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Beyond Body

PETherapy: the bond between humans and pets

PET-LOVE, or "the human/companion animal bond," is a mutually rewarding relationship. In the past few years, scientific research has not only explained the possibilities for its use. For instance, pet therapy is currently being used to treat the mentally ill, revitalize the elderly and motivate the handicapped. Recent findings have made it reasonable to believe that owning a pet may improve our physical and mental health. It seems that man's best friend, at least in some cases, may turn out to be man's best medicine. Pets have been found to lower a person's blood pressure, reduce stress, provide an outlet for playing, cause people to exercise and promote feelings of intimacy, continuity, security and general well-being.Used in physiological or psychological aids, as well as all the various and sundry creatures generally thought of as pets.

No one is too old to have pets. Most people have taken care of a pet or two at least once in their lifetime. It would be common for a family to own one in their household. Some findings reveal that having a pet (most especially with the elderly) gives a person something to care for, something to watch and perhaps play with. It is also a source of emotional security or having a sense of belonging to a daily routine.

Animals can bring new dimensions to a person's life, particularly to one who has lost intimate human companions and feels deserted by society. Having to care for an animal gives many a sense of being useful again, being needed and being important. A pet can be one's confidant in times of emotional need. It can be a good source of strength when one is feeling down since pets have no restrictions. They will accept you for who you are without asking any questions. They will be there for you no matter what. The most conventional pet would be a dog or cat but for some like Winston Churchill, he prefers a unique kind - pig. The British Prime Minister was quoted as saying that dogs would look up on us and cats would look down on us but pigs they treat us as equals.

As for this humble author, I have 7 dogs. After a hard day’s work, as soon as I get home and at the honk of my car, all my dogs would start making a racket. They'd bark all at the same time as if greeting me and telling those at home they should open the gates because I have arrived. They are eager and excited to welcome me home.

Every time I come home tired, mad and stressed out, whether from work or from a major traffic jam, this would turn my day around. I would then feel different and less stressed knowing my doggies appreciate my presence. It is great to feel loved even though only by animals. I realized that my pets bring me joy and emotional support especially at the time I need it most, without any conditions or expecting anything in return.

Here are some healthy reasons why pets can help you:

  • Animal-assisted therapy can effectively reduce the loneliness of residents in long-term care facilities. (Banks, 2002).
  • People with borderline hypertension had lower blood pressure on days they took their dogs to work. (Allen, K. 2001).
  • Seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less than those who do not. In a study of 100 Medicare patients, even the most highly stressed dog owners in the study have 21 percent fewer physician's contacts than non-dog owners. (Siegel, 1990).
  • Activities of daily living (ADL) level of seniors who did not currently own pets deteriorated more on the average than that of respondents who currently owned pets. (Raina, 1999).
  • Seniors who own pets coped better with stress life events without entering the healthcare system. (Raina, 1998).
  • Pet owners have lower blood pressure. (Friedmann, 1983, Anderson 1992).
  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-owners (Anderson, 1992).
  • ACE inhibitors lower resting blood pressure but they do not diminish reactivity to mental stress. Pet ownership can lessen cardiovascular reactivity to psychological stress among hypertensive patients treated with a daily dose of Lisinopril. (Allen, 1999).
  • Companionship of pets (particularly dogs) helps children in families adjust better to the serious illness and death of a parent (Raveis, 1993).
  • Pet owners feel less afraid of being a victim of crime when walking with a dog or sharing a residence with a dog. (Serpel, 1990).

I can definitely say that pets do make our lives healthier. Whatever type of animal you consider as pet, whether it's a dog, cat, bird, hamster, or anything else, it wouldn't really matter as long as they make you happy and you feel good about having them and taking care of them. I guess that's why we adore them and can relate to their needs because as humans we also have the same needs as them and that is being loved and cared for.

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