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The Influence of Pets on People

Many people have questioned something called the pet effect. This is the idea that pets
have a positive influence on our health and well-being (Moesgaard, 2013). A substantial amount
of doctors, social workers, and health care professionals concur with the pet effect. Several
studies have been conducted to try to determine if pets affect humans physical, mental, and
social health. The overall findings from these studies have been rather positive.
There are numerous studies that support that pets have a beneficial influence on peoples
physical health. A study of women in China found that those who were dog owners had fewer
doctor visits, took fewer days off sick from work, and exercised more often than non-dog
owners. This goes to show that people who do not own dogs are not as overall healthy as those
that own dogs.
It has also been found that pets can even treat people with issues of high blood pressure,
perhaps better than modern medicine. A study found that having your dog in the room lowered
blood pressure better than taking a popular type of blood pressure medication (ACE inhibitor)
when you are under stress. Even the simple act of stroking a pet can help lower blood pressure
and cholesterol, according to some research (Casciotti, Zuckerman, 2016). In a randomized
clinical trial, hypertensive individuals were assigned to either a pet or non-pet condition. After
six months of pet companionship, those in the pet condition showed lower blood pressures, when
they were in a stressful situation, than those of the control group (Moesgaard, 2013).
After reviewing available evidence on the link between pet ownership and physical
health, the American Heart Association came to the conclusion that having a petparticularly a
doglikely lowers the risk of heart disease. A panel of experts determined this because the
evidence indicates that dog owners are more likely to exercise, have a better cholesterol profile,
have lower blood pressure, be less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress, and be more likely
to survive a heart attack (DeNoon, 2015). Additionally, pet owners have lower triglyceride and
cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets. As a result, heart attack
patients with dogs survive longer than those without (HelpGuide.Org)
A link between dog ownership and weight loss has also been identified. One year-long
study found that walking an overweight dog helped both the animals and their owners lose
weight. Researchers found that the dogs provided support in similar ways to a human exercise
buddy, but with greater consistency and without any negative influence. A study done on public
housing residents found that those who walked therapy dogs for up to 20 minutes five days a
week lost an average of 14.4 pounds in a year, without changing their diets. A third study found
that people who got a dog walked 30 minutes more a week than they did before
(HelpGuide.Org).
Findings about the influence of pets show that not only a persons physical health can be
affected by pet ownership, but also their mental health. Studies have shown that pets have a
considerable positive impact on the mental health of their owners. Research suggests that the
social support a pet provides can make a person feel more relaxed and decrease stress. Social
support from friends and family can have similar benefits, but interpersonal relationships often
cause stress as well, whereas pets may be less likely to cause stress. The social support provided
by a pet might also promote more social interaction with people, reducing feelings of isolation or
loneliness (Casciotti, Zuckerman, 2016). To explain this concept using science, it has been
discovered that playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine in the
brain, which calm and relax. This makes evident why stroking, hugging, or otherwise touching a

loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe a person when theyre stressed or anxious. The
therapeutic effect of pets have even caused hardened criminals in prison to show long-term
changes in their behavior after interacting with dogs (HelpGuide.Org).
Pets can boost mental health for specific types of people such as Alzheimers patients and
children with learning disabilities. Research at the University of California at Davis concluded
that Alzheimer's patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a dog or
cat in the home. Dogs can provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication. The playful
interaction and gentle touch from a well-trained, docile dog can help soothe an Alzheimers
patient and decrease aggressive behavior. In the case of children with learning disabilities, pets
have the ability to support the child in overcoming the challenges of their disorder by helping
them to learn how to regulate stress and calm themselves. Playing with a dog can be a great
antidote to stress and frustration caused by the learning disability, while also helping the child
stay alert and attentive throughout the day (HelpGuide.Org).
Elderly individuals may exclusively benefit from certain advantages provided by pet
ownership. Some of these advantages include: companionship, acceptance, touch, a source of
activity, a sense of responsibility and security, a promotion of social contact, a link with nature,
and a positive role model.
Pets fulfill the universal need to be needed. The companionship found in a pet prevents
elderly people from feeling lonely even when they are isolated from friends and family. The
acceptance freely given by pets is recognized by elders because of pets tendency to be loyal,
devoted and utterly forgiving. A pet can also satisfy an elders need for touch. A touch from a pet,
such as a cat curled up in a lap, can be reassuring and gratifying. The playfulness of a pet can
serve as a source of activity for elders. It encourages them to go outside and be active while
catching some rays.
The responsibility that comes along with owning a pet can help elders establish and
maintain a daily routine. They may find more motivation to carry out daily tasks and have a
greater self-esteem brought on by the pets sole dependence on the elder. In return, the pet
provides a sense of security in an elders home. A well-trained dog may be able to scare off
intruders, keeping the owner safe.
Pets also encourage elders to be social. People who spot a dog while out in public are
more likely to strike up a conversation with the owner than a person without a dog. The dog
serves as an icebreaker, as well as, a great conversation topic because they invite people to share
their own stories. Pets can also fulfill humans desire to be connected with nature. In this modern,
industrialized society, people often feel isolated from nature, so sometimes having a pet in an
urban setting can fill that void.
Lastly, pets are positive role models for elders because they serve as a great reminder to
live in the moment. They deal with their problems and then brush them off quickly, which is
helpful for elders who need to stay focused on the present and not worry about what problems
they may face in the future. As a result, elders may overcome cynicism that often comes from
feeling isolated and rejected by society. The sweet partnership between a pet and an elder is
extremely advantageous, especially for the elder (Wilburn, 2003).
Additionally, children are positively influenced by a relationship with a pet. A pet is a
built-in friend for kids. They are a companion that will never fail to have the childs back. A child
will never grow bored of their pet and parents dont have to worry about their child getting into
trouble when they are busy. According to a study, children with pets forget about the things that
irritate them easier than children without pets.

Children can learn to be responsible through the practice of taking care of a pet. The
enjoyment they have while caring for the pet might cause them to not even realize that they are
becoming responsible. Experts agree that having a pet helps childrens growth, emotionally and
physically. A child with a pet will learn to control their temper, which improves their emotional
growth. The act of playing with or exercising with a pet can help a childs physical growth,
resulting in an overall healthier child. The mental health of a child can also be influenced by a
pet as they serve as a stress reliever and can help them overcome depression ("Pets Grooming
Prices", 2015).
Children with dogs or cats in their home during the first year of life are less likely to
develop allergies in childhood. This means that pets positive influence stretches as far as a
preventative measure for good health. Pets also have the ability to prevent loneliness and bad
social skills. When a child has no brothers or sisters, research shows that pets help children
develop greater empathy, higher self-esteem, and increased participation in social and physical
activities (Casciotti, Zuckerman, 2016).
Service dogs in particular have a huge influence on people. Service animals are not just a
pet or friend. They are a working animal thats function is to perform some of the functions and
tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Service dogs can
help people with many different disabilities, whether it be blindness, or an invisible disability,
caused by injury, chronic illness, pain or a mental disorder. They make everyday tasks easier,
improving the quality of life of the disabled person (Invisible Disabilities Association IDA).
In conclusion, pets help people. It was been proven by many studies that they improve
peoples health and well-being. Pets benefit the lives of children, elders and the disabled. The
positive effect that pets have on humans make us overall happier and healthier.