With holiday season upon us, many people are thinking about getting that first family pet. After all, what lights up a child’s eyes more than their first puppy or kitten?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently launched a revised Healthy Pets Healthy People website, caring for a companion animal has many proven health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and feelings of loneliness. Pets can also increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities.
“The bond between animals and humans is part of our evolution, and it’s very powerful,” says Ann Berger, MD, MSN, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Research has found cardiovascular benefits to pet ownership. One study funded by the NIH looked at 421 adults who had heart attacks. A year after their attacks, the scientists found, dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive.
James Griffin, PhD, an NIH scientist specializing in child health and human development, says that researchers have found that pet ownership may hold special benefits during childhood. “When children are asked who they talk to when they get upset, a lot of times their first answer is their pet,” he says. “This points to the importance of pets as a source of comfort and developing empathy.”
This is particularly true for autistic children, who sometimes are better able to interact with pets.
The new CDC website includes detailed information about the health benefits of owning a pet as well as some cautionary advice about diseases that can spread from animals to humans and tips on how to minimize any risk of illness from animals.
Copyright 2015 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.