There is a growing global trend to consider pets as part of the family. In fact, millions of people around the world love their pets, enjoying their companionship, going for walks, playing and even talking to them. And there is evidence suggesting that attachment to pets is good for human health and even helps build community.
More and more often, animals are included in family events and become important to all members of the family. This can be particularly significant in single-parent families, where a pet can be an important companion to children. Children with pets may have higher levels of empathy and self-esteem compared to those who do not have pets. Thinking of pets as family members can actually make the chores associated with pet care less stressful than they are for those who consider pets as property. Spending more time caring for a pet increases attachment to that animal which in turn reduces stress in owners.
In the research my colleagues and I have done on aging and social participation, we found considerable analysis showing that interactions involving pets, especially if we care about them, can have a health-protective effect. Zooeyia (pronounced zoo-AY-uh) is the idea that pets, also known as companion animals, can be good for human health. In fact, pet owners in Germany and Australia were found to visit their doctor 15 per cent fewer times annually than non-pet owners.
Healthy, emotional connections
Many health benefits to humans occur when there is an emotional attachment to pets. And we tend to care the most for animals that live with us. For example, a study that looked at attachment to dogs found that people tended to care about their house dogs more than those that lived in the yard. Higher levels of attachment to dogs has been associated with a greater likelihood of walking the dog and spending more time on those walks as compared with those with a weaker bond to their dogs.
Sharing your life with a pet has been associated with a decreased risk of coronary artery disease, a reduction in stress levels and increased physical activity (especially through dog walking). The presence of a pet during stressful activities has been shown to lower the blood pressure of couples taking part in a stressful task. In fact, levels of beta-endorphin, oxytocin and dopamine, among other markers, increased in both humans and their dogs during caring interactions, demonstrating that time spent together is physiologically beneficial for both species. And owning a pet has been associated with an improved cardiovascular disease survival among older adults (aged 65 to 84 years old) being treated for hypertension.
Research shows that children who grow up with a pet develop higher levels of empathy and lower stress levels. Shutterstock
Pets as family and community members
Because pets are considered family members by many people, the loss of a dog or cat is often a cause for deep grief. A missing or dead pet is hard for many to replace because the relationship between the person and pet was specific to those individuals. The attachment between humans and animals is often so strong that it is common to mourn in a way that is very similar to the feelings and behaviours associated with the loss of a human family member.
The bond between humans and animals is not just good for human health, it can also help build community. People with pets often find that activities with their companion animal creates connections with other people. Social networks that are developed based on shared concern over the welfare of animals can lead to increased human-human interaction, as well as activities involving pets (e.g. dog-walking clubs). Walking a dog gets people out of private spaces, which can be isolating, and into public areas where interactions with neighbors and other walkers are possible.
Societies create laws and institutions to protect companion animals from cruelty and neglect. In most jurisdictions, regulation of shelters and pounds has not evolved to reflect the beloved status of many pets, and instead consider pets as property. If a lost pet is not reunited with an owner within a few days it can be sold to a new family, to a research lab, or be euthanized. However, some countries, such as India, Italy and Taiwan have legislated against the euthanasia of healthy shelter animals.
But in North America euthanasia is still common. In 2017, Humane Canada found that among the shelters they surveyed, over 70 per cent of lost dogs and cats were unclaimed, and tens of thousands of dogs and cats were euthanized. In 2016, 4,308,921 animals were experimented on in Canadian laboratories. Approximately 17,000 were pet dogs and cats who were provided by shelters to research laboratories and later euthanized.
The strength of the human-animal bond has resulted in the creation of not-for-profit animal rescues whose mission is to ‘pull’ lost and abandoned animals from shelters before they are euthanized or sold for research. For example, Marley’s Hope is a Nova Scotia all-breed rescue organization. The organisation also partners with the Sipekne’katik First Nation to help rehome roaming dogs as well as spay and neuter where possible. The Underdog Railroad in Toronto, Ontario, rescues dogs and cats from high-kill shelters as well as those offered “free to a good home” online. And Elderdog provides older adults with help to care for their pets as well as rescuing abandoned older dogs.
The Humane Society International — Canada assists in spay-neuter programs as well as advocating for and rescuing animals, including in the international dog and cat meat industries. They closed three South Korean dog meat farms and two slaughterhouses in 2018, rescuing 512 dogs, many of whom found homes in Canada and the USA.
