AR-News: AR NEWS: Pets are good for physical, mental well-being

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Wed Sep 10 13:17:58 EDT 2003


http://www.fortway Posted on Wed, Sep. 10, 2003

Pets are good for physical, mental well-being
BY DR. CHRIS DUKE
Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - There's good news in today's column. In the trade publication 
Veterinary Economics (August 2002 Issue), there was a lot of attention on the 
beneficial aspects of pet ownership on the pet owners themselves. Some of the 
conclusions drawn by PAWSitive InterAction, a nonprofit organization that conducted 
the study, are as follows:
_Seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less often than those who don't. In a 
study of 100 Medicare patients, even the most highly stressed dog owners had a 
21 percent lower level of physician contacts than non-owners.
_Along those same lines, medication costs dropped from an average of $3.80 
per patient per day to $1.18 per patient per day when nursing homes allowed for 
pets and plants to be introduced into patient's environments. Nursing homes in 
New York, Missouri and Texas were all used in that study.
_Pet owners had lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride and lower 
cholesterol levels than non-owners.
_One element of the study cited that heart attack sufferers who own a dog 
have an eight times better chance of surviving one year as opposed to non-owners.
_Pets provide internal chemical therapeutics for people. Tests show that 
within minutes of petting a dog, the humans and dogs alike experience massive 
release of such beneficial hormones as prolactin, oxytocin and phenylethylamine.
_There is evidence that pets help combat allergies in children. One study 
found that living with two or more cats and dogs as toddlers made children less 
susceptible to other allergy-inducing substances by the time they turned 7.
_Children exposed to educational programs on the humane treatment of animals 
display enhanced empathy for humans compared with children not exposed to such 
programs.
_Couples who own pets have closer relationships, are more satisfied in 
marriage, and better cope with stress than couples without pets. These couples also 
tended to have more frequent contact with each other and other people as well.
Most of these results are not surprising to most of us who are pet owners; 
one basic premise we accept is that pets decrease our feelings of loneliness and 
isolation. For those wishing to link our emotional health to physical health, 
it stands to reason that pet owners enjoy better physical health because they 
exercise more with their pets. It has even been shown that our coping 
mechanisms are enhanced by the support of a pet. People with AIDS who own pets 
experience less depression and reduced personal stress, therefore helping their 
quality of life.
This may seem a bit trite as an arbitrary example, but consider the movie 
"Castaway," when Tom Hanks was isolated from civilization and had to use multiple 
coping mechanisms to survive both physically and emotionally. Can we ever fo
rget the volleyball he named Wilson, who he talked to daily, ironically to help 
preserve his own sanity? I noted that when "Wilson" became irretrievable and 
for all intents and purpose lost from the main character's life, depression 
ensued. His hope for staying alive and being rescued hinged upon this makeshift 
"companion-pet" that he had improvised as a face on a volleyball.
Can the importance of a living, breathing companion be viewed as anything 
less in importance?
---
(Dr. Chris Duke is a veterinarian at Bienville Animal Medical Center in Ocean 
Springs, Miss.
(Do you have a question about your pet? Write to the pet doctors at the South 
Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association, 20005 Pineville Road, Long Beach, 
MS 39560.)
---
© 2003, The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.).
ne.com/mld/newssentinel/6737170.htm
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