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Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Kathy Garbick-Personal Trainer

 

An apple a day may or may not actually keep the doctor away, but what about an animal a day? Now, that's a different story. In fact, when it comes to pet ownership, there are a number of proven health benefits for people, including physical, mental and emotional improvements, from enhancing social skills to decreasing a person's risk of heart attack.

If the idea of cuddling with a pet to help ward off allergies seems a little backwards to you, the following may come as a surprise: Studies have demonstrated that having a pet in the home can actually lower a child's likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent. In fact research  has shown that children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall.

Many pet owners would agree that a pet can fill your heart with love. So maybe it's only fitting that the presence of a pet can help improve the overall health of that organ, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted heart-related studies on people who have pets

. The findings showed that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels -- all of which can ultimately minimize their risk for having a heart attack down the road.

For those who have already experienced a heart attack, research also indicates that patients with a dog or a cat tend to have better recovery rates. These benefits are thought to be connected with pets' tendency to help reduce or at least control their owners' overall stress levels.

Need a little motivation in the exercise department? Dogs can act as the perfect personal trainer, if only because most of them need to be walked several times a day.  Dog owners responsible for walking their pups are less likely to be obese than dog owners who pass the duty off to someone else or those who don't own dogs at all.

Pets are a great way to beat the blues. Not only are they known to they offer unconditional love, but they may also give their owners a sense of purpose, which can be crucial for those feeling down in the dumps. Pets also combat feelings of loneliness by providing companionship, which can boost your overall mood and even bring you feelings of joy and happiness. This is particularly apparent among groups -- including the sick and elderly -- who may be on the receiving end of Animal-assisted Therapy (AAT) or Pet-facilitated Therapy (PFT). Many hospitals and nursing homes use these types of programs on a regular basis.