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The Health Benefits of Pet Love

February 12, 2013

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They are cute and cuddly, greet you with a happy face and wagging tail when you arrive home from a long day; all they ask in return is a good scratch behind the ears, pat on the head, and regular feeding. Who is more devoted to you than your fur-ever friend?

For pet owners, there’s no doubt that having a furry friend is a wonderful addition to their life, but are pets actually good for you? Studies show that yes, in fact, there are multiple health benefits to pet ownership. Pets are proven to be incredibly effective stress relievers, reducing the incidence of stress-related diseases ranging from heart disease to hypertension to ulcers. 

A new study shows that babies born in homes with dogs were 44 percent less likely to develop ear infections and 29 percent less likely to have been given antibiotics in that first year compared with children without pets.

"Our findings support the theory that during the first year of life, animal contacts are important, possibly leading to better resistance to infectious respiratory illnesses during childhood," the European researchers wrote.

This study only reinforces a solid body of evidence that proves the healthy benefits of pet ownership. A 2008 study showed that cat owners have a far lower risk of dying from a heart attack than people who’ve never owned a cat. And pets have long been proven to encourage a more active lifestyle – people who own dogs are more likely to walk more and walk faster than people who don’t.

The benefits of four-legged furry companionship extend far beyond the physical – they also offer the unconditional love and support that every human needs. Their presence is so comforting that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there’s an animal in the home. According to psychologists at Miami University and St. Louis University, the emotional benefits of pet ownership are actually on par with those of human friendship.

When I adopted my dog Lola almost 2 years ago, she immediately became an integral part of my family. She may not be as popular as Internet sensation Boo, but she definitely has a loyal following of fans that appreciate her overwhelming cuteness.

How does your pet give you a big dose of daily Vitamin L?