Pets Provide Significant Health Benefits By Rachel Blankmeyer, DVM
Some of our closest companions, especially as we age, are our four-legged friends. The human-animal bond provides many benefits to people who may otherwise be isolated due to emotional, behavioral, or physical problems. Research shows several health benefits of pet ownership for older adults, including lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels. A study by Friedmann & Thomas in 1995 showed that pet ownership actually resulted in increased survival rates after a heart attack. Other studies have shown that pets may provide social support similar to that of a family member for older adults. Consider additional general health benefits such as weight control and stress reduction, and pet ownership seems like a win-win situation!
You may have heard of the Alzheimer’s patient study performed by Edwards & Beck in 2002, where persons with Alzheimer’s disease observed a facility fish tank and demonstrated improved relaxation, alertness, and eating habits. This is a huge deal for patients dealing with dementia because at least 50% experience weight loss, increasing the mortality rate and progression of disease. Stroke survivors may also specifically benefit from animal companionship through improved communication, dexterity, mobility and balance. As a veterinarian, I may be biased, but the facts don’t lie: animals help all of us have a more active daily life, and can enrich our lives emotionally! So, consider the cost-benefit ratio: