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6 Health Benefits of Having Pets

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6 Health Benefits of Having Pets

About 65 percent of American households have pets, and we spend nearly $35 billion dollars a year on these companion animals. (Lucky dogs.) Our pets clearly have us wrapped around their little paws, but what do we get from them in return? There are the obvious answers–companionship, unconditional love, a best friend, some slipper-fetching. But there are also a number of unseen benefits with far-reaching effects: Pets are great for our health.

Pets can help us to heal emotionally, physically, and mentally, but scientists are also discovering that cats and dogs can help fight disease and assist us in coping with chronic conditions. They can have a biochemical impact on their owners’ body chemistry. Numerous medical experts have provided the results of scientific studies that support this biological basis for what we’ve felt intuitively. Here are some of the ways in which pets can have a positive effect on our health.

1. Pets Lessen the Risk of Allergies & Asthma
Counterintuitive, at first, but it makes perfect sense. “The old thinking was that if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. And if you came from an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided,” says researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. But a number of new studies suggest that kids growing up in a home with “furred animals”–which can include cats and dogs, as well as farm animals–will have less risk of allergies and asthma.

In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment. If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies. They also were less likely to have eczema; and they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals–a sign of stronger immune system activation. This sounds similar to the concepts explored in the hygiene hypothesis.

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Read more: Allergies, Caregiving, Cats, Dogs, General Health, Health, Mental Wellness, Pets, Stress, ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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11:45AM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

I know that some of the residents at the nursing home where I volunteer really enjoy visiting animals. There is even a "country day" where small farm animals are brought in, particularly into the courtyard... I even arranged miniature horses one year... they were a bit hit.

12:35PM PST on Mar 2, 2014

My cats have changed my life for the better in every way. Nothing can replace the unconditional love I get from them, When I get home from work they are waiting for me at the door and when I open the door they are both there with little bodies arched, tails straight up and quivering with excitement. I usually throw my bags down and drop to the floor and they fly into my arms....It's priceless.

5:25AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

6?? I know at least 6,000 health benefits of having pets, they change your life for the better in every way...thank you for this article.

5:05AM PST on Jan 19, 2014

Don't forget Laughter.
when i play with my cats they always get me laughing and it is supposed to be the best medicine.

1:16AM PST on Dec 5, 2013

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2:02AM PST on Nov 19, 2013

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1:16AM PST on Nov 4, 2013

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9:47AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

New technology being developed to use dogs as warning signs of physical problems with owners. Check it out.

http://www.nutralegacy.com/blog/general-healthcare/mans-bff/

12:24AM PDT on Aug 31, 2013

I was guessing if You Could write a little more on this subject? I'd be very grateful if You Could elaborate a little bit more.
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12:19AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Nothing better than that unconditional love, and my "girl" makes me "Move it Move"

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