Pets are good for you.
Most people who have a pet don’t need scientific proof. Their own experiences are enough to confirm that the bond between humans and pets is enormously beneficial to physical and emotional health. The unconditional affection of a pet calms, soothes, and enhances the feeling of well-being.
Here I was, just beginning to draft an article about the health benefits of pets, when a Facebook friend posted the following message. “Hey, FB Friends: I want another dog and my family says ‘no’ because I have MS. What do you think? I want a new rescue dog.”
Having multiple sclerosis (MS) myself, I understand the desire for the kind of companionship that only a pet can give. Her family is probably concerned about the commitment it takes to properly care for a pet, and understandably so. Choosing the right pet for your personal circumstances requires planning, but you are likely to get quite a return for your efforts.
The non-profit Delta Society reports that 63 percent of all households in the U.S. have pets; 39 percent of all households have at least one dog and 34 percent have at least one cat. The benefits of having a pet include:
- For Children: Children can learn valuable lessons in responsibility; caring for other living beings improves self-esteem. The unconditional love creates a bond that will be treasured for a lifetime. Pets also encourage children to engage in physical activity. An Australian study indicates dog ownership may help fight childhood obesity. Researchers found that children five to six years old were 50 percent less likely to be overweight if they had a dog. This benefit was present even if those children did not regularly walk the dog and regardless of economic status of the household.
- For Adults: Busy work schedules need to be balanced with play. Spending time with a pet can lower anxiety and stress levels. For people who are shy or have trouble making friends, having a pet breaks social barriers and feelings of isolation. And it’s fairly difficult to stay in a bad mood when your pet looks up at you with those big, loving eyes, or takes to your lap.
- For Seniors: Studies show that older people with dogs visit the doctor less often with minor health issues and have lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol than non-pet owners. Seniors are advised to have pets that are easily managed. Many nursing homes have visiting pet programs that have been shown to have a tremendous impact on human lives.