There’s a reason why dogs are called man’s best friend. Not only do they provide companionship but evidence also shows that owning a pet, such as a dog, can have both mental and physical health benefits.
The WALTHAM Pet Care Science Institute, which has been conducting scientific research on pets for more than 50 years, has found that owning a pet can help reduce stress, decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure, provide social support, improve fitness and may help prevent some illnesses.
The bond between humans and pets provides comfort, love and happiness. Pet ownership also leads to better fitness as many pet owners walk their dogs, spend time playing with them and providing overall care. Walking your dog also leads to more opportunities to socialize. Greater socialization combined with the special companionship pets offer can reduce loneliness and depression.
Research has revealed that children also benefit from pet ownership. Children who have positive relationships with their pets have improved cognitive stimulation, better behavior, greater sensitivity and understanding of others, increased immunity and decreased anxiety levels.
Before adding a pet to your family, you’ll want to do some research to make sure the pet you choose is a good fit for you and your family. Some questions the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend you ask yourself include:
- How large will it become?
- What type of disposition is this type of pet known to have?
- How long will the pet live?
- What does the pet eat?
- How much exercise does the pet need and are you able to accommodate that?
- How much will veterinary care cost? Do you have the time to provide attention and properly care for the pet?
- Are pets allowed in your house, apartment or condominium?
- Are there young children, older people or people with a weak immune system who will be around the pet?
Keep in mind that children younger than 5 years old, people with weakened immune systems and those 65 years of age and older are more prone to getting diseases that can spread between animals and people. These are known as zoonotic diseases. Pregnant women are also more susceptible for some animal-related diseases. The CDC recommends the following precautions before getting a pet:
- Reptiles such as turtles, lizards, and snakes, and amphibians such as frogs and toads, or backyard poultry can spread harmful germs and cause serious illness to children younger than 5 years old.
- If you or any members of your family have weakened immune systems, talk to your veterinarian about choosing the best pet for you.
- Pregnant women should take special precautions when it comes to handling or getting a new cat. Cats can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. This is a disease that can cause birth defects. If you already have a cat, you don’t need to give it up, but avoid handling the cat litter.
- If you are pregnant, you should also avoid exposure to pet rodents to prevent getting the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, which can lead to birth defects.
Most people would agree that the many benefits a pet can provide to you and your family far outweigh the risks, and in most cases, your pet will quickly become a beloved member of the family.