The Healing Power of Companion Animals

by Marie Boyum
“A doctor may heal the body, but an animal can heal the soul.” (- Hester Mundis, Author of Heart Songs for Animal Lovers

All over the world, in the medical and scientific communities, animal shelters and “average Joe’s” are all clearly seeing the health benefits from being a pet owner. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) states it, “recognizes the importance of the human-animal bond and promotes the benefits of pets to the community.” From infants to seniors, the advantages of having an animal companion are numerable.

Researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said that, a growing number of studies have suggested kids growing up in a home with “furred animals,” whether it’s a pet cat, dog, or on a farm exposed to large animals have less risk of allergies and asthma.

In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He found if a dog lived in the home, the infants were less likely (19 % vs. 33 %) to show evidence of pet allergies. They also were less likely to have eczema, a common skin condition causing itching and red patches to appear. In addition, the infants had higher levels of some immune system chemicals, which is a sign that a stronger immune system is being activated.

Autistic children who have pets have been shown to have more pro-social behavior and children in general have a higher self-esteem if there is a pet of any kind in the family. Pets aid in physical activity, teach responsibility and help with emotional growth. Many children are guided by the routine a pet requires, have their first taste of being accountable for another being and learn the importance of sometimes needing to put others before their own wants and desires.

Seniors have been shown to require less medical attention when they are pet owners, which in turn mean less medical costs. Depression and loneliness is greatly diminished, as well as stress and anxiety; leading to (in some cases) a sense of usefulness and responsibility that is restored. Especially with dog owners, partial stress reduction is due to feeling safer with a “natural alarm.”

However, many seniors are opting for non-traditional pets in lieu of dogs and cats and finding health benefits in ferrets, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, birds, and fish. Fish have been found (for all ages) to relax dental patients before surgery and overall have a positive effect, reducing blood pressure, muscle tension and increasing longevity after heart attacks. In addition, fish reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels while also improving resistance to heart and cardiovascular disease.

Fish have also had a positive nutritional effect on Alzheimer’s patients; studies show a significant boost in patients’ weight and food consumption when located near fish tanks. In other senior centers, there was notably a decrease in physical aggression when a fish tank was installed in an area that patients had frequent access to.

In nursing homes where companion animals became part of the therapy, the use of prescription drugs and the overall cost of caring for patients dropped. According to a study (Montague, 1995) nursing home facilities in New York, Missouri, and Texas that had animals and plants as an integral part of the environment, showed medication costs drop an average of over 310 percent per patient, per day; that amount could even be significantly higher today.

Pets increase our physical activity thus leading us to better overall health. In today’s society with obesity being an issue for adults as well as children, the activity that a pet can provide, assists every age in achieving a healthier wellbeing.

Have a dog? Studies have shown that dogs can aid in controlling “freezing” in Parkinson’s patients, and other reports tell of dogs detecting cancers. One dog in Florida named George is 100% accurate on malignant skin cancers. Dog’s acute sense of smell accounts for their amazing ability to detect illness in humans. Dogs, as well as various other types of pets, have been reported to alert owners to low blood sugar levels, and there are several other stories spreading throughout the medical and news communities about how pets have aided in helping people with health emergencies.

Not to be undone, new research is being conducted at the University of Minnesota Stroke Research Center on the potential medical benefits of cats. A study of 4,435 people who were followed for a decade found among other things that, people without cats or who never had cats, had a 40 percent greater risk to die of a heart attack and a 30 percent greater risk to die of any cardiovascular related disease.

For many years, scientists have proven that vibrations at specific levels or frequencies can induce bone growth and regeneration, increase production of a body’s natural anti-inflammatory compounds, and repair muscles, tendons and ligaments. They now also know what frequencies various cat’s purr at, such as, tigers, lions, panthers, and domesticated house cats. That same 20-50 Hz of the housecat’s purr induces increased bone density, relieves pain, and heals tendons and muscles.

In addition, respiratory problems associated with heart disease have also shown to be helped by a cat’s purring, and although unproven, many persons have stated that they can ease or completely eliminate migraine headaches simply by lying down with a purring cat next to their head.

Both dogs and cats have been shown to offer humans so many health benefits, but they too reap the health rewards of a loving home. When we pet them, they also have reduced heart rates and blood pressure as well as, alleviating any stress of ours they have taken on throughout the day.

Whether our animal companions can detect illnesses early or just alert us to an already existing condition that is flaring up, having an animal companion is proven to be a great asset to our physical and emotional health. To receive all the best animals have to offer, make sure you take the time and research what pet is truly right for you and your family. That way, both you and the animal have the happiest and healthiest life together and bring can bring each other joy for many, many years.

Marie Boyum is an animal communicator with Sacred Animal Spirit and is honored to aid in a better understanding between animals and humanity as well as helping to pass on their messages of wisdom, love and giving to the world.

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