By Angela Desimone
We all know that dogs have long held a special standing in the medical world. Trained to see for the blind, hear for the deaf and move for the immobilized, dogs have become indispensable companions for people with disabilities. But now it seems dogs appear to be far more than four legged health care workers.
A study done in Japan found pet parents made 30 percent fewer visits to doctors. A Melbourne, Australia study of 6,000 people showed that owners of dogs and other pets had lower cholesterol, blood pressure and heart attack risk compared with people who didn’t have pets. Obviously, the better health of pet owners could be explained by a variety of factors, but many experts believe companion animals improve health at least in part by lowering stress.
Some studies have suggested dogs can be cancer detectors as well. In 2006, the medical journal Integrative Cancer Therapies reported how ordinary house dogs could identify breast and lung cancer patients by smelling their breath. A study is now being done at the University of Maine to see if dogs can sniff out ovarian cancer. There seems to be no limit to what our best friends can do to keep us healthy!
But what about our mental health? Can our pets help to ease sadness, stress, depression and other general malaise? Of course they can! Think of how you feel after a bad day at work. You walk in the house to a wagging tail, a happy dog or cat circling around your legs, greeting you with nothing less than utter joy at the fact that you just simply walked through the door. If that doesn’t make you feel better, I don’t think anything could.
Just petting your beloved animal will reduce stress and can lower blood pressure. Talking out loud to your pets can help you to get something off of your chest that you can’t share with anyone else without fear of judgment or a negative reaction. Talking out loud is an important step in problem solving and healing and certainly your pet will enjoy the attention as well!
Cry with your pet after a loss and tell them all the reasons you miss who or what you have lost. Just as above, it’s important to share your grief. And they won’t ever tire of hearing the same thing after several months.
There are many benefits to having furry creatures in your life, it helps to ease the feeling of loneliness and they give you a sense of purpose, even if it’s only something as simple as caring for them. They can motivate and inspire you to do things you never thought you could, but most importantly, our pets truly can teach us how to love.
The joys of being a pet parent can be endless fun and beneficial to your good health, so be as important a companion to your four legged pals as they have been to you. There is no better friend that you will ever have, and your body will thank you for it too!