Did You Know…Furry Friends are Beneficial to Human Health

by Katherine Sperduto ’19

After a long day of school followed by hours of homework, junior Kelly Seganish is always greeted at the door by her happy pooch, Buddy. The majority of students probably have a dog at home, but what many people do not know is that having a pet, specifically a dog, can positively enhance one’s health and quality of life.

Scientific evidence suggests that animal companions reduce loneliness and give a person a sense of well being. Websites such as Beagle Unlimited maintain that, “People are highly influenced by dogs because dogs have an unconditional love and friendship that many people cannot get from other humans.” Those who have been through a divorce, breakup, or another type of loss can most benefit from the companionship of a dog because “Fido” and other furry friends can both give and receive love. Dogs are dependent on their owners to survive, so this also makes one feel needed and wanted in times of loneliness.

According to an article in the Florida Times Union, dogs promote physical well being because they need  exercise and socialization, just as humans do. According to WebMD, owning a dog makes someone less susceptible to heart disease because dog walking generates more exercise for both the pup and its owner. In a Psychology Today article by Stanley Coren, an intriguing study published in the American Journal of Cardiology was referenced, in which researchers followed more than 400 patients after they were released from the hospital after having a heart attack. This study discovered that one year later, those patients who owned dogs had a significantly higher survival rate than the non-dog owners. Researchers’ guess that this trend is a result of the affectionate bond and social support provided by dogs. This bond is credited with reducing their stress, and stress is a major contributor to cardiovascular problems. Petting and interacting with your pooch lowers stress because it cuts down levels of stress hormones and it also lowers one’s blood pressure.

Not only do dogs keep their humans active, but they also allow people to feel safer and calmer. A dog or other pet allows one to have physical contact (which is very beneficial to one’s emotional wellbeing), it gives someone something to care for, and it also provides consistency in love and affection.

The sharp instincts of dogs, along with their ability to bond with humans, make them effective in many medical therapies. According to the website Doctors Foster and Smith, therapy dogs can be trained to predict seizures and alert their owners to episodes of hypoglycemia.

The human-canine bond can be traced back many years to dog’s ancestors, wolves. Wolves were always attracted to human settlements because they received food there. Their quest for food gave the wolves an incentive to stay close to the humans and trust them. Hence, the bond formed between dogs and their owners.

Whether you’re a cat person, a dog lover, a bird whisperer, or a ferret’s friend, having a pet is always a positive thing because it provides companionship. However, the benefits to having a dog are greater for your overall health in the long run. Now, that just might be worth an extra treat or two.