Scientists prove that dogs and cats have a positive impact on our own health and the health of our children.


You love them, we love them, and more and more, scientists are starting to love them.  Check out these recent scientific studies showing the positive health benefits of pet ownership


Dogs Reduce Stress in Children

In a study released by the Center for Disease Control, lead researcher Anne Gadomski concluded, “Having a pet dog in the home is associated with a decreased probability of childhood anxiety.”


Dr. James Griffin, a researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and expert in child development and behavior, believes that the association has to do with the special relationship children have with pets.  “When children are asked who they talk to when they get upset, a lot of times their first answer is their pet,” says Griffin, “This points to the importance of pets as a source of comfort and developing empathy. In fact, therapists and researchers have reported that children with autism are sometimes better able to interact with pets, and this may help in their interactions with people.”


Dogs help owners lose weight 

And keep it off! The National Institute of Health found that dog owners are significantly more likely to meet physical exercise guidelines and are less likely to be obese than non-dog owning people.  What’s more, because dogs often nose-nudge their owners to keep up the walking routine, the additional exercise that comes along with pet ownership tends to become a long-term habit.  Like the other studies cited here, the NIH also associated dog ownership with positive changes in the key markers for cardiovascular health including lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and lower triglycerides.  How do they do it!???


Cats lower chances of having a heart attack by 30%

In a study reported in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, researcher Adnan Qureshi found that cat owners showed a 30 percent lower risk of death from heart attack compared to non-cat owners.


Said Qureshi, “The logical explanation may be that cat ownership relieves stress and anxiety and subsequently reduces the risk of heart disease.”  Qureshi believes one reason could be that stroking the pet cuts the level of stress-related hormones in the blood. Reducing stress is known to help protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing the heart rate.


Owning a dog reduces allergies in children 

After results of an initial study that showed that children raised on farms were 50% less likely to have allergies compared with children not raised on farms.  Lead scientist Dr Tove Fall, of Uppsala University in Sweden, repeated the study with children raised in households that had dogs.  Fall explained, “Earlier studies had shown that growing up on a farm reduced a child’s risk of asthma to about half. We wanted to see if this relationship also was true also for children growing up with dogs in their homes. Our results confirmed the farming effect.  We saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15% less asthma than children without dogs.”  Because the data pool was so large, researchers were able to account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socio-economic status.


Pets make us happier

Well duh!  We knew that one!  In his blog for Psychology Today, researcher Dr. Allen McConnel said, “In three different studies, we found consistent evidence that pets represent important social relationships, conferring significant benefits to their owners. In one study involving 217 community members, pet owners exhibited greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, were less lonely, were more conscientious, were more socially outgoing, and had healthier relationship styles (i.e., they were less fearful and less preoccupied) than non-owners. Another interesting finding was that pet owners reported receiving as much support from their pets as they did from their family members (e.g., siblings, parents), and that people reported being closer to their pets as they were also closer to other people. Thus, people did not turn to pets because their human social support was poor — instead, owners seem to extend their general human social competencies to their pets as well.”


So there you have it!.  And the next time someone visits the house, skip brushing the cat or dog hair off the sofa.  That’s the left over residue from your health and happiness ambassadors.


Want to add a new member to your pet household?  Hi Tor Animal Shelter has been placing beautiful dogs and cats in the homes of Rockland County residents for years.  Use this link to browse the photos of dogs and cats that are up for adoption.   If you do rescue or adopt a pet, use the Animal Medical of New City ‘Rockland County Pet Adoption’ written by Dr. Sue Bardari.  Includes information on introducing strange cats to one another; introducing new dogs to one another; and how to make sure that dogs like Pit Bull Terriers are treated fairly by the other members of the community.