Can Man’s Best Friend Help You Stay Healthier?


Understanding the Health Benefits of Pets

health-benefits-petsWhile most of us who have a pet in our lives believe they make us feel better, there is mounting evidence to prove they can actually help to improve our health. A study by The Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia examined the topic. In their research efforts, they studied more than 6,000 patients. They found that participants who owned pets had lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Because of it, these participants had decreased their risk for a heart attack.

Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that seniors who own pets are more active and are better able to cope with daily stress. A variety of other studies have linked having access to a furry friend with everything from decreased anxiety and lower rates of depression to higher rates of exercise.

Benefits are greater with those who have Alzheimer's Disease

For adults who live with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, the overall benefits of having a pet are even greater. Among the many challenges those with Alzheimer’s face is difficulty with verbal communication.  Pets have the ability to instinctively recognize and react to body language and to non-verbally communicate with their human friends.

People with Alzheimer’s disease who experience agitation and pacing as part of Sundowner’s syndrome often seem calmer when petting a four-legged friend. Interestingly enough, even a pet with fins instead of fur can help. A Purdue University study demonstrated that having an aquarium of brightly colored fish in the dining room at mealtimes helped people with Alzheimer’s disease relax and eat more of their meal.

If you are wondering what animal therapy is like from a dog’s perspective, take a quick look at this “A Day in the Life of a Pet Therapy Dog” video.

To learn more about pet therapy, visit these online resources:

Pet Partners – a national non-profit organization

National Pet Therapy Programs