This month, I will address the benefits to humans that they get from owning a pet. When we own a pet, we can be so focused on caring for them, that we can lose sight of some important benefits that owning a pet has. If you are reading this and do not have a pet, please consult with your doctor and a veterinarian before getting a pet.

There have been several studies done over the years that look at the benefits to people that comes from the bond between them and their pets. In the past, even just 10 years ago, there was not much time spent looking at this. But, over time, as pets become more and more a part of our family, there is more emphasis placed on looking at advantages to both humans and animals. Research has shown that by owning or interacting with pets, there is a savings of more than 11 million dollars to the human healthcare industry. I got my information from the HABRI (Human Animal Bond Research Institute) website. I suggest if you want more information, visit their website, as it does have some really great information.

First, I will bring light to the subject of human physical health. I think it is safe to say that people who own dogs are active. Dogs need to be walked and played with. Along with being more active, humans that own dogs tend to weigh less than those who don't. Pet owners in general have lower blood pressure than people who do not own pets. Overall humans that have pets to care for have better heart health than those who do not. There is strong evidence that humans who own pets visit the doctor's office less. It has also been shown that people with cancer and their caregivers have a better quality of life during treatment if an animal is involved in their life. Animal assisted therapy provides much better outcomes to children with autism. Children who grow up with pets have less allergies as adults overall. There are also animals trained to help people with diseases such as diabetes or celiac disease. I have even heard of dogs being trained to detect covid-19.

Second, I will write about the mental health benefits that pets can provide. In the age of emotional support animals, we can certainly say that it is widely known that pets can provide comfort to humans. When we look at details, there are several factors that have been identified. Humans who suffer from PTSD and interact with an animal have less symptoms overall, including crying less, having fewer suicidal thoughts, and being more interactive. Research has shown that pets, even fish, help people feel more relaxed in general. Senior citizens with a pet can feel more needed and often feel that when they have a pet to care for, they have more sense of purpose. It is not uncommon today to see a cat living in a nursing home or a dog visiting a school or hospital. This is because interaction with an animal can improve the quality of life of individuals that are in those places.

To wrap this up, owning a pet or even just interacting with animals provides great health benefits, both physical and mental. If you are thinking of getting a pet, please consult with your doctor and a veterinarian to make sure that you can get a pet that will be the best for you. Thank you for reading this month.

Dr. Lori Hickie was born and raised in Ottumwa. She is the daughter of Larry and Linda Sample. Lori graduated from Ottumwa High School in 1996. She attended Indian Hills Community College, graduating in 1998. Lori then graduated from Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2004.

Dr. Hickie worked as a veterinarian in Naperville, Illinois, prior to returning home to Ottumwa in 2008. She worked at Pipestone Veterinary Services before joining the team at Eastview Animal Hospital. Lori and her husband Chris live in Ottumwa with their daughter, Amber.

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