57% of American households own at least 1 animal according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. And that is great news because people with pets get many health benefits.
Karen Allen, PhD, a researcher at the University of Buffalo conducted a study involving 48 stockbrokers who were all on medication for hypertension. 24 were given their choice of a dog or a cat to take home and care for. After caring for the pets for a while; blood pressure and heart rates were checked on all participants. Those with a pet had lower heart rates and had drops in their blood pressure versus the group without pets. Once those without pets learned the results many went out and got a pet.
Benefits of Pet Ownership:
- Reduce stress and blood pressure.
- Pets provide unconditional love. They are always happy to greet you when you arrive home.
- Criminals hate dogs. A dog is good personal security when you are out walking and good security for your home when you are not there.
- Walking a dog will help keep you fit and active.
- Pets are a responsibility that give a since of purpose, boosting your feelings of self worth. If you are feeling inadequate, unsure, or not useful; a pet (any kind, turtle, cat, horse) will boost your feelings of self worth because they are counting on you for their care.
- Need a date? Walking a dog breaks all kinds of social communication barriers. Neighbors or strangers are much more likely to approach you and strike up a conversation about your dog when they see you out walking or at the dog park. So if you need a date borrow a dog and get outside, there is no telling who you may meet, maybe your future spouse.
- Dogs can help clean your house. Drop a little popcorn on the floor, don’t worry about it, your dog will clean up the crumbs in no time. I think that is why dogs and little kids are so great together. One creates lots of crumbs and the other cleans them up.
- Studies have shown that heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without.
- An Australian and German study found that people who own pets have fewer doctor visits. (Aust Social Monitor 2002; 4: 93-99). Saving you money and keeping you healthier.
- Pets prevent you from being lonely. They are great to talk too even thou they don’t talk back. Giving you someone to confide in who you know won’t break a confidence.
- Pets can provide you with a new social network. You will meet people with similar interests at the dog park, dog shows, and other neighbors when you are out walking your dog.
- Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a pet in the house.
Dogs and cats are the most popular pets but that doesn’t have to be your choice. The studies indicate that the important thing is that it is a pet of your own, whether it is a horse, fish, rabbit, or iguana. Do not jump right out and get a pet before reading about the care required and making sure you have no allergy or asthma concerns.
Many communities have a program called “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” where you can go and walk a dog from a shelter. Giving you some exercise and providing a shelter dog some companionship and exercise. Check to see if this is available at your local shelter. You may get some of the health benefits of pet ownership while providing a community service.