According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 37 percent of households in the United States have a dog and 32 percent have a cat. Scientists have validated what these pet owners already knew: having a pet makes you feel better. Research has proven that pet owners have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, as well as less stress, depression, and loneliness than those who don’t own pets. Now you can add more health advantages to pet ownership: It’s good for your kids’ health, too.
The National Institute of Health conducted a study that followed children from birth to age seven and found that their risk of suffering from allergies can be reduced by up to 50 percent in pet-owning households. Also, these children had overall lower antibody levels and far fewer positive skin test reactions to cat, dog, dust mite, ragweed, and grass allergens. And multiple pets at a young age are even more of a blessing when it comes to allergies. Children raised in a house with two or more dogs or cats during the first year of life may be less likely to develop allergic diseases as compared with children raised without pets.
Experts say that when kids play with cats or dogs, the animals lick them. The lick transfers bacteria, which changes the way a child’s immune system responds in a way that helps protect against allergies. This also means that having a cat or dog exposes children to more infections early in life; however, this exposure boosts their immune systems and keeps them healthier. Studies have shown that children with pets were found to attend an extra nine days of school over the course of a year as compared to those without pets. The results were most pronounced in children ages five to eight.
Aside from reduced allergies, research shows that kids who have family pets have higher self-esteem. Kids gain confidence when they have another creature to love who loves them back. Studies also show that pets boost academic skills because reading aloud to a loyal companion, like a dog, can turn a reluctant reader into a confident one. Many believe that interacting with animals represents a nonevaluative form of social support. A study from the University of Kansas followed children ages 7 to 14 and found that if they lived with a pet, their self-esteem and competence increased.
Owning a pet also teaches values to children. Even toddlers can learn about caring for a pet by watching the way you are kind and gentle to your pet. Most 12-month-olds will want to interact with pets and should be learning how to pet nicely at this age. Children as young as 3 years old can lend a hand with smaller tasks, such as pouring pet food or water into a dish. My 30-month-old son feeds our cat every morning and evening, and he looks forward to these tasks. If your child is a little older, he might be able to brush the dog or cat and maybe even scoop the litter box. At any age, children will realize that pets need the same things we need — food, water, shelter, love, which will teach them lessons about empathy and compassion.
Owning a pet is also good for your child’s body. Caring for a pet helps keep children more active — especially if your pet happens to be a dog. On average, dog-owning children spend 30 more minutes a day being active than those without a dog.
Despite all these benefits, potential pet owners should acquire a pet because they want the lifelong relationship; the added bonus is the physical and mental health benefits that come along with it. Pet ownership shouldn’t be entered into lightly as it is a big responsibility. Once you are ready for a pet, visit petfinder.com to find your local animal shelter or rescue group, and adopt rather than shop for a pet. There are literally millions of homeless pets just waiting for the right person to come along. Stop by an animal shelter today and improve the life of a homeless pet as well as your children’s!
Santa Paws photos this Saturday and Sunday at the Canary Hotel from 2-4 p.m.
Bring your dog to the Canary Hotel this weekend for pictures with Santa Claus! There will also be hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and holiday treats. A photographer will be there to capture the moment, but you can take your own pictures as well. Representatives of DAWG will also be there with several of their adoptable pooches. The event is free; all donations go to DAWG. For more info, call (805) 884-0300. DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill, not-for-profit dog rescue/adoption organization located at 5480 Overpass Road in Goleta. For more information, call (805) 681-0561. You can view more adoptable dogs at www.sbdawg.org.
Adoptable Pet of the Week