Just over six months ago Thom and I added a new family member to our household—a puppy we named Kloe. To be sure, a puppy ads havoc, lots more work and a great deal of responsibility to anyone who cares for them. However, the increased value and joy Kloe brings to our lives more than compensates for any inconvenience. Not only does Kloe make us laugh on a daily basis, there is plenty of proof that she is also good for our health.
Just a small portion of the evidence that a family pet provides verifiable benefits is:
1) University of Maryland study found that heart attack patients with dogs were eight times more likely to be alive a year later than people without dogs.
2) The State University of NY studied 24 stock brokers taking high blood pressure medicine and found that adding a dog or cat to the their lives helped to stabilize and reduce their stress levels.
3) A Swedish study found that children exposed to a pet in the first year of life had fewer allergies and less asthma.
4) Several current studies show that walking (and/or exercising) with a dog contributes to weight loss and overall health for owners.
5) The University of Washington found that people with Alzheimer’s benefited by just sitting in front of an aquarium with brightly colored fish.
6) A study done by St. Louis University discovered that nursing home residents felt much less lonely after spending time alone with a dog, much more so than when they were simply visited by people who a dog along with them.
7) A large international study showed that over a five year period, pet owners made 15-20% fewer annual visits to the doctor than non-pet owners.
8) A study done by University of Missouri-Columbia showed that spending a few minutes stroking a pet released a flood of “feel good” hormones greatly helping those with depression or other stress-induced disorders. These hormones include serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin, which help us all adjust to stress and regulate our appetite and cravings for carbohydrates. In some cases, spending time with a pet may be more effective than drugs related issues.
In addition to all these (and plenty more studies) a recent scientific paper entitled, “ Friends with Benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership” make it clear that having a pet in the household is a tremendous benefit to the humans who live there. This article shares studies that show that pet owners have greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientiousness, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful, had less perceived stress in their life, were more able to deal with rejection and over-all have a higher sense of well-being. The full study can be found at: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-ofp-mcconnell.pdf
Of course, Thom and I didn’t need to read this article to know that our life is better because of Kloe. We feel it every day. Even when she almost died from Kennel Cough and infections right after we brought her home from the Animal Shelter. And it was still evident after we rushed to the vet when she went into anaphylactic shock after getting stung by a wasp. The hours of enjoyment we get from watching her interact with the world, or sit snuggled on our laps, or race excitedly from adventure to adventure is all the proof we need that we are part of a benevolent world where living things complement and enjoy one another. Adding Kloe was clearly one of the more SMART things we’ve done this year and something we encourage anyone else to do who wants to add wellbeing and happiness to their life 365.
“Personally, I would not give a fig for any man’s religion whose horse, cat and dog do not feel its benefits. Life in any form is our perpetual responsibility.”—S. Parkes Cadman