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Over 71 million American households (62%) have a pet, Some research studies have found that people who have a pet have healthier hearts, stay home sick less often, make fewer visits to the doctor, get more exercise, and are less depressed.Pets may also have a significant impact on allergies, asthma, social support, and social interactions with other people.
A large German study collected pet information (dog, cat, horse, fish, bird or other pet ownership) from over 9,000 people at two different times (19).
The survey included a number of health, economic, and labor issues, so that respondents would not realize the researchers’ interest in a link between pets and health.
Companion animals may improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and regulating the heart rate during stressful situations.
In a 2002 study, researchers measured changes in heart rate and blood pressure among people who had a dog or cat, compared to those who did not, when participants were under stress (performing a timed math task).
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 encourage more social interactions with people, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness.Children with dogs or cats in their home during the first year of life are less likely to develop allergies in childhood.As is true with any relationship, some human-pet relationships are likely to be more rewarding than others.Neither the length of time of having a dog or cat nor the level of attachment to the animal influenced performance abilities.Companion animals did not seem to have an impact on psychological health but researchers suggested that a care-taking role may give older individuals a sense of responsibility and purpose that contributes to their overall well-being.Researchers found that people who said they had a pet in both 19 had the fewest doctor visits, followed by people who had acquired a pet by 2001; the group of people who did not have a pet at either time had the highest number of doctor visits. Some studies show that having a cat might increase allergen sensitivity, while others show it might protect against cat allergies.Having a dog might not influence or might protect against specific dog allergies.When the dog was present, children had lower blood pressure measures, lower heart rates, and less behavioral distress.However, research on the health benefits of child and animal interaction is still limited.A similar 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.Children’s exposure to companion animals may also ease anxiety.