Posted by: Prospector PJ2 APR 2009
Today, 4 April (2009), is the first day of National Pet Month. Pharmacists with an interest in veterinary health might use this awareness month to promote their skills and services, while others could use it to promote the health benefits of keeping a pet.
As a nation of animal lovers we share our homes with 7.3 million dogs and 7.2 million cats. This contact with animals can bring physiological and psychological benefits — reducing stress, helping to prevent illness and allergies, lowering blood pressure and aiding recovery after illness can all be attributed to the family pet.
Pet owners have lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, and one study showed that three months after bereavement pet owners had fewer physical symptoms, such as crying, than non-pet owners. The pet owners were able to talk to their animals at a time when they felt unable to share their feelings with other people.
A five-year study of 600 children aged 3–18 revealed that pet- owning children who are slow learners or whose parents have divorced cope better with life than those without a pet.
Children who live with a cat or dog in their first years of life have a lower incidence of hay fever and asthma and are less likely to develop animal-related allergies.
An increase in pet ownership in recent times could reflect an often unsatisfied need for intimacy, nurture and contact with nature. It is difficult to determine when animals were first used to promote health.
Horseback riding for people with disabilities (“hippotherapy”) has been recorded for centuries, and animals have been incorporated into the treatment of mental patients since the 18th century.