout your day when you've got a feline in the home. Even pet owners with rabbits, hamsters or birds get more exercise than those without any pets because feeding, cage maintenance and playing with your pet are all sources of physical activity.

Children and Pets

Owning pets may be particularly beneficial to kids. According to medical study, children living with two or more dogs or cats in the household during infancy are less likely to have allergies by age six or seven . Pets also provide needed emotional support when a child is upset or troubled, and pets can help children develop empathy and responsibility.

Pets and Elder Health

Older adults often have more healthcare needs, but owning pets can help keep them healthier as they age. Adults 65 and older who have a pet are better able to maintain and improve their ability to handle activities of daily living, which means that owning a pet can help you live independently for longer. Pets also provide social companionship for senior adults, which is vital to psychological health and well being.

Household Companions as Health Monitors

If you have a chronic condition or disability, pets can act as a health monitor and alert you or others to potential problems. In some cases, dogs can alert owners to an impending epileptic seizure or dangerous changes in blood sugar levels, according to a published medical report.

Sources:

National Institute of Health, “Can Pets Keep You Healthy?” News in Health, February 2009

Wells, Deborah L. “Domestic Dogs and Human Health: An Overview.” British Journal of Health Psychology, December 2010.

Raina, P; Waltner-Toews, D; Bonnett, B; Woodward, C; Abernathy, T. “Influence of Companion Animals on the Physical and Psychological Health of Older People: an Analysis of a One-Year Longitudinal Study.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, March 1999.

Ownby, DR; Johnson, CC; Peterson, EL. “Exposure to Dogs and Cats in the First Year of Life and Risk of Allergic Sensitization at 6 to 7 Years of Age.” Journal of the American Medical Association, August 2002.

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