The Health Benefits of Having Four-Legged Friends
According to the National Center of Health Research, 71 million American households have a pet in their home. While we know about dogs and animals that are specifically trained to assist those with health problems, research also shows us the health benefits of having a pet for ALL of us. For instance, petting a dog will lower your blood pressure and reduce anxiety. There are even studies showing that people with pets are less depressed, have fewer sick days, get more exercise, and have fewer visits to a doctor (Casciotti & Zuckerman, 2016).
Senior citizens who live alone benefit from owning a pet that extends beyond simple companionship. Seniors have less boredom, have more energy, less pain and get more exercise than some of their peers. The pets also benefit from this relationship. While the owner pets the animal, both the owner and animal have a surge in serotonin, the brain chemical responsible for mood. The boost in serotonin lessens anxiety and improves mood in both as they bond (Epstein, 2012).
Children also greatly benefit from having a pet in their home. Pets can be a companion while also allowing the children experiences such as affection, respect, loyalty, and can even be a friend to them. Just like some children tell their secrets to a favorite stuffed toy, some children find comfort in telling secrets to their pet. Children also learn lessons about the life cycle of reproduction, birth, illness and even loss such as death (AACAP, 2013).
I recently adopted an 8-week old Collie. The first days and nights were challenging for both of us. She was adjusting to being away from her mother and siblings, and I was adjusting to having a four-legged "toddler" in the house. With love and patience, together we will become a "pack", and I am look forward to years of unconditional love that a pet provides. A healthy pet often mirrors a healthy owner, and I look forward to having an active and healthy life with her.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2013). Pets and children. Retrieved from www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Pets-And-Children on 3/20/17.
Casciotti, D. and Zuckerman, D. (2016) The benefits of pets for human health. Retrieved from www.http://center4research.org/healthy-living-prevention/pets-and-health-the-impact-of-companion-animals/ on 3/20/17.
Epstein, S. (2012). Pet therapy for seniors living alone. Retrieved from www.retireathome.com/pet-therapy-for-seniors-living-alone on 3/20/17.