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Pet Owner Health Benefits ~ [Issue 0305-3]  Wellness Weekly
 Mar 14, 2005 08:16 PST 

SURPRISING HEALTH BENEFITS FOR PET OWNERS
Copyright 2005 by Patricia Wagner

Did you know that there are key health benefits that can result from
owning a pet? Having one can enhance your physical, mental, and
social wellbeing.

1. How can a pet help your physical health?

Owning a dog, for instance, will encourage you to get more exercise.
With your faithful friend at your side, you're much more likely to go
for a walk. Walking is one of the best health activities you can do.
While walking you're also more likely to socially interact with your
neighbors because your special pal often acts as an ice-breaker.

Research led by Dr. Karen Allen at the State University of New York
at Buffalo shows that pets can help lower blood pressure.
Stockbrokers with high blood pressure were studied to see what
happened when they adopted a pet dog or cat. Researchers concluded
that having a pet nearby helps control increases in blood pressure
due to stress.

In his studies Alan Beck, ScD (Professor of Animal Ecology, Purdue
University) found that the simple act of petting your dog slows your
heart rate and causes your blood pressure to drop.

An added health advantage from pet ownership is that patients may
live longer after heart attacks. Some doctors recommend that a heart
attack survivor adopt a dog because research has shown that a
faithful canine companion can help prolong an owner's life.

2. How Can A Pet Improve Your Mental Health?

Sharing your life with a cat may help your mental health. A study
conducted at Australia's University of New England found that people
who own feline friends may experience fewer psychiatric disturbances
than those without cats.

Pets can help their owners overcome depression through their
companionship and unconditional love. They seem to possess the
natural ability to help you relax and enjoy life more.

Pets can also help when you experience times of loneliness. English
poet, Alexander Pope, has stated that histories are more full of
examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends. According to a
Chinese proverb, dogs have so many friends because they wag their
tails, not their tongues.

When you take care of a pet you have to develop a routine of getting
out, buying food, and providing exercise. This can help fight off
depression and loneliness. The simple responsibility of pet care can
help you get your mind off yourself and your problems.

3. How can a pet enhance your wellbeing in the area of relationships?

AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) President, Link Wellborn,
believes that pets are more than just a member of the family -
they're central to a healthy lifestyle.

Pets help lessen tension between family members and add a lot of fun
and unconditional love to the homes where they live. When pets do
cute and funny things - which they often do - family members react by
laughing and being more relaxed.

If you don't have a pet yet, consider making one part of your family,
but make sure you have the time and resources necessary to provide a
stable loving home for your new friend.

If you choose a dog as your new pal, remember this wise old saying.
"A dog is man's best friend." That's true in more ways than one.
You'll get unconditional love, companionship, loyalty, and relaxation
in return for your investment of time and material resources. What a
bargain!

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Patricia Wagner offers informative tips on living a more
energetic lifestyle at http://www.a-to-z-wellness.com. She
is also an artist and you can view her original paintings
at http://www.artbywagner.com.
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