Social and health benefits of pet interaction

Scientific evidence is increasingly showing that pets are good for people. UK and international research demonstrates that interaction with pet can reduce visits to doctor, enhance social interactions, enrich quality of life for elderly people, perform vital role in child development and so on. Let’s see how does it happen.

Pets also improve chances of survival after life-threatening illness, reduce blood pressure and perceived levels of stress, provide companionship and enhance social interactions, modify human behaviour promoting responses from those who are withdrawn, aggressive or mentally ill, prevent re-offending in juvenile prisoners and positively affect school attendance rates.
Kids with pets take fewer sick days
A study examining 256 children (aged five to eleven years) in three schools in England and Scotland revealed that children from families with pets have significantly better school attendance due to lower levels of absenteeism through illness than those from families without pets. Absenteeism through illness was significantly less among children with pets. Children with pets attended school for an additional three weeks of school compared to children without pets (aged five to seven years).
Keeps the doctor away
A large-scale survey of more than 11,000 Australians, Chinese and Germans proved that pet parents enjoy better health than non-pet parents. Over a five year period, pet parents made 15 – 20 percent fewer annual visits to the doctor than non pet-parents.Pets can help reduce the risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis A number of studies have shown that exposure to cats and/ or dogs in the first year of life can reduce subsequent risks of allergic sensitisation to multiple allergens during childhood, including non-pet allergens. Research also shows that exposure to pets is associated with a significantly reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis. Pets benefit cancer patients Pets can play a role for people who are undergoing stress. In a study which looked at women between 50-60 years of age recovering from breast cancer, 87 percent of these subjects reported that their pets filled at least one important role in their social support and 43 percent said that their pets fulfill over 10 important support functions – being cared for, tactile comfort, being able to express their feelings and still feeling included socially – e.g. when taking the dog for a walk.
Preventing/recovering from illness
Research from the University of New York found that men who had pets had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure – indicating that pet parenting can bring improvements to all aspects of the pet parent’s life.
Helping widowers cope with stress
In this study, pet parents at three months after bereavement showed fewer physical symptoms, such as crying, than non-pet owners. Pet parents often confided in their pets to help release painful feelings, at times when sharing these feelings with other people were felt to be socially uncomfortable.
Child development
Pets perform a vital role in child development. A study has explored children’s perceptions of the social support gained from relationships with their pets and with people – looking at who they would turn to first in certain situations. Pets featured prominently in children’s selections, providing comfort, companionship and a confidante in a similar manner to humans.
A huge 90 percent of children regard their dog as an unconditional friend and listener. Pet dogs have a stabilising and therapeutic effect – both from a child’s perspective and a mother’s point of view.
It is well-known fact that children are fascinated by animals. This interest can help facilitate learning and have a positive effect on child development. Many school communities have introduced pets in a number of imaginative and practical ways. Pet clubs, pet assemblies or pet days can help nurture a sense of reverence for life, give children a sense of responsibility and provide a fun route into many curriculum areas.
Positive influence of dogs on children in divorce crises
In the first year after a parental divorce, children with a dog were more socially integrated and less aggressive. The reasons are clear – dogs represent a constant positive emotional feeling.
Animal assisted rehabilitation
Results captured from three diverse Californian juvenile institutions have proven ‘at-risk’ teens gain more psycho-social skills (anger management, emotional self-control, parenting skills, etc) through guided human-animal interaction than from years in a classroom.
Pets prevent prisoners reoffending
The therapeutic power of dog interaction was highlighted by the results of Project Pooch (Positive Opportunities, Obvious Change, With Hounds), showing that 100 percent of teenage offenders following a dog therapy programme did not return to the correctional system. Such results provide promising outcomes for the ability of dogs to teach troubled youth responsibility, patience, compassion and a positive work ethic.

Unquestionable benefits of neutering

Changes in sexual behaviour – About twice a year, when females come on heat, males and females are strongly attracted to each other and show great ingenuity in finding ways to get together and mate. This behaviour is highly likely to lead to an unwanted pregnancy. Figures also show increased risks of straying and car traffic accidents at this time. Neutering a female dog stops her having seasons and so rules out the risk of her having a litter. Remember that some can have over 10 puppies! As for castrated males, they will no longer be attracted by surrounding on-heat females and will tend to display less territorial urine marking.

Health benefits – Neutering successfully prevents sexual health conditions such as testicular, prostatic or ovarian tumours and ‘false pregnancies’. Neutering female dogs before puberty also prevents the development of mammary tumours, which are fatal in six percent of cases. Neutering therefore has not only preventative, but also curative effects since it is the treatment of choice of some conditions such as pyometra (a uterine infection common in female dogs), testicular tumours or prostatic hyperplasia (very common in older dogs). Your vet may recommend neutering your dog for other health reasons. Finally, castrating male dogs generally reduces aggression towards other males, reduces urine marking and mounting behaviours, and reduces straying.

How do I get my pet neutered?

Your vet can advise you on neutering age, the procedure best suited to your dog and appropriate nutrition; please ask your clinic for more information.

How are dogs neutered? Neutering/castration is a surgical procedure, carried out under general anaesthesia and aimed at preventing reproduction. It is an irreversible procedure: a neutered dog will no longer be able to have puppies. In males, castration consists of the removal of both testicles. This is carried out through an incision in front of the scrotum. In females, the operation consists of removing the ovaries and uterus (aka ovariohysterectomy).

When should my dog be neutered? It depends on the reason you are getting your dog neutered. If your purpose is to avoid reproductive health problems or stop reproductive behaviour, it is best to get your dog neutered relatively early, around the time of puberty. As the age of puberty is highly variable according to the size or the dog, your vet will be able to recommend the best time for the operation.

What are the necessary precautions?

Before the operation: Unless your vet instructs you otherwise, it is advisable to fast your dog for 12 to 18 hours before the operation. This time may be shorter for puppies. No specific preparation is required.

Back home: Put your dog in a quiet, dimly lit area, with clean bedding.

What if your dog refuses to eat? The anaesthetic and the hospitalisation can explain why your dog may not want to eat the next day. In female dogs, the appetite can be disrupted for 48 hours due to the longer anaesthetic. If you have any concern, do not hesitate to contact your vet.

How is life after neutering?

Lifelong changes – The genital organs secrete certain hormones (estrogens, testosterone) so removing these organs inevitably causes hormonal modifications which can have repercussions on a number of functions:

  • Obesity and regulation of food intake: neutering can modify the dog’s feeding behaviour by increasing daily food intake. If not prevented, overeating will predispose your dog to obesity (neutered dogs have nearly double the risk of becoming obese compared to the overall canine population).
  • Joint problems can arise as a direct consequence of animals being overweight, such as ruptured cruciate ligaments in the knees or hip dysplasia.
  • Brain ageing is also more marked in castrated males than intact males.

Your vet will advise you on the best diet for your dog and the amounts to feed. Do not hesitate to ask your clinic for more information.

(by Royal Canin)