Originally published June 18 2008
Pets Can Improve Your Health and Aid in Recovery
by Jo Hartley
(NaturalNews) There is now evidence showing that domestic animals not only provide great companionship, but they can also help prevent illness. A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota has highlighted the importance of regular contact with pets. The study showed that having a cat for a pet can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by just under 50 percent.
The study included 4,500 adults between the ages of 30 and 75 years. The study participants were followed for 10 years. The conclusion was that cat owners had a 40 percent lower risk of a fatal heart attack.
The correlation between stress and anxiety and cardiovascular problems has been standard information for years. The conclusion is that owning pets relieves some of the factors leading to these health problems. Another study published in 2007 concluded that dog owners had lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Again, the conclusion is that dogs (as well as cats) directly improve humans' health by improving stress levels.
Owning a pet can also improve a patient's chances of survival after suffering a life-threatening illness. The effect pets have on blood pressure is thought to be the reason. Pets also help cut rehabilitation time following a stroke.
There is a charity that takes pets to patient centers to aid patients in their various recoveries. It is called Pets as Therapy (PAT) and was formed in 1983 by a group of pet owners who were sure that their pets could help others in need. Their initial goal was to help elderly patients who had been forced to give up their own pets to enter care facilities. The mission of PAT has grown over the years to now encompass the animals being used for desensitization in phobia patients, for aiding in stroke rehabilitation, for helping people regain the use of limbs again and for relearning how to talk.
There are thousands of facilities that PAT animals frequent each year. After a slow start, there is now a waiting list. There are currently 3,600 dogs and 92 cats that work in the organization. The animals wear a brightly colored PAT vest and they are always freshly groomed to ensure sanitary conditions for patients.
Each PAT animal is carefully assessed prior to using them to make sure that they are properly behaved and will remain calm when they come into contact with patients.
Part of the benefit of pet ownership, especially among the elderly, is that a pet fulfills a need to be needed. Very often the emotional support given freely by an animal is far more meaningful than what can be offered by a human. Studies have also shown that children who have pets have higher self-esteem and are more emotionally secure and stable. Some teachers are even introducing pets into their classrooms to enhance the learning environment for children.
About the authorJo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
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