With the holidays coming up, I thought of the benefits of owning a dog. I searched the Web and selected an article from www.webMD.com titled “5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health,” by Jeanie Lerche Davis.
The article starts with the statement: “A pet is certainly a great friend. After a difficult day, pet owners quite literally feel the love.” The article covers how a pet helps fight allergies, becomes a date magnet for young adults, provides comfort and stimulation for the aged, is good for mind and soul, as well as good for the heart.
I would like to zero in on the “good for mind and soul” aspect,since most of us know that dogs encourage interaction with their owners and give the humans an excuse to go for walks or for playtime. In Davis’ article, she writes pet owners with debilitating or terminal illnesses are “far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.” High blood pressure is another physical problem in our high-tech, high energy work environment.
In one study, Davis notes, that stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did people without pets. She quotes Dr. Blair Justice, a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health as saying: “Harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system.”
Justice continues with possible relief from stress by playing with a dog, which can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties.”
Justice goes on to say, “People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, get around something beautiful in nature.”
At another Website, www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health_benefits.htm, the Center for Disease Control states pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness. Pets can increase your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities as well as opportunities for socialization.
So what about socialization? Davis in the WebMD article says, “Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking — a dog is a natural conversation starter.” She mentions some of the questions a dog walker might be asked — the breed and the age, and the owner/walker can create more interest if the dog is able to do a few tricks.
Caring for a pet can be the highlight of the day for an elderly person who doesn’t leave home often. Stooping to snap on a leash, standing or sitting while brushing or combing the dog (range of motion for the arms and exercise for the hands) and playing games in the house all are beneficial to an older person, since without a dog this interaction would not happen. There are rewards the dog gives you as you groom or stroke him including the glowing eyes a quick flick of the tongue as if to say “thank you, I love you too!”