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Pet Ownership: Fur-wrapped Therapy?

Pets

Do you have a pet? Are you considering pet adoption? The benefits of pet ownership are well documented, but it’s important to consider all angles before taking on this responsibility.

Pets Can Help Reduce Stress

According to research, there are many physical and emotional benefits to pet ownership. Generally, people who have pets live longer and are in better overall health than folks who don’t have pets. In fact, pet owners tend to experience increased social support and interaction and less reported loneliness. They have better self-esteem and lower rates of depression. Children with pets show more empathy at a younger age.  

Psychologists have found that owning a dog helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Additional studies show that pets help us feel better overall, reducing stress while improving memory function. All of these benefits, of course, add up to lower personal health care costs.

These benefits aren't necessarily unique to pet ownership. According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), just being in the presence of a companion animal is associated with improvements in mental, social, and physiologic health status. So if you’re not in a position to be a pet owner, maybe you would benefit from volunteering from at your local animal shelter.  Volunteer dog-walkers and cat-socializers are always welcomed!

Pets are a Commitment

The question of whether someone should own a pet is never as simple as whether that pet has a measurably beneficial or detrimental effect on the owner's physical health.

Depending on the nature of your practice, you might not have time to care for a pet. Approaching potential pet ownership with eyes wide open is important for the health of both you and the animal—as is choosing the right pet. Researching the situation will better prepare you to make that decision.

According to NIH, the emotional bond between owner and pet can be as intense and rewarding as that in many human relationships and may confer similar psychological benefits. The downside is that the death of a pet can cause grief similar to that in human bereavement.  While this must be a strong consideration when taking a pet into your life, remember Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetic words from In Memoriam A.H.H. that “. . .’tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”

Sources:

  • Fido Can Help You Live a Longer Life with Less Stress, Employee Assistance Network
  • Benefits of Health Ownership, CNN.net, Dr. Helen Nieburg
  • Emotional Health and Pet Ownership, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2005
  • National Institutes of Health Annual Pet Report, 2008
  • Self-Esteem and Pet Ownership, University of Ohio Dept. of Veterinary Medicine

Other Resources:

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