Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Pets and their owners have a mutual relationship – they take care of each other. What we don’t even realize are the health benefits we receive from walking, feeding, and loving our pets. Especially for seniors, owning pets can foster feelings of security and love. They also help lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, and fight depression and stress. Here are some positive health effects of pets on older people:

Pets help lower blood pressure

People with hypertension who adopt pets are more likely to have lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than those who do not own a pet. This is the finding of a recent State University of New York (Buffalo) study.

Ursula Cunningham also cites in her article on  a 2002 study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition. The study suggests that blood pressure and heart rates of pet owners tend to increase less if pets are with them when they face difficult situation.

Pets help prevent heart disease

Owning pets can also prevent heart disease. According to a study presented at the 2001 National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Technology Assessment Workshop on Health Benefits of Pets, pets may give their owners a measure of protection against cardiovascular disease.

Pets help maintain psychological stability

Pets also give their owners greater psychological balance. Older people can sustain psychological adequacy if pets share one’s life. They also help in fighting against indifference and apathy. Seniors start to become interested again to some extent in events in their surroundings or vicinity.

Pets help fight depression

Pets also help in fighting loneliness, making seniors more interested in life. The affection of the pet can have a great meaning when old people face trauma or adversity. The bonding between the pet and its owner can result in a feeling of security. A dog that wiggles its tail upon the sight of its owner or a sleepy cat on a senior’s lap is therapy to the soul.

Pets help reduce stress

Another health benefit of owning pets is that it reduces stress. A study by Josephine Wills of the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in the United Kingdom suggests that pet owners are less affected by stressful situations compared with those who don’t own pets.

Pets help lower health care costs

A study presented at the 2001 NIH Technology Assessment Workshop found that pet owners "make fewer doctor visits, especially for non-serious conditions." They also tend to have longer lifespan than those who don’t own a pet.

Laura Ivan of Imperial Animal Hospital in Imperial, Missouri, believes that pets give positive health benefits to seniors. "Dogs and all pets can be an incredible benefit to geriatric patients and people," Ivan said.


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