Pets and Our Health
According to the American Pet Products Association (2017-2018), 68% of U.S. households own a pet (84.6 million homes). Dogs ranked first in the number of households owning a pet, followed by cats, freshwater fish, birds, small animals, reptiles, horses, and saltwater fish.
While owning a pet comes with many responsibilities, research has shown that the relationship between a pet and their owner offers many benefits:
Love and Companionship
· Security from the unconditional love they provide
· Provide a sense of purpose and a feeling of validation
· Become beloved members of the family with whom they share a mutually beneficial relationship
· Offer companionship
· Dogs can make you feel safer at home and while walking
· Provide companionship to children, including those with autism and learning difficulties
· Pets need regular activity. If a dog becomes your pet of choice, brisk daily walks will help you and your dog keep in shape
· Encourage activity in the elderly by giving them a sense of purpose
· Walking your dog or taking it to obedience lessons are just two settings where you’ll have the opportunity to meet new faces and interact with people you might not otherwise have met
· Don’t be surprised if you’re stopped by strangers in the street who are eager to pet your dog and find out more about them
Childhood Learning and Responsibility
· Having a pet in the home is a great way for children to learn valuable life lessons in a fun, rewarding way. From the daily responsibility of feeding, exercising, and caring for the animal to understanding more about empathy, illness, and loss, it can equip children with the emotions to cope better with important life events as they grow up
· The presence of a pet in the home can boost your mood, especially after a hectic or stressful day
· Encourage laughter
· Lower blood pressure
· Ease pain
· Lower cholesterol
Animals Helping People
· Therapy animals can serve as a source of comfort and support, whether at home or elsewhere, such as hospitals, nursing homes, or the classroom
· Specially-trained animals assist:
During medical emergencies (such as when having a seizure or when a diabetic’s blood sugar drops)
Search and rescue
Occupational, speech, and physical therapy during recovery
Behavioral (mental) health distress
Pet Considerations: Before getting a pet
· Consider if you’re physically and mentally able to care for it.
· Do you have the memory skills to remember to feed the animal?
· Do you have the energy, strength, and mobility to feed it, play with it, clean up after it, and, in the case of dogs, take it for daily walks?
· Do you have the financial means to pay for pet food, grooming, and visits to the veterinarian?
· Take into consideration the pet’s size and age
· Consider the animal’s personality
· Do you have the space to accommodate your pet?
· Do you or family members have pet allergies?
· Although pets come with many benefits, pets sometimes carry germs that can make people sick. It is hard to know which animals could be carrying diseases, especially since animals carrying these germs can often look healthy and normal
When you have a pet:
· Learn to recognize signs of stress in your pet and know when not to approach
· Take your pet to its veterinarian regularly so it stays in good health.
· Practice good hygiene around your pets so they don’t pass germs to you
· Learn about the potential diseases specific to your pet