Pets extend and enrich our lives. Any pet owner knows that, and apparently most Americans know it because 63% of all households have pets (just for comparison, only 35% of households have HUMAN children). The time and money you put into pet ownership rewards you in many, many ways.

The following are but a few of the immense advantages you have as a furkid parent:

Stroking an animal lowers blood pressure, allows AIDS patients to be less depressed, alerts seizure prone individuals of oncoming attacks, sleep more soundly, exercise more, and take fewer sick days than non-pet owners. Consider the following:

1. Psychiatrists are using animals in the room to trigger deep emotions such as love, kindness, trust, value and playfulness.

“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” –Bern Williams

2. Researchers looked at 4500 adults and found cat ownership was related to a 40% lower risk of suffering a fatal heart attack. The study done at the University of Minnesota suggests that even those who no longer own a cat still benefit from these protective affects. 3.4% of people who had cats died of heart attack compared to 5.8% of those who were not feline owners. This study was adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and cholesterol.

“A meow massages the heart.”

3. A study a University of New York Buffalo found that people with hypertension who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than those who did not own a pet.

4. Spending time with a pet can lower anxiety and stress levels. Walking with a pet helps to sooth nerves and offers instant relaxation. And this has been proven world-wide — that the impact of a stressful situation is lesser on pet owners, than those who do not own a one. (Josephine M. Wills, Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition, United Kingdom)

5. Pets prevent heart disease because pets provide people with faithful companionship; research shows they also provide their owners with greater psychological stability, which also protects from heart disease. (National Institute of Health Technology Assessment Workshop: Health benefits of Pets)

6. People with pets actually make fewer doctor visits, especially for non-serious medical conditions. (National Institute of health Benefits of Pets)

7. Pets break social barriers and feelings of isolation. It is difficult to stay in a bad mood when your pet looks up at you with those big loving eyes.

8. Pets help to fight depression and loneliness, promoting an interest in life. When seniors face adversity or trauma, affection from pets takes on great meaning. Their bonding behavior can foster a sense of security. (Between Pets & People: the importance of Animal Companionship)

9. Exercise and weight loss. An Australian study Indicates dog ownership fights obesity. Children 5-6 years old were 50% less likely to be overweight if they had a dog. This benefit was present even if the child did not regularly walk the dog and regardless of economic status of household.

10. Dogs have been found to detect cancer, seizures and colon cancer. A study in Japan looked at 378 patients, and the dogs were 99% effective in finding colorectal cancer, compared to the fecal occult blood test which picks up early stage disease only 10% of the time. The highest diagnosing test has a rate of 40-45% efficacy. Similar results have been shown in bladder, lung, breast and prostrate cancers. There have been anecdotal reports of patients whose dogs have alerted to skin cancers.

“Cats can add as much as 10 years to their owners lives.” –Berlin Lovgevity Institute

The estimated population of homeless cats in the United States is 70 million, compared to 75 million cats that have homes. 71% of the cats that are in shelters are euthanized. Instead of purchasing pills, adopt a furkid — the best therapy you can receive, and you save a life in the process!

In summary, the Pet Health Council notes there is an increasing amount of research proving that contact with animals can bring real physiological benefits, including reducing stress, preventing illness & allergies, lowering blood pressure, aiding recovery and boosting fitness levels.

Who knows what the health care plan will look like in the future? With health care costs increasing consistently, staying healthy and preventing disease is the optimal solution. Get out there and walk your dog! Sometime soon your Docter will say: “Take two dogs and call me in the morning!”

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