Animal Article
Femme and Fit
Animal appeal
Vanessa Barrameda

Many Filipino families, especially those with a history of allergy, choose not to have a pet at home for fear that the kids will develop allergies such as asthma. Well I have good new: Scientific findings have shown that pets can actually keep the whole family healthy!

Kids and allergies

According to research made by Dr. James E. Gern, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a growing number of studies have suggested that kids who grew up in homes with furry animals — whether it's a pet cat or dog, or in a farm and exposed to large animals — will have less risk of allergies like eczema and asthma.

Talk about busting old myths, further studies have reported that these “exposed” children had higher levels of some immune system chemicals, which indicated activation of a stronger immune system. Dr. Gern made a similar study, involving newborn babies up until their first year of life.

Beneficial for adults too!

A 5-year survey of more than 11,000 Australians, Chinese and Germans found that pet owners made 15-20 percent fewer annual visits to the doctor than non pet-owners. There are more that delve into specific benefits that pet ownership brings to the human health. Let's enumerate some of these specific studies:

Stress busters

More than any squidgy ball or “sand n' rake” kit, playing with pets simply take the stress away any time of the day. According to a study by University of Buffalo medical researcher Dr. Karen Allen, adopting a pet lowered blood pressure in 48 stock brokers. As we know, stock brokerage is one of the most stressful industries today.

Good for the heart

Playing with pets a few minutes each day actually can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not only that, but by getting their owners out of the house, the more agile pets like dogs can promote exercise without owners even noticing it. In a study done in 2005, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that people who walked a dog for 10 minutes three times a week eventually lost an average of 14 lbs in a year - without changing their diets!

Anti-depression

There is an estimated 48 million Americans with some form of depression, and many psychologists are now recommending pet ownership as a form of therapy for their clients. Pets also provide an opportunity to touch and stroke another living thing, which is very important for the emotional stability of a person. Others even report having a “conversation partner” even if they're alone.

Handicap adaptation

For many people, pets aren't only for play. Pets, especially trained dogs, can serve as the eyes to the blind, ears for the deaf, and the extra arm or leg which can help out with tasks to those who can't do them alone. Some clinical cases have also proven that children with autism and other learning disabilities show immediate improvement when pets are brought into the classroom for animal-assisted therapy.

Social catalyst

Many Hollywood films portray how dogs can act as conversation starters among strangers. Boy approaches girl, lets two pets interact, asks about habits, breed, tricks, history, etc...et voila! According to Dr. Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, pets help ease people out of social isolation or shyness.

Recovery and rehabilitation

People with pets have been reported to have a speedier, easier recovery after illness or surgery. A study of 50-60 yr old women recovering from breast cancer conducted in the United Kingdom reported that 87% of respondents felt that their pets filled "at least one important role in their social support." 43% felt tactile comfort, caring, and belongingness when they took their dog for a walk. Not only emotional benefits, some even report effects of having a pet to physiological extents.

For the aged

Perhaps the group that needs a pet’s love and companionship the most would be the elderly. At their stage, they usually have few relatives left to care for them and they already have existing health problems. Good thing loving pets are around to keep them company. The great thing is, pets actually improve their state of health - studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home.

Mara Baun, D.N.Sc., professor at The University of Texas School of Nursing in Houston, believes that medical experts should prescribe pet ownership to patients – whether for physical or emotional disorders. It will improve general health and emotional well-being as long as a close relationship has been formed. Remember, more than feeding and grooming your pet, it’s the kind of relationship you build with the creature that counts!