The Pawsitive Health Benefits Associated with Pet Ownership

Introduction

There’s a reason why dogs are known as “man’s best friend” and cats as our “feline companions.” Beyond the joy and companionship they bring, owning a pet offers numerous health benefits that can enhance our overall well-being. From reducing stress and boosting mental health to promoting physical fitness and providing a sense of purpose, the advantages of pet ownership are far-reaching.

  1. Stress Reduction

Life can be stressful, but the presence of a pet can help alleviate that stress. Interacting with pets has been shown to reduce the production of stress hormones like cortisol and increase the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and relaxation. Whether it’s cuddling with a cat or playing fetch with a dog, these simple activities can have a calming effect on our nervous systems.

  1. Improved Mental Health

Pets are natural mood boosters. Studies have shown that pet owners experience reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. The unconditional love and companionship provided by pets can create a sense of purpose and connection, which can be especially beneficial for those dealing with loneliness or mental health issues.

  1. Enhanced Physical Fitness

Owning a pet, particularly an active one like a dog, encourages physical activity. Daily walks, playtime, and outdoor adventures are all part of pet ownership, which can help pet owners stay active and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Regular exercise not only benefits physical health but also contributes to mental well-being.

  1. Lower Blood Pressure and Heart Health

Numerous studies have linked pet ownership to lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease. The act of petting a cat or dog can have a calming effect, lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Additionally, the responsibility of caring for a pet often encourages healthier habits, such as maintaining a routine and reducing stress, both of which contribute to better heart health.

  1. Social Connection

Pet owners often find themselves forging new social connections through interactions with other pet owners. Whether it’s chatting with fellow dog owners at the park or bonding over shared pet experiences online, pets can serve as social catalysts. These connections can reduce feelings of isolation and enhance overall mental well-being.

  1. Allergy Prevention

Surprisingly, some studies suggest that children raised in households with pets may have a reduced risk of developing allergies and asthma. Exposure to pet dander and bacteria in early childhood may help train the immune system to be less reactive to allergens, ultimately leading to fewer allergies.

  1. Pain Management

Pet therapy is becoming increasingly popular in healthcare settings. Interaction with therapy animals, such as dogs or cats, has been shown to reduce pain and anxiety in patients recovering from surgeries or undergoing medical treatments. The soothing presence of a pet can provide a distraction from pain and discomfort.

Conclusion

The decision to bring a pet into your life is a significant one, but the health benefits associated with pet ownership make it a rewarding choice. The physical, emotional, and social advantages of having a pet cannot be overstated. From reducing stress and anxiety to improving heart health and promoting physical fitness, our furry friends have a profound impact on our well-being.

However, it’s important to remember that pet ownership comes with responsibilities. Proper care, attention, and consideration for your pet’s needs are essential to ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship. When approached with commitment and care, pet ownership can be a truly transformative and enriching experience that contributes positively to your health and happiness.

How dogs identify friend and foe by Ed Boks

According to a study reported in the journal Current Biology, dogs pick up emotional cues from other dogs by watching the direction of their wagging tail.

In a series of lab experiments, dogs became anxious when they saw an image of a dog wagging its tail to its left side. But when they saw a dog wagging its tail to its right side, they remained relaxed.   Continue reading “How dogs identify friend and foe by Ed Boks”

Pets provide health, emotional benefits for owners by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and health benefits of pets
Pet ownership comes with many proven physical, mental and emotional health benefits

Pet ownership comes with many proven physical, mental and emotional health benefits – from enhancing social skills to decreasing the risk of heart attack.

Consider a University of Wisconsin-Madison study which found that a pet in the home can lower a child’s likelihood of developing allergies by as much as 33 percent. This research, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, shows that when children are exposed at an early age to animals they tend to develop stronger lifelong immunities. Continue reading “Pets provide health, emotional benefits for owners by Ed Boks”

Benefits to exercising with your four-legged best friend by Ed Boks

Research shows dogs are the perfect workout companion

Are you having trouble sticking to your new year’s resolution to exercise more?  Maybe you need a good physical trainer to help meet your fitness goals.  Have you considered your best friend?   Research shows that dogs are actually nature’s perfect personal trainers.  Dogs are naturally loyal, hardworking, energetic and enthusiastic…basically the perfect work-out partner. And, unlike human workout partners who may skip an exercise session because of appointments, extra chores or bad weather, dogs never give you an excuse to skip exercising.

