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Pets Help Humans Deal with Disease

Posted by Scott Pollak on

Brought to you by William Pollak D.V.M.
and the Fairfield Animal Hospital.

Evidence is mounting that having a pet is not only pleasurable, but good for your health. According to an article by Larry Dossey, MD, in the July 1997 issue of Alternative Therapies, there are more than 2,000 medical therapy programs throughout the U.S. that involve pets.

Studies also show that pet ownership lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, decreases the risk of heart disease, and even increases the survival prospects for patients recovering from heart attacks.

When researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine studied pet owners, they found their risk of dying from coronary heart disease was less than the risk faced by people who did not own pets. The researchers divided pet owners into dog owners and non-dog owners to determine whether the physical exercise involved in walking a dog contributed to lowering the risk, but it didn't make any difference. Whether they were dog lovers or cat fanciers, pet owners enjoyed equal health benefits.

How do pets help people feel better? Dossey speculates that the comfort of talking to a pet has some of the same comforting resonance of praying. "Pets provide a socially acceptable outlet for touching and they bring out compassionate behavior in people," concludes Sharon Smith, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school.

Pets can teach humans about unconditional love. Dossey concludes, "Pets bring us back to the realization of our unity with other living things. They help us remember who we are," he writes.

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