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Did You Know There are Health Benefits from Having Pets?

The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) issued a statement with supporting data from a plethora of research to show many health and mental benefits from pet ownership. Those who already own a pet probably do not need to be reminded of the daily doses of unconditional love they receive from their domesticated animal(s) and of the many other benefits that come from living with a pet friend. For many years, dogs have been used as therapeutic agents in nursing homes and with disabled children and adults, and these programs have shown decreases in patients’ uses of prescription drugs and the participating patients experienced fewer medical problems

Anyone wanting to have a pet, however, needs to be careful to choose the appropriate pet and to ensure that the pet will have the supervision, time, love, and attention needed to grow and positively develop. Pets cost money for vaccinations, food, and grooming, if needed. They also need time commitments from their owners and families to experience connectedness, exercise, and feel appreciated. When these needs are met, you can expect to have a happy and enjoyable relationship with your pet.

Although pet owners will say that their pets make them feel better, sometimes it is difficult to articulate the exact ways in which their relationship is enhanced by their pet. Here are some known advantages to pet ownership, and additional benefits you may not know that emanate from owning a pet.

1. Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides: Multiple studies have shown that people with pets have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels when compared with non-pet owners.

2. Lower Blood Pressure: Dogs have been shown to reduce blood pressure levels of their owners and to even lower blood pressure when they are present during stress tests of people who are not their owners.

3. Reduce Stress: In a study using a group of hypertensive New York stockbrokers, the presence of dogs and cats in their offices or at home reduced stress and lowered blood pressure. Other research showed the benefits of watching aquarium fish to both reduce stress and raise levels of focusing on tasks.

4. Increase Exercise and Activity Levels: Dog owners get more exercise due to walking their pets. This added exercise can be beneficial for overall health, weight reduction, stress management, and meeting new people.

5. Increase Social Support: Pets attract attention, whether they are walking or at home in their yard, and this can bring more socializing to the owner. Many new friendships can be forged at the local dog park, pet shows, pet rescue benefits, or canine recreational day programs.

6. Increase Longevity After Heart Attacks: Recent research has shown that pet ownership increases the percentage of people who survived at least one year after their heart attack to 28% with non-pet owners only having a 6% chance of survival after one year. In addition, dog ownership increased the immediate survival rate in people with heart attacks from 1 in 15 to 1 in 87!

7. Improve Mental Health: Pets offer unconditional love and constant companionship. Some studies have shown that patting a pet can release serotonin and endorphins, brain chemicals that provide the feelings of happiness and love. People who have pets report feeling less lonely and have lower rates of depression than their non-pet owner counterparts.

8. Provide Early Warning for Major Health Issues: For many years, dogs have been used to help the blind and disabled in daily functioning tasks. New studies have shown dogs can also warn owners when they are about to have a seizure up to 45 minutes before it occurs. In addition, trained dogs have been used with helping people with Parkinson’s Disease, to diagnose cancer, and to give an early alert to their owners who would have hypoglycemic attacks.

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