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From A Vet: 7 Reasons Dogs Are Great For Your Well-Being

I love animals. They are my life’s work and my passion. So naturally, I feel that no one’s life is complete without the pitter-patter of paws. There may be some nay-sayers, but fortunately, I have some heavy hitting research to back me up. Consider these, and keep these facts in your pocket for the next time you meet someone who doesn’t understand all the great ways dogs benefit the people who love them.

1. Animals Promote Faster Healing and Improved Physical Health

97% of physicians reported that they believe there were health benefits that resulted from owning a pet. (HABRI Oct 2014 survey).  Specialists also agree. Oncologists found that animals were an integral part of treatment protocols.

Stewart B. Fleishman, MD, principal investigator and Founding Director of Cancer Supportive Services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel said, “Having an animal-assisted visit significantly improved the quality of life and ‘humanized’ a high-tech treatment. Patients said they would have stopped their treatments before completion, except for the presence of the certified Good Dog Foundation therapy dog and volunteer handler.”

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2. Pets Can Help People Have Fewer Allergies

Several studies have indicated that exposure of children to pets at a young age may decrease the likelihood of developing allergies later on. In one such study, published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, researchers looked at the association between lifetime dog and cat exposure and allergic sensitization in a group of children. They found that being exposed to dogs or cats at home during the first year of life was the most important factor in the reduced risk of allergic sensitization later in life.

3. Pets Encourage Exercise and Improved Cardiovascular Health

You know that your dog needs exercise. Somehow, it is easier prioritize his needs above your own. His happiness (or lack thereof) makes you feel guiltier than the tightness of your own pants. A loved one’s needs are a stronger motivator than what is only good for you. So the two of you can get what you both need, exercise and together time.

Studies suggest that four-legged friends can help to improve our cardiovascular health. One NIH-funded study looked at 421 adults who had suffered heart attacks. A year later, the scientists found, dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than were those who did not own dogs, regardless of the severity of the heart attack.

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4. Animals Provide a Buffer from Stress

Your pet can always be counted on to be a constant in your life. Your cat purrs when she sees you. Your dog is happy when you arrive. In our overly busy and ever changing world, it is peaceful to have something you can count on. Pets provide unconditional peace and steady warmth. Dr. James Griffin, a scientist at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says, “When children are asked who they talk to when they get upset, a lot of times their first answer is their pet. This points to the importance of pets as a source of comfort and developing empathy.”

5. Caring For a Pet Can Effortlessly Teach Responsibility

A pet’s needs can give you the push you need to place something above yourself. Who wants to deprive their friend of basic needs? Knowing that something is completely counting on you is a great way to learn responsibility and selflessness, for children and adults. Countless studies have shown that pet ownership inspires empathy and helps build moral intelligence in children.

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6. Having a Dependable Best Friend  Prevents Loneliness and Improves Confidence

Pets always listen to you and never argue with your observations. Animals can help children learn to read because they listen without judgment. In fact, therapists and researchers have reported that children with autism are sometimes better able to interact with pets, and this may help their confidence for interactions with people.

7. Laughter is the Best Medicine.

Studies have suggested that laughter improves some important parameters associated with disease, like immune response, blood flow, and blood sugar. No one can be sad around crazy kitten antics or tumbling puppy games. Pets do funny and silly things and at my house, we have a lot of fun trying to caption their expressions. Whether or not laughter has really been proven to be the best medicine, pets are entertaining and amusing.

These are just some of the ways that our dogs are able to “rescue” us! So there are so many terrific reasons to add a pet to your family besides the great cuddling and ready playmate! You all will be happier and healthier, mentally and physically.

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Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm

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