Apr 17 2013

Pet Ownership: A Key Part Of A Healthy Life

Dr. Jacqueline Nicholson

By Jacqueline Nicholson, DVM

Most people that have pets understand the unconditional companionship and loyalty that companion animals can provide. The majority of households in the U.S. have at least one pet. Many people, however, are unaware of the health benefits that pets offer to us. Below are some of the ways in which pets help to boost our physical and mental health:

Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  1. Walking your dog helps to build stronger bones and muscles and decreases the likelihood of osteoporosis.
  2. Both people and pets with osteoarthritis benefit from walking or throwing a ball together. Pets also distract people from the discomfort associated with arthritis.
  3. Dog owners have a lower tendency to be obese because they tend to be more physically active. Just by having to take your dog out for short leash walks allows you to get a small amount of exercise into your daily schedules.

Cardiac Health:

  1. Multiple studies have shown that people that have cats or dogs are at a much lower risk of dying from any cardiac disease.
  2. Pet owners have lower blood pressure and lower heart rates than those who don’t have pets.
  3.  Lower cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels have been noted in pet owners – likely due to exercise factors associated with having a pet.
  4. Cat owners have fewer strokes than those of us who don’t have cats. This may be due to the calming effect that most cats provide – but may also be due to the increase in circulation that results from petting a cat.
iStock_000000967281XSmall, Winter Walk

Mental Health:

  1. Pets decrease stress by decreasing the level of cortisol in the body and increasing the level of serotonin.
  2. Pets are an excellent form of therapy for people with depression. Pets are excellent listeners and are a great distraction from our own problems.
  3. Pets help children learn about responsibility, self-esteem, and unconditional love. They also help kids release energy during playtime.
  4. Dog owners have a higher tendency to stay engaged with the world and to socialize with others. Dog owners tend to talk to other dog owners whenever out and about.
  5. Some dogs are specially trained for epileptic pet owners. These dogs can sense when a person is going to be having a seizure moments before it happens – so they can lie down and prevent injury.

Immune & Respiratory Health:

  1. Children who grow up in homes with dogs and cats are less likely to develop allergies as adults.
  2. In households where parents are NOT allergic to cats, and there is no genetic predisposition to pet allergies, it has been shown that infants are LESS likely to develop asthma when raised with a cat in the home.
iStock_000004818253XSmall, Children and cat

And Some Others…

  1. Spending a little time in the sun with your dog increases your body’s vitamin D levels.
  2. Keeping your medicines in the same place as your pet’s will help you to remember both of your medications. It’s easier to keep on a regular schedule if you take your medication at the same time as your pet.
  3. 30% of dogs can be trained to detect drops in their diabetic owner’s glucose level before blood sugar levels get dangerously low. It’s believed that they may be responding to a scent that the body gives off as the result of a chemical change.

Obviously, pet ownership is not for everybody. Pets have certain requirements of their own. Not everybody has the lifestyle that makes having a pet feasible. People that spend large amounts of time out of town need to carefully consider if they can provide for their pets’ needs. All pets need food, shelter, exercise, love, and veterinary care. However – the benefits that pets provide in return are enormous. With a little research and some lifestyle adjustments, you may find that a new pet is just what the doctor ordered!

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Dr. Nicholson graduated from the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She was born in New York City and raised in northern New Jersey. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Alfred University and completed a post-Baccalaureate / Pre-Veterinary Program at Rutgers University.
Over the last nine years, Dr. Nicholson has gained an extensive amount of experience at emergency and specialist hospitals in both New York and New Jersey – including The Animal Medical Center in New York City. After graduation, she completed a one year rotating internship program at Garden State Veterinary Specialists where she was exposed to a wide range of specialty fields including Emergency Medicine, Surgery, Internal Medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and Neurology. This experience will be invaluable to both our team and our clients.

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