Prescription for Living Well? Get a Pet

Prescription for Living Well?

It might be the prescription of the future: Get a pet and call me in the morning.


Numerous studies have shown that pets - or at least the presence of animals - can have medical benefits that are beyond dispute. These range from lowering blood pressure to lessening anxiety and depression and even to faster healing times after surgery.


Fido is no placebo - he can literally be man’s best friend when people are ailing. (Learn More about Keeping Pets Safe: Are Pills Poisoning Your Pet?)


"We have known for many years that the company of a pet can be of benefit in a variety of ways, but exactly why this is, no one seems to have the answer," says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, who specializes in animal behavior and human-animal relationships at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine


"For example, the long-term survival rates of heart attack victims who had a pet have been shown to be significantly longer than for those who did not. There is also data showing that widows who have cats are better off medically during the first year, which is a critical stress time, than widows who do not." (More on Pill Advised: Lonlieness Increases Blood Pressure for Over 50’s)


Other studies have shown that:


  • Senior adults who own dogs go to the doctor less than those who do not. In a study of 100 Medicare patients, those who owned dogs made 21 percent fewer visits to a physician than non-dog owners;


  • Pet owners have lower blood pressure, and one study showed that just 10 minutes in the company of an animal significantly reduced blood pressure rates;


  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-owners;


  • Pet owners have overall better physical health due to exercise with their pets;


  • 70 percent of families surveyed reported an increase in family happiness and fun after acquiring a pet;


  • Children exposed to pets during their first year of life have a lower frequency of some allergies and asthma;


  • Children who suffer from autism have more prosocial behaviors if they own a pet;


  • Owning a pet - especially a dog - helps children in families better adjust to the serious illness or death of a parent;


  • Pets decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation in their owners;


  • Having a pet may decrease heart attack mortality rates by 3 percent, which translates into 30,000 lives saved annually;


  • Positive self-esteem in children is enhanced if the child owns a pet;


  • Children owning pets are more likely to be involved in sports, hobbies, clubs or even chores;


  • Victims of AIDS who own a pet report less depression and reduced stress levels.


Many groups take pets to visit residents of nursing homes, and usually the experience is a very positive one for both the pet and the individual.


"Many people in nursing homes had pets all of their lives, but for several reasons, are not allowed to in an extended-care facility," says Beaver.


"The tendency is to make those places ‘sterile,’ with minimal plants or animals. Those who bring in nature of all kinds generally bring in a better quality of life to their residents."


The reverse is also true - the life of a pet is usually enhanced if its owner cares for it properly.


"Geriatric animals in most veterinary settings are those that have had loving and caring owners who followed good husbandry practices," she adds.


"We don’t really understand why pets make us feel better and in some cases, add years to our own lives," Beaver explains.


"There are many forms of the animal-person relationship. Different people get different benefits from the animal, and even different benefits at different stages in the person’s life."


Now we’d like to hear from you…


Do you have dog, cat or other pet?

What benefit do you receive?


Please let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below.


Wishing You Best Health!
The Pill Advised Team


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Source: Texas A&M University


3 thoughts on “Prescription for Living Well? Get a Pet

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Prescription for Living Well? Get a Pet | pilladvised --

  2. cindy

    Re: your article on pets improving health-
    Last August we had to have our dog Daisy put to sleep. She was almost 15 years old, old for a large dog, and health problems finally forced that decision.
    I could not stand having a dog. In our 35 years of marriage, we have always had at least one dog, often 2 or 3. So I wore my husband down and 3 days after Daisy died we went to Animal Control to look over the hundreds of dogs they had in there. We found an 8 month old rot-mix who reminded us of Daisy, and my husband liked her ok. Next to her was a small male dog, 2 years old, who was a Maltese mix and a very animated guy. The staff took us out into a courtyard with both dogs so we could get to know them a little. We filled out the paperwork to adopt and had to come back the next day after they did some background checking on us. My husband said “Go and adopt the black female dog, but DO NOT adopt that little white dog. I don’t like him.” When I went back the next day, the little white guy remembered me from the day before- he was jumping vertically up and down clear to the top of the door of his enclusure. He had those cute little Benji brown eyes, and I could not walk away and leave him there, so I adopted them both. My husband was not pleased, but I am happy to report that almost a year later, he has grown to love these dogs and the “little white guy” spends much time on his lap and follows him around constantly when he is home. I know that adopting these dogs kept me from being depressed after we lost Daisy. With the housing crisis in our country, there are so many pets which are abandoned because their people move and are unable to take them to an apartment. These animals have THEIR lives disrupted as much as the people in bad times. They do not understand why they are suddenly in a “jail”, with hundreds of dogs barking and no family to love them. I know your article is true, having 3 cats and now 2 more dogs to our family has kept stresses of our life from really getting me down. These are companions who love unconditionally, just as God loves us. We will only benefit by returning their love. Thanks for this article.

  3. Pat

    I am priviledged to live with 6, yes 6, small fur people. 4 of which were born 2 weeks after adopting an emaciated little female. Knowing what life can be like for pets who are turned out or left behind when people leave their home, I was determined to make sure these babies would not know what their mom’s life on the streets was like before she came to live with me and my other rescue. I moved across the country when the puppies were 5 months old and despite the cold weather (it was December 2010)and 6 days on the road, I believe my stress level would have been through the roof without their company. It wasn’t easy but they were excellent travelers. We are now living in a small cabin until we can find a home with a great yard for them to play. They are all chipped and ‘clipped’ so there will be no more additions to our family. I am 70, still working and will continue to do everything I can to keep them safe and happy. In return, I have their company, love and they make me smile and laugh at their silly ways, and they keep me young. :)

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