It has long been known that owning a pet can be beneficial to your health. Simply the pure joy of coming home to a wagging tail or a welcoming meow is enough to lift anyone’s mood after a hard day at the office. But did you know that owning a pet has also been proven to help ward off colds and infection? It seems as though a dog truly is a man’s best friend!
Research undertaken by health psychologist Dr June McNicholas of the Univerity of Warwick and the drug company Novartis Animal Health, shows that children who grow up with pets have a stronger immune system and spend more time at school than those children who don’t own a pet. The experiment saw 138 children aged between four and 11 years have their saliva tested for Immunoglobulin (IgA) antibodies, these are found in the immune system and help fight off infection. The results came back proving that those children who owned pets had higher levels of IgA and were able to fend off infections such as colds and flu better than those children who did not own any pets. Dr McNicholas said, ‘Our study shows that we can get too ‘hung up’ on hygiene and super-clean homes. This can prevent our children’s defence system from building up immunity to common household antibodies such as dust, dirt and animal hair.’
One health benefit from owning a pet that health experts are divided over is whether it can help protect against allergies such as asthma. Scientists at Humboldt University in Berlin, believe that children who come from homes that are too clean are much more likely to develop allergies. Studies taken of 1,300 German children found that those who were from a high socio-economic background and who lived a more indulgent lifestyle were more likely to suffer from eczema or asthma. However, Chief executive of the British Allergy Foundation, Muriel Simmons, claims that children who are not exposed to the levels of bacteria that can come from owning a pet are more at risk of developing allergies. Interestingly, children with a history of pet allergies are then 24 times more likely to suffer from asthma.
One of the more obvious health benefits, certainly for dog owners, is that it can help keep you fit. Dogs need walking every day and as reports show, just 20 minutes of walking three times a day has tremendous benefits to your health and fitness levels. Walking can raise the heartbeat from around 80 beats per minute up to 140 beats per minute, which results in more blood and oxygen being delivered to the heart muscle and consequently helps maintain a healthy heart and lungs. Nowadays, there are even yoga classes for owners and their dogs. Known as ‘Doga‘, these classes are nationwide and offer a sharing, nurturing and bonding experience in which the owner and their dog can relax and share a special time together. Getting out in the fresh air is also an incredible mood booster and will brush away any cobwebs, leaving you feeling energised, positive and ready to tackle anything.
One of the many well known celebrity dog owners is Paris Hilton. The 33 year old heiress owns 7 dogs and 2 cats, which include the recent addition to her furry brood, “Mr Amazing”. The tiny, white and incredibly cute Pomeranian puppy is reported to be worth $13,000 and was bought from the Calgary based dog breeder Betty’s teacup Yorkies. Weighing approximately less than 2 pounds and measuring just 2 and a half inches, the worlds most expensive dog is surely going to need a lot of pet insurance! It is obviously questionable as to whether a dog this size needs to be taken for walks, however Hilton regularly takes her dogs along for company when she goes for a massage or visits her chiropractor which all assist in her positive well being.
Hilton, has long been a fan of Chihuahuas and research carried out by the pet insurers esure, shows that owners of Chihuahuas are most likely to feed their pets fresh food and have a weakness for spoiling them with jeweled collars, designer dog outfits and other personalised accessories. It could be said that the way an owner treats their dog is the way they like to be treated themselves and quite frankly if it is making them happy and not hurting the dog in anyway then that has got to be a positive thing.
Pets are a natural way to boost your mood and to relieve stress. Be it calmly stroking a cat or simply sat watching a fish swim around a tank, it all helps allow us to take time out for ourselves, calm down and enjoy a moment of tranquility. The physical changes that occur to our body during this time are immense. The level of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, is lowered and the production of serotonin, a chemical associated with well-being, is increased.
Therapists have also been known to prescribe owning a pet as a way of dealing with and recovering from depression. The action of stroking and spending time with a pet is both relaxing and therepeutic. Animals will simply listen to your problems, without answering back or cutting you off. And the unconditional love that a pet will display to it’s owner is incredibly reassuring and helps boost confidence and self importance.
With the calming affect that petting an animal can have on stress levels it also works wonders on helping to maintain or even in some instances reduce blood pressure. In one study of 240 married couples, it was revealed that pet owners had lower blood pressure and lower heart rates at rest than those people who were not pet owners.
As you can see there are many benefits to owning a pet, but you must also consider whether you have the time, money and lifestyle to be a pet owner. Owning a pet to improve your health is fantastic but it definitely should not be the main reason and it should never be at the detriment to the animal in question.