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Health Effects of Pets



This section lists studies that document the health benefits associated with having a pet.                          

A pet is a medication without side effects that has so many benefits. I can’t always explain   it myself, but for years now I’ve seen how instances of having a pet is like an effective drug. It really does help people.”                                                 

        Dr. Edward Creagan
        Oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN


List of Health Benefit articles                                              (about seniors)                                                                  >>>>>>><<<<<< 

Pets and the Aging: Science Supports the Human-Animal Bond
   (2003 White paper)     



 Work Practitioners and the Human-Companion Animal Bond: A National Study            by Christina Risley-Curtiss     in Social Work: Jan 2010  Vol 55 Iss 1, p 38-46          

Research documents powerful relationships between humans and companion animals, and 62 percent of U.S. households report having a companion animal. Social workers are likely to work  with individuals and families with companion animals; thus, the inclusion of such animals in both practice and research as a natural extension of social work with humans, and their challenges, coping mechanisms, and resiliency factors, seems called for. Yet there is little in the social work literature that identifies what social workers are doing in this area. Thus, this descriptive study sought to explore nationally what social work practitioners know and are doing in the area of the human and companion animal relationships. Findings include that social work practitioners appear to have basic knowledge of the negative and positive relationships between humans and companion animals. About one-third are including questions about companion and other animals in their intake assessments, and a little less than 25 percent are including companion and other animals in their intervention practice. The vast majority have had no special training or coursework to do so. Implications for these and other findings are discussed, and recommendations for social work research, education, and practice are offered.                             


Human-Animals Bonds I: The Relational Significance of Companion Animals   by Froma Walsh   in Family Process, Dec 2009, Vol 48, Issue 4, p 462-480.           


The importance of human-animal bonds has been documented throughout history, across cultures, and in recent research. However, attachments with companion animals have been undervalued and even pathologized in the field of mental health. This article briefly surveys the evolution of human-animal bonds, reviews research on their health and mental health benefits, and examines their profound relational significance across the life course. Finally, the emerging field of animal-assisted interventions is described, noting applications in hospital and eldercare settings, and in innovative school, prison, farm, and community programs. The aim of this overview paper is to stimulate more attention to these vital bonds in systems-oriented theory, practice, and research. A companion paper in this issue focuses on the role of pets and relational dynamics in family systems and family therapy .             


Human-Companion Animal Social Relationships      Joan Behrick Digges in Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, Winter 2009, Vol 15, Issue 1, p. 35-41               
       The article presents a reflections on the need to expand the concept of the advance directive to include social relationship between humans and companion animals. It illustrates what might happen when infirm individuals cannot continue to maintain a home for their animal companions.  It suggests that the amazing bond between human and companion animal can complement and substitute for human-to-human relationships in certain vulnerable human populations. It relates that the relationship may serve a significant survival function on a basic neurobiological level. Moreover, it stresses the value of integrating knowledge from neuroscience with social sciences, which may lead to a new appreciation of the potential for human-animal relationships to be mutually beneficial.                         


  Influence of Companion Animals on the Physical and Psychological Health of Older People   By Parminder Raina PhD, David Waltner-Toews DVM, PhD, Brenda Bonnett DVM, PhD, Christel Woodward PhD, Tom Abernathy PhD       From Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 47(3):323-329, March 1999.                                

Sample was 1054 of noninstitutionalized adults aged 65 and older (mean age = 73).  Pet owners were observed to be younger, currently married or living with someone, and more physically active than non-pet owners. The ADL level of respondents who did not currently own pets deteriorated more on average (P = .04) than that of respondents who currently owned pets after adjusting for other variables during the 1-year period. No statistically significant direct association was observed between pet ownership and change in psychological well-being (P > .100). However, pet ownership significantly modified the relationship between social support and the change in psychological well-being (P = .001) over a 1-year period. CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrate the benefits of pet ownership in maintaining or slightly enhancing ADL levels of older people. However, a more complex relationship was observed between pet ownership and an older person’s well-being.       


Are  Pets a Source of Support or Added Burden for Married Couples Facing Dementia ?     By Cathleen Connell,  Mary Janevic,  Erica Solway, Sara McLaughlin.  From  Journal of Applied Gerontology,  November 2007 vol. 26 no. 5 472-485

In studies that have explored pet ownership in families affected by dementia, reported benefits have ranged from improvements in patient behavior to reduction in caregiver blood pressure. In this exploratory study, the impact of dementia on relationships among pets, caregivers, and care recipients was examined using content analysis of open-ended questions included in a telephone survey. Female spouse caregivers who owned pets were asked how their (and their husband’s) relationship with their pets changed since they started caring for their husband. Most caregivers reported that they felt closer and more attached to their pets than previously. However, some caregivers reported that their pets created an additional burden and that they and their spouse had less time to care for the pets since the onset of illness. Findings highlight the need for further research to explore the unique benefits and burdens of owning a pet for families affected by dementia.

 Babies in home with pets are often healthier :


2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2014 8:25 pm

    I agree with every single word. A pet in the house is a gift. A gift for the marriage. a gift for the kids and for the keeping the peace at home.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Click Here

  2. June 1, 2014 5:28 am

    Pets are the best drugs! They give you so much than they take. I truely recommend, to all of those who still don’t have one: GO GET A PET! they are smart, loving and sweet creatures.
    Click Here

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