The Joys of Pets!

Animal Assisted Therapy for Children

Dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, and lizards, oh my! Yes the focus today is on the benefits of having pets.

Helps ward of allergies – Sounds strange but it is true. Research out of the University of Wisconsin-Maison conducted by pediatrician James E. Gern showed that by having a pet in the home a child’s likelihood of developing allergies related to the pet can be lowered by as much as 33%! He also demonstrated that children who were exposed early also tended to have stronger immune systems overall.

Social skills – We all can use practice with our socialization skills and pets can be a great ice breaker as a topic of conversation especially when they are with you. They provide a common denominator. Please note that is not a good reason to get a pet for this sole purpose.

Benefits your heart – Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) looked at pet owners and their hearts. What the studies showed was that people who owned pets had decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Low levels on these states help in minimizing the risk for a heart attack. If by chance someone has already had a heart attack, there is good news as well. People with dogs or cats tend to have better recovery rates. The current hypothesis is that pets’ tendency to help with stress reduction plays role in these benefits.

Motivation to exercise – Some pets require us to get up and get moving. Dogs are a good example. If your pet fits that bill, studies by the Wellness Institute at Northwest Memorial Hospital and National Institute of Health as well as others have good news. By walking your pet you will benefit. One benefit can be weight loss or weight maintenance.

Improve mood and well-being – Pets provide their people with unconditional love as well as a sense of purpose. They help combat loneliness with their presence in the lives people. Pets can help boost mood and bring happiness into one’s life even when feeling a little blue.

Improves the lives of elders – Evidence points to elders benefiting from pets in their lives. For example, Alzheimer’s patients may have fewer anxious outbursts.

Improves the lives of children – Studies have shown that children are more relaxed around animals than humans when it comes to reading in front of someone. So curling up with a pet to read may be a fun alternative to help children learn. As mentioned above, pets are also great conversation starts, and children agree. Pets give children something to talk about with peers. Children who have pets also have a source of comfort and have the potential to viewed by their parents as less anxious and withdrawn. Pets even may help families strengthen their bond because of the number of activities and connections that happen because of the pet. Many times, pets are viewed by children as part of the family. Another possible interesting benefit of children having pets is that they may learn something about caregiving.


Pets for many people play such an important part in their lives. Science now backs up what many know from just having a pet in their lives. Enjoy your time with your animal family member.

Resources and References:
Animal Plant – Top 5 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet – The Health Benefits of Dogs (and Cats)
WebMD – 5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health
Parents – The Benefits of Pets
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Health Benefits of Pets
National Institute of Health – Can Pets Help Keep You Healthy?
LiveScience – 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Dog Ownership
Huffington Post – Benefits of Pet Ownership
National Center for Health Research – Pets and health: the impact of companion animals
Oprah – Dr. Oz Reveals Why Pets Really Improve Your Health

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