In addition to the health benefits of physical activity, walking your dog has many social and community benefits. Shutterstock
Mohandas Ghandi understood the importance of the human animal bond. In his autobiography he said “man’s supremacy over the lower animals meant not that the former should prey upon the latter, but that the higher should protect the lower, and that there should be mutual aid between the two.” Recognizing the ways that companion animals enrich human lives, and understanding the depth of the affection between many humans and animals, may be the key to not only better health, but to improving the welfare of society as a whole.
About The Author
Lisa F. Carver, Post Doctoral Fellow, Queen's University and Ageing + Communication + Technologies (ACT) (SSHRC funded), Queen's University, Ontario
National Geographic Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness: The Veterinarian's Approach to At-Home Animal Care
Studio: National Geographic
Label: National Geographic
Publisher: National Geographic
Manufacturer: National Geographic
In National Geographic's comprehensive and easy-to-use illustrated pet reference, a renowned veterinarian offers expert advice on common health, behavior, and training for cats, dogs, and other domestic pets.
Combining first aid, medical reference, and tips and tricks of the trade, here is your go-to-guide for at-home animal care, focusing on dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and more! Building on more than two decades of veterinary experience, Dr. Gary Weitzman covers topics including upset stomachs, house training, physical ailments and behavior tips. The president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and former co-host of the weekly NPR show The Animal House, “Dr. Gary” brings a wealth of experience to essential veterinary questions, revealing basic first-aid techniques, when a trip to the vet is necessary, dietary recommendations, simple training techniques, necessary supplies, essential behavior cues, and much more.
- Used Book in Good Condition
Brand: Brand: Knopf
Dr. Goldstein--a graduate of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine who runs a renowned clinic in South Salem, New York--begins by explaining his approach to alternative treatment: what it is, how it works, and why it's especially important that animals be treated holistically. Holistic pet care essentially revolves around the notion that the best way to cure an animal who is ill is to help the animal cure itself. We are not the true healers of our pets--they are. By treating the root of the problem instead of its symptoms, holistic medicine enables our pets to regain and maintain their own health.
In this comprehensive and accessible book, Dr. Goldstein not only shares his philosophy of how animals should--must--be treated, but also shows us exactly what to do. With moving and often entertaining examples from his years of practice, he offers prescriptive advice for the pet lover of every stripe: why we shouldn't feed our animals commercial pet food; why vaccines can actually do more harm than good; how acupuncture and homeopathic medicine can be used to help our pets; why pets need to experience a "healing crisis" in order to get well; and much, much more.
In his practice, Dr. Goldstein has had extraordinary success treating cancer and leukemia. Here, he begins to decipher the riddle of those killer diseases and shows us how best to treat them, as well as how to prevent them from occurring. Included is the exhaustive "Alphabet of Ailments," a list that tackles common afflictions one by one--the most useful guide ever published in a book on animal care.
Dr. Goldstein also turns to the spiritual realm, addressing how the emotional bonds we form with our animals have the power to provoke and cure disease. In his smart, helpful, and comforting style, he tells us how to deal with the inevitable death of a pet--both physically and psychologically.
Finally, there is an indispensable source guide: a complete listing of pet health-care centers, doctors, and products. So wherever you live, you will be able to act on the advice and recommendations you are sure to take to heart.
The Nature of Animal Healing is a revolutionary guide that no pet owner should be without.
- Exisle Pub
- Anouska Jones
Studio: Exisle Publishing
Label: Exisle Publishing
Publisher: Exisle Publishing
Manufacturer: Exisle Publishing
Dogs have a way of making our lives feel complete. They're there for us through good times and bad, with their wholehearted engagement in life a lesson to us all on living in the moment.
Woof: A book of happiness for dog lovers is a compendium of delightful quotes that capture the essence of our affection for these wonderful animals. Some are by famous people (Aldous Huxley, Mark Twain, Charles M. Schulz, Milan Kundera, G.K. Chesterton), others not; some are philosophical, others light-hearted - all are memorable.
A book that can be joyfully picked up for a few minutes or indulgently read from cover to cover, Woof is accompanied by beautiful photography and presented in a high-quality gift format. This is a collection of quotes to treasure and is an absolute treat for all dog lovers and owners alike.