We’re not just talking about the benefits to your family of the unconditional love given by your treasured pet. Animals can fundamentally change your life and the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Pets and Children
Many pet owners with children will have first-hand experience of the wonderful bond that often develops between kids and family pets. This is no surprise when you consider that your family pet provides uncomplicated and unconditional love. They are non-judgmental and are always there when support is needed. But there’s more to it than that – here’s how having a pet can benefit children.
A healthier lifestyle
Nearly all dogs, except maybe the true couch surfers, love to exercise. In an increasingly digital world it can be hard for children to find the time to exercise. However, studies show that children with a strong attachment to the family dog spend significantly more time being active.
I often find my 2 year old have an in-depth conversation with our youngest dog. I don’t understand a word, but it seems to make perfect sense to them. It therefore comes as no surprise to me that this relationship can help with psychological development. In a recent study that examined the effect of relationships between pet dogs and children aged 9 – 11, the research revealed that children who felt closer to their dogs were more securely attached to mothers and fathers and reported more positive qualities and less conflict with friends. There is also evidence that animal assisted therapies (AAT) can significantly improve the effectiveness of therapy in children with autism.
Support in adolescents with chronic illnesses
Being a teenager is never easy, but when you factor in the impact of a chronic illness on wellbeing the challenge can sometimes seem insurmountable. However, the family pet has been shown to be a very important source of support for teenagers coping with chronic illness.
Pets and You
You may not have children. Or, since you pay all the bills you may be wondering whether there are any potential health benefits for adults with pets. Well, not surprisingly, there are:
Pets can help provide the social support that is critical for human psychological and physical well-being. A scientific review published in 2011 that looked critically at a number of studies concluded that pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.
Improvements in activity levels
Walking your canine companion in the wind and rain my feel like a chore at times. But take heart from the fact that mild to moderate exercise is really good for you. In fact it is the best type of exercise you can do. Happily, a study from Canada shows that dog owners are more likely to participate in mild to moderate physical activity than people without dogs.
It will come as no surprise to you that your beloved pet can help relieve stress. After a difficult day at work a quick cuddle on the sofa can help to take the worries of the world off your shoulders. However, it may surprise you to know that studies show that dog owners are actually better at dealing with stressful events than people without pets. This may help dog owners to avoid anxiety-related illnesses.
Lower Cardiovascular Risk
What about risk factors for serious, life-threatening disease? Results from clinical studies are variable and there are no simple answers. However, a Scientific Consensus Statement from the American Heart Association published in 2013 concluded that pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may contribute to the reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.
Detection of Cancer
Dogs have a phenomenal sense of smell, thousands of times more acute than that of humans. Amazingly, there are a significant number of anecdotal scientific reports that report the ability of dogs to sniff out cancerous growths, including skin cancer, bladder, lung, breast, ovarian and colon cancer. With intensive training this canine ability can produce unbelievable results. In a study published in a well recognised medical journal in 2011 a specially trained Labrador Retriever named Panda could detect colorectal cancer in patients with comparable efficacy to a medical procedure called colonoscopy.
Sharing the benefits of pet ownership with vulnerable people
For many the opportunity to spend a few minutes petting a loving, non-judgmental canine companion is beyond reach. However, as we have seen the benefits to human health and well-being from contact with pets can be hugely significant. That’s why the simple act of taking calm, well behaved pets into nursing homes, hospitals, prisons and Schools can have such a profound effect on participants. Contact with pets can encourage mobility, interpersonal contact and socialisation among patients, children with special needs and prisoners alike. According to a 2005 review in the British Medical Journal, dogs act as “social catalysts,” leading to greater interaction between people and alleviating feelings of loneliness, especially among elderly patients with physical disabilities.
For anyone with a pet interested in helping vulnerable people there is a great charity called Pets as Therapy that can help you to get involved. They behaviourally assess all pets to make sure that they are suitable and provide training for volunteers. Recommended!
Our Responsibilities as Pet Owners
I think you will agree with me that our pets enhance our lives in so many amazing ways. As owners we therefore have a duty to make sure that our pets enjoy happy and healthy lives as treasured members of our family. However, for experienced and novice pet owners alike this can sometimes feel like an overwhelming responsibility, because our pets can never tell us if anything is wrong.
We understand this! We believe that routine pet health care should be affordable, convenient, accessible 24/7, and is best provided in the comfort and low-stress environment of your own home. If you want to find out more about our mobile vets and the areas we cover, either go to the homepage and enter your postcode, or Contact Us.