How Owning A Pet Can Benefit Your Health

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Written By: Heath Marshall

While it may not seem like the most healthy part of your life when it’s pretty miserable outside and your dog needs to be walked, or your when your cat eats something it shouldn’t, and you have to spend a small fortune at the vet’s; there are some real health and psychological benefits to pet ownership.

Let’s take a look at just how keeping an animal companion can enrich your life and keep you healthy physically and emotionally.

Your Dog Can Save Your Life

Yes, it’s true that dogs have rescued people from drowning, woken up families that might have otherwise died in house fires and of course, warned the neighbors that little Timmy fell in a well; but that’s not the most remarkable lifesaving ability that your canine companion possesses.

Your dog can accurately sniff out cancer

There are reports of pooches detecting cancer going back over twenty years. A 1989 study in The Lancet reported a patient whose dog would obsessively sniff at a mole on her leg and even attempt to attack the growth with his teeth. Prompted by her dog’s unusual behavior, she went to a dermatologist who diagnosed her with malignant melanoma. She promptly had the cancerous lesion removed – her dog had saved her life.

In another case, a dog called Parker began to routinely push against his owner’s pants leg sniffing a lesion he had on his leg. The gentleman was motivated to return to his doctor by his pet’s odd behavior. Once the lesion was removed, further examination showed the lesion to be a basal cell carcinoma.

Skin cancer isn’t the only potentially fatal disease that dogs can detect; some canines have also managed to accurately detect cancers of the:

  • Prostate

  • Colon

  • Lung

  • Breast

  • Ovaries

  • Bladder

How dogs do this is still a mystery, but the fact remains that having a dog in your life could potentially alert you to a serious, life-threatening disease.

Dogs And Diabetes

Some dogs have been successfully trained to detect low blood sugar levels in their companion humans.

According to the British Medical Journal; over one-third of dogs residing in the same home as a diabetes sufferer, show changes in behavior when their owner’s blood sugar level drops! In the two case studies examined the dogs even tried to encourage their owners to eat.

No one yet understands how dogs can do this, but dogs have been successfully taught to recognize low blood sugar in human beings – indicating that diabetics can keep a service dog that will help them stay healthy while living with the disease.

Cats Prevent Heart Attacks

It’s true that having your cat jump on you unexpectedly can seem like it will give you a heart attack – but cat ownership has heart health benefits that you can’t ignore.

Cat ownership can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 30 percent.

A study by researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered that people who did not own a cat were almost 40 percent more likely to die of heart disease than people who lived with cats.

Furthermore; cat owners are routinely found to have lower anxiety and cholesterol levels than individuals that don’t have a cat and average fewer doctor visits.

Cats Make Your Kids Smarter And Healthier

Cat ownership can have surprising benefits in a home with children. Children, who live in a home with cats, will miss nine days less of school a year on average than those who don’t.

This is because a cat owner’s immune function tends to be more stable, increasing their ability to fend off illness. Kids who live with cats also demonstrate greater empathy towards others and are more willing to help.

Feline behavior teaches children the subtleties of body language and non-verbal cues, making them more observant of the same when dealing with other people.

Though the reason why hasn’t been discovered; children with animal companions are more likely to:

  • Play sports

  • Have hobbies

  • Join clubs

  • Have a higher IQ

Watch Fish, Don't Eat Them

It’s called Aquarium Therapy.

Doctor’s and dentists have known this for years – that’s why you’ll frequently find gorgeous aquariums in many waiting rooms. Watching brightly colored fish lazily swimming through a beautifully decorated environment, coupled with the sounds of the filter system circulating the tank water, will calm anyone’s nerves after a few minutes.

Suddenly the prospect of going under the drill or getting an uncomfortable procedure done doesn’t seem half so upsetting.

According to a study by Purdue University researchers; the presence of an aquarium full of brightly colored fish can prevent disruptive behavior and even improve the eating habits of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Many Ways Pets Make Life Worth Living

There so many ways a companion animal can enrich your life:

  • Something beyond yourself to care for

  • Unconditional love

  • An excuse to regularly get outside and exercise

  • The joy of completely non-judgmental friendship

And many other reasons that are beyond the scope of this short article. The point to take away with you is; pets – like children – add an indefinable dimension to the human experience that we are poorer for having missed out on.