Most dog owners will agree that loving a dog improves the quality of their life. They’ll often tell you that dogs are loyal companions that fill their days with happiness, and that their dog is their best friend. But did you know that along with all the love they give, dogs also improve the immune systems of those that own one?
Owning A Dog Boosts The Immune System
Rutgers University conducted a pilot study called, Pets, Do They Enhance Our Immunity? Their findings concluded that people who own pets are healthier than those that don’t and that pet owners have less frequency of illness as compared with non pet owners.
They discovered that pet ownership is “highly beneficial to human health and may even aid in the development of the immune system.” Their study specifically targeted the area of pet ownership and its effects on the immune systems capabilities of different age and ethnic groups.
It’s been long known that owning dogs is good for mental health but the study indicates that dogs can help keep you physically healthier, too. In a 10 month study performed by Serpell J, seventy one adults were given a dog or cat. The results showed a significant reduction in minor health problems such as common cold and flu, headaches, hay fever and even indigestion for the first month of the ownership and continued after for only dogs.
There is also evidence that pet ownership can decrease or slow the progression of coronary heart disease and improve the health of people suffering from obesity since owning a dog encourages people to get more exercise and eat healthier. Owning a dog also helps people maintain healthy habits, reduce stress and depression, as well as other issues that contribute to poor health.
Owning a dog can help reduce health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Blood pressure
- Troubled past
- Other psychological problems
Although it’s hard for dog lovers to imagine why a person would not want to share their life with a dog, some people don’t. They feel they don’t have time, the money, have allergies, or they are afraid of germs or parasites that a dog might bring into the house.
However, a study also suggests that with proper care and handling, even immunocompromised patients can have pets and should take advantage of the wonderful beneficial effects of pet ownership
People Who Grow Up With Dogs May Have Less Allergies
Another study suggests that having a pet in the house when a new baby is born does not increase the risk of allergies or asthma as the disease is primarily due to genetics, or a strong family history. In fact, a dog may improve a person’s health by strengthening the immune system.
In a study on children from age’s five to seven it was found that “pet owning households attend school three weeks more per year than those who don’t have pets.” Pets in early life can help build a better immune system, and cause fewer allergies to develop. He found that “kids who grow up on farms and around animals don’t have allergies,” and the animal’s dander is a “natural immunotherapy.”
The Results: Sickness in Pet Owners VS Non Pet Owners
In the Rutgers study, 136 surveys were collected to evaluate the effect of pet ownership on the immune system. Questions included age, gender, ethnicity, ownership of a pet at any time, reason for not owning a pet, types of pets, breeds of pets, years the pet was owned, presence of allergies, number of illnesses in the past year, and average length of sickness. The answers were analyzed using averages and statistics. The complete study and results can be found here.
The result of pet ownership versus non pet ownership was that pet owners were sick 1.575 days per year. Non pet owners were sick 2.681 days per year. Pet ownership was linked to a significant decrease in the number of illnesses people had in a year. The evidence supports the theory that owning pets are beneficial for human immune system and provides a foundation for further scientific investigation. It was also discovered that pet owners were not only less likely to get sick, they recovered quicker. However, contrary to the literature and other studies, the survey of pet owners found they had more environmental allergies than non pet owners.
Why Pet Owners Are Healthier
It is believed that as people try to protect themselves from germs, they may actually decrease immunity in the attempt to sterilize everything they come in contact with. Add with that the overuse of antibiotics, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits can all contribute to a weaker immune system.
To build immunity, people need to be exposed to certain germs and bacteria, even babies. They also need to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, sunshine, and fresh air.
Healthy dogs, in all their messiness, bring a safe level of germs into the environment. They also force people outdoors, to be more active, and to eat better. Owning a dog can help you develop a stronger immune system in addition to other general health benefits.
Please share this information with your family and friends.