Pets are good for your health: companions
MapleLine Magazine: Aug.25, 2010
by Karen Laharty << Back to Fall 2010 issue
Got a pet? Though it may seem like a daunting addition to an already busy life, owning a pet provides us with a vital link to longevity and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
Animals speak to our souls. They can show us the importance of time for simple pleasures – walking on the beach with the dog, sitting in your favourite chair petting the cat, watching the fish swim in lazy circles around the tank. This down-time is important for balancing our well-being, time that we often drop from busy schedules.
Worldwide studies associating pet care to human health may be inconclusive to date, but some of the findings speak for themselves. For the elderly or those with mobility issues, pets can ease the feelings of loneliness and depression. According to the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, seniors who have pets make fewer trips to the doctor. The amount of mental and physical involvement required, depending on the pet, helps seniors to cope with stress and to take better care of themselves.
In North America, cats and dogs are the most popular animals as in-home pets, respectively. Other popular pets include reptiles, birds and horses. All pets require time and care, including the important aspect of teaching children about animals. Fish are low maintenance pets as are gerbils, hamsters and other small mammals. The SPCA offers a summer camp for kids where they learn about care of animals of all varieties through games, crafts and other activities including quiet hands-on time with small animals like rabbits and kittens.
King of the social scene, dogs provide endless opportunities for activity. Because dogs need regular exercise, the possibilities are limitless. Whether you walk, run, bike, hike, swim or surf, your four-footed friend will be there every step of the way. A dog is happiest spending quality time with its owner. Canines are masters of unconditional love which does wonders for the human psyche. Of course, dog owners need to do their poop-and-scoop part for the environment. MM
Photo of black Norwegian Forest Cat by Catherine Brooke, Victoria, BC
Pet issues - by Mary P. Brooke
In hot weather, it's important not to leave your pet in a locked vehicle. This dog (see photo) was tied up alongside its owner's car in the parking lot at the Village Food Markets mall in Sooke, on a hot August day. In the shade, this canine had a cool time while its master shopped.
And when it comes to folks who are allergic to animal dander, pet companionship is a challenge. Animal dander affects those who are allergic even when the pet is not around -- dander is tiny flakes from the skin, fur and feathers of animals. Dried pet saliva can also cause reactions in those who are chemically sensitive. Pet owners may not always realize that dander -- which is throughout their home as well as in their car and on clothing and personal belongings -- is a health problem for people with sensitivities and allergies to pets.
Health complications from pet-related allergies include breathing problems and immune-system reactions. According to HealthTree.com, approximately 70% of (American) households have pets, and 10% of the population is allergic to pets. The best way to avoid the allergy is to remove the allergen from the household, though many people will use anti-histamines to deal with allergic symptoms. Allergic symptoms include sneezing, wheezing, itchy and running nose and eyes. Because animal saliva, when dried on pet fur, can also cause reactions, it may be that cat allergies are more common than allergic reactions to dogs, as cats are frequently grooming themselves by licking which leaves dried saliva in their fur. While the fur or feathers themselves don't cause allergies, they can carry allergens such as dust mites, pollen and mold.
There has been some recently-released research to connect cancer to initial infections by bacteria, viruses and parasites. With animals in the home environment there is increased exposure to foreign bodies that invade human tissues. MM
This page is sponsored by the MapleLine Health Writers Workshops, starting in Sooke in Fall 2010.