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K9 Corner

By Helen Palmer

Contributing writer

I came across Dr. Nancy Kay’s email titled “Spot Speaks” on eight health benefits provided by dogs. For those considering getting a pet dog, but still not sure, this article is for you.

1. Having a dog in the family encourages adults and elderly owners to increase their activity. I know that I do by bending over to pick up and replace food and water bowls, washing bedding and brushing out the dog’s coat. I used to do full grooms of bathing, drying, comb-outs and even cleaning the teeth on four medium-sized dogs.

2. A family dog helps increase the physical activity in children. Those living with active dogs spent more time in vigorous physical activity than children living in homes with no dogs.

3. Dogs can be great stress relievers. Dr. Kay states, “enjoying the company of a dog can elevate the levels of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce stress, uplift mood and provide a sense of well-being.”

4. Dogs assist in the emotional development in children. “Children develop psychologically by experiencing the love, attachment, comfort and responsibility associated with pet companionship,” according to Dr. Kay.

5. It has been proven that children exposed to dogs during infancy have a better developed immune system than children raised in a dog-free home. Therefore, they less likely to develop allergies as they grow up. Also children living with pet dogs during their first year, are four times less likely to develop eczema by age four as children living in a pet-free home. What is interesting is “the opposite is true for children with cat exposure before their first birthday. Cat-exposed children are 13 times more likely to develop eczema by age four.”

6. A family dog provides a feeling of connection which is “a key component of happiness and healthy aging.”  A dog walking with its owner attracts social interaction even with strangers, providing the human with essential camaraderie with other humans. It has been studied that people with pets experience: 

• greater self-esteem

• increased exercise

• increased well-being

• less negativity caused by social rejection

• and provides the support that complements rather than competes with the support from human sources, according to Dr. Kay.

7. A number of studies have shown that individuals recovering from heart attacks are more likely to be alive one year later if they have been living with a dog. It has also been proven that pet owners basically have lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides and lower cholesterol levels than non-pet owners.

8. Last but not least, dogs improve the quality of life for the elderly. They provide a reason for getting up in the morning as well as encouraging their human in keeping a feeding and exercise program. A pet dog helps an elderly person to focus on the present instead of thinking of the past. It has also been noted that seniors with dogs have fewer doctor visits per year than those who have no pets.