I was informed that my mom wrote about pets being actually good for your health in her newsletter. Well of course we are! Anybody knows that. But just in case you are a skeptic, I offered to tell you that there has been real research done on the subject. (I have NO IDEA why anybody would doubt it and have to “scientifically validate” it, but here goes)
It used to be thought that pets should be avoided by people with babies because the kids might become allergic if there was a pet around. (Who thinks these things up?!) Well, a number of studies (if you need that sort of reassurance) have apparently shown that kids growing up with “furred animals” (e.g., dogs, cats, large farm animals) have less risk of allergies and asthma! In a recent study, James E. Gern, M.D., a pediatrician at University of Wisconsin-Madison, published a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. He analyzed the blood of babies just born and then analyzed their blood again when they were a year old looking for allergic reactions, immune system changes, and for reactions to environmental bacteria. What he found was that, if a dog lived in the home, the babies were less likely (19%) than their dog-deprived counterparts (33%) to have eczema and they showed stronger immune system activation. He said that “greater exposure to dirt and allergens “causes babies to develop stronger immune systems. (Well, I don’t know if it’s really the exposure to dirt because I don’t think we are at all “dirty”…. I think it’s because those babies that had us around were just played with and loved a lot more because we were there!)
Studies show that pets are helpful for shy people, for Alzheimer’s patients (and their caregivers!), and people with HIV/ AIDS. Several studies have shown that people who’ve had a heart attack survive longer if they have pets than those who are pet-deprived. Men who have pets have been found to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than men who don’t, which makes them less prone to heart disease (see and read more at: www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/health-benefits-of-pets).
Another article, from the London Dog Forum (which is my kind of forum for sure…. http://www.londondogforum.co.uk/dogs-and-human-health-c477.html) reports beneficial effects of dogs on humans including lowered blood pressure, relief of pain, stress, and depression, helpful in the recovery convalescents, supportive with HIV and drug dependent individuals, successful in regulating weight and reducing weight-related problems (including easing arthritic pain), helping breast cancer survivors cope, improving survival rates post-heart attack, and in increasing concentration, empathy toward others, and self-esteem and reducing hyperactivity in children. In addition, the Forum notes that a study reported by The Society of Anthrozoology, in 2009, showed that “adults recovering from total joint replacement needed 50% less pain medication than those not using pet therapy.”
In 1991, a nice British fella named Serpell did a study on the Beneficial Effects of Pet Ownership on Some Aspects of Human Health and Behavior (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1295517/pdf/jrsocmed00117-0023.pdf). He published it in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (a very serious journal) and I feel really guilty about being so happy about his results. He studied 71 adult humans following the acquisition of a new dog or cat. He had a control group of 26 pet-deprived humans to compare them with. All the humans with pets demonstrated a “highly significant reduction in minor health problems” during the first month after they got their pets and the positive effect was sustained in those who had dogs though a 10-month follow up. The whole group with pets showed improved scores on the 30-item General Health Questionnaire over a 6-month period and those with dogs, specifically, showed improved scores for the full 10 months of the study (meaning that cat people didn’t do quite as well… and that’s why I feel guilty for being so happy about these results… I mean, I like cats… don’t get me wrong… I had one and he’s here playing with me now. His name is Ace. But I am proud to be a dog so I’m a little biased.) The group without pets showed no statistically significant changes in health or behavior other than a small increase in recreational walking, but the dog people walked considerably more. And walking is always good, as far as I’m concerned, and I know that Oliver and Dudley agree with me… (though Bailey, of course, does not). All the smells and sounds… all the messages left for you on trees… just Heavenly (and I should know about that).
I Remain Yours… In Love and Light,
Watson with Wings