Many people don’t realize that taking your dog out for a walk at least two times a day can create significant benefits for both themselves and their four-footed friend. According to a number of recent studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Geriatrics Society and others: Continue reading “Benefits to exercising with your four-legged best friend by Ed Boks”

Mad Dogs by Ted Kerasote (NY Times op-ed)

This week, Judge Peter Kelly of the New York State Supreme Court may incarcerate 1.4 million New Yorkers. Their crime? Being dogs.

The Juniper Park Civic Association in Queens is taking the city to court over its 1959 leash law, which requires dogs in public places to be restrained by a leash of no more than six feet. In recent years, the law hasn’t been fully enforced. Instead, city park administrators have accommodated the recreational needs of dogs and their owners by instituting “courtesy hours”, usually between 9 PM and 9 AM, during which dogs, under the voice command of humans, can be off-leash in designated areas of the parks. The crown jewel of the courtesy-hour system is Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, where one can see dozens of dogs frolicking on weekday mornings and several hundred on the weekend.

But with 1.4 million dogs in the city, someone in some park at some time will be bitten, just as someone will be struck by a softball, hit by a cyclist or run over by a car. The association has argued that the public must be protected from these occasional bites by restraining dogs at all times. Their reasoning is hardly unique. Across America, more and more urban and suburban communities have instituted leash laws, not only to protect the public against dog bites, but also to protect against lawsuits.

The upshot is that dogs lead ever more incarcerated lives at the end of a very short lead, and dog owners don’t get to play with them in the way dogs and people have interacted for thousands of years. This loss might be viewed as one of the tradeoffs that comes with living in an urbanized world — if, that is, leash laws actually worked as intended.

But after nearly 50 years of watching them in operation, we can say that they’ve brought about the opposite of what we’ve hoped: dogs that are constantly leashed aren’t as well socialized as dogs that get to meet other dogs off-leash; they display more behavioral problems; and they’re often more aggressive. These are the very sorts of dogs that, spending their lives away from their own kind — often in a city apartment or suburban yard — bark their heads off at passers-by, make the mailman’s life hell and act aggressively toward other dogs and people.

Yet, proponents of strong leash laws have a point: 4.7 million dog bites were reported by the Centers for Disease Control in 1994. However, the CDC and its Canadian counterpart also note that the majority of these dog bites — 75% in the U.S. and 65% in Canada – didn’t happen to pedestrians who encountered an off-leash dog in a public place. Rather, most dog bites occurred within the home to a family member who knew the dog. In fact, only 1.1% of all dog bites surveyed in Canada occurred in public parks or sports and recreation areas. Data on emergency room visits in the U.S. also puts the danger of dog bites into perspective. Only 1.3% of all people admitted to emergency rooms in the U.S. are treated for dog bites. The chances of being bitten by a dog are about the same as being poisoned.

The chances of being bitten by an urban dog are even lower. Their caretakers, being city people and not so wedded to automobiles, walk, and when they walk they take their dogs with them. If they have access to parks that allow off-leash recreation, their dogs run and play with other dogs, burning off pent-up energy. In addition, both person and dog get what many of us want nearly every day: access to some green space, safety from cars, exercise and conversation with our own kind.

New York’s dog owners and their dogs deserve these basics, and not simply because the dog owners pay taxes that support the parks. The benefits of off-leash recreation have spread far beyond dogs and their owners. Parks that were once hangouts for criminals have been reclaimed for the non-dog-owning public, in part, by the presence of so many law-abiding citizens walking their dogs at all hours and in bad weather.

Sending the city’s dogs back to leash jail won’t make the parks any safer. The leash law and off-leash courtesy hours have worked synergistically to control dogs on crowded streets while allowing them and their owners to enjoy a small portion of the city’s green space. Both should be kept.

Ted Kerasote is the author of the forthcoming “Merle’s Door: How Dogs Might Live if They Were Free.”

For a listing of LA’s Dog Parks click here: http://www.laanimalservices.com/offleashdogparks.htm