It's obvious that we benefit from taking regular exercise when walking a dog. However, it is not commonly known that over the last thirty years, there has been increasing scientific evidence that pets can help to keep us fit and well - pets can even help speed up recovery after major illness.
Stroking a pet or simply watching a fish swim in an aquarium helps us to relax. Indeed, the mere presence of a pet seems to have the same effect, reducing heart beat rate and lowering blood pressure.
Pets can lessen the feelings of isolation and loneliness and provide a sense of purpose elderly people. Having to make the effort to care for a pet on a regular basis provides a feeling of fulfillment.
Pet ownership proved to be one of the best predictors of survival from a heart attack, according to an American study. The study showed that those patients who owned a pet had a much better chance of surviving for more than a year after a heart attack - a difference which could not be explained by the extra exercise the dog owners enjoyed3.
As well as all the fun elements associated with owning a pet, pets can bring many educational benefits.
Owning a pet can teach a child about the responsibilities of life and mutual trust. By feeding and exercising a pet, children can also develop an understanding of daily care. Children with learning difficulties can also benefit from interaction with pets. One study found that the presence of a dog helped to channel the children's attention and responsiveness towards the therapist's suggestion - in effect, the dog helped increase the attention span of the children.
Pets provide us with loyalty, companionship, love and affection, as well as the many physical and psychological benefits. The least we can do to repay this is ensure that we keep them in the best of health by following the four golden rules to pet ownership (see overleaf).
A healthy pet is a happy pet and a happy pet can help us enjoy a much fuller and more rewarding life.
“Researchers into the impact of animals on our health points to a clear relationship between the presence of pets and significantly better physical and emotional well-being'; (Witherell 76).
STRENGTH: The increasing consciousness of people regarding the health of their pets leads to a focus on nutritious food which helps increasing the life span of their beloved animals.
While only in the past few decades have scientists become interested in the benefits of pets on human health (Schellenberg 2), “as far back as Plato and Socrates, there were admonishments for people to spend time with animals.
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