More reasons to love ’em
Pet owners know what wonderful companions our pets can be. But did you know that owning a pet can help prevent us from getting sick and recover more quickly? Or that some animals can identify people who are suffering from various types of cancer?
Do you suffer from zooeyia (ZOO-EY-AH)? Congratulations. Zooeyia, a term coined from the Greek words for animal and health, describes the health benefits of pet ownership. From weight loss to smoking cessation, lower blood pressure to a more positive mental outlook, having pets in our lives offers many surprising health benefits.
Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent disease. Studies in Canada, Australia, and Japan have shown that dog ownership promotes physical activity. Dog owners are 57 to 77 percent more likely to achieve sufficient physical activity than people who didn’t own dogs. Along with being more active, people who walked their dogs had a lower body mass and were less likely to report having diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression. We’ve known that pet ownership is linked to lower incidences of heart disease—however, we haven’t always known why. A recent study suggests pet ownership can moderate the imbalance caused by diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels on our body’s cardiac autonomic nervous activity, possibly because pets improve our emotional state. So, it’s not surprising that pet owners who have coronary artery disease show a greater one-year survival rate than non-owners, regardless of their heart attack’s severity.
Sometimes what we won’t do for ourselves, we’ll do for our pets—benefiting all of us.
Animals also play a role in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer.
Although we can’t detect it, some animals can identify people suffering from bladder, ovarian, lung, prostate, and breast cancers through olfactory signals, notably our exhaled breath. Thanks to dogs’ superior noses, we might one day be able to take a simple, non-invasive breathalyzer test to detect cancer.
In one study of 4,000 people, owners of dogs, cats, and other domestic pets had a reduced risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and diffuse large-cell lymphoma compared with those who never had owned a pet. Researchers suggest pet ownership alters our immune system and decreases our sensitivity to allergens, making us less susceptible to immune system-related cancers like NHL.
Several studies of patients undergoing cancer treatment indicate those who have positive interactions with animals report improved health, decreased depression, and improved social and psychological well-being, even when experiencing physical and functional problems. On a physical level, they also show improved oxygen saturation levels.
Kids with cancer and therapy animals are a winning combination. A number of pediatric studies reported that interacting with therapy animals allowed kids to
Pets can help prevent us from getting sick and to recover faster when we are. As early as the ninth century, healers used animals to augment traditional medical therapies. Today, more and more studies are proving those healers right. Recent studies using therapy dogs in medical settings or pets at home have shown
While some parents feel pet ownership helps children become more responsible, studies show the benefits extend to mental, cognitive, emotional, and physical aspects as well.
Older people also benefit from being around pets:
Used correctly, supplements may help keep our pets healthy and live longer, happier lives. While research is ongoing, existing information is mainly anecdotal or shows mixed results.
Pre- and probiotic supplements can regulate digestive health, help the immune system maintain a healthy response, reduce allergy symptoms, heal dry, flaking skin and hair, and prevent diarrhea.
Dietary supplements including ginkgo leaf extract, antioxidants, vitamins, fatty acids, L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, and phospholipids (phosphatidylserine) show promise in slowing down cognitive dysfunction in aging cats and dogs and reduce age-related behavioural disturbances.
Current evidence supports a variety of supplements including the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and antioxidants to manage osteoarthritis.
Researchers are starting to investigate supplements including green tea, conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin D, and polyunsaturated fatty acids both as prevention and adjuncts to chemotherapy. Note: Always consult a veterinarian knowledgeable about animal tolerances and supplements.