Wednesday, 18 March 2015

How pet animals are useful to us?

How pet animals are useful to us?

A pet (or companion animal) is an animal kept primarily for a person's company or protection, as opposed to working animals, sport animals, livestock, and laboratory animals, which are kept primarily for performance, agricultural value, or research. The most popular pets are noted for their attractive appearances and their loyal or playful personalities.

Pets commonly provide their owners (or guardians) physical and emotional benefits. Walking a dog can supply both the human and pet with exercise, fresh air, and social interaction. Pets can give companionship to elderly adults who do not have adequate social interaction with other people. There is a medically approved class of therapy animals, mostly dogs, that are brought to visit confined humans. Pet therapy utilizes trained animals and handlers to achieve specific physical, social, cognitive, and emotional goals with patients.

The most popular pets are likely dogs and cats, but people also keep house rabbits, ferrets; rodents such as gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas, fancy rats, and guinea pigs; avian pets, such as canaries, parakeets, and parrots; reptile pets, such as turtles, lizards and snakes; aquatic pets, such as tropical fish and frogs; and arthropod pets, such as tarantulas and hermit crabs.

Some scholars and animal rights organizations have raised concern over pet-keeping with regards to the autonomy of nonhuman animals.

Pet popularity:

A Maine Coon kitten aged ten weeks
There are approximately 78.2 million pet dogs in the United States, approximately 86.4 million pet cats in the United States,and 5.3 million house rabbits.The two most popular pets in most Western countries have been cats and dogs. In the United States, a 2007–2008 survey showed that dog-owning households outnumbered those owning cats, but that the total number of pet cats was higher than that of dogs. The same was true for 2009 2010 In 2014, pets outnumbered children four to one in the United States.

Effects on pets' health:

Keeping animals as pets may be detrimental to their health if certain requirements are not met. An important issue is inappropriate feeding, which may produce clinical effects. The consumption of chocolate or grapes by dogs, for example, may prove fatal.

Certain species of houseplants can also prove toxic if consumed by pets. Examples include philodendrons and Easter lilies (which can cause severe kidney damage to cats) and poinsettias, begonia, and aloe vera (which can sicken or, in extreme cases, kill dogs).

Housepets, particularly dogs and cats in industrialized societies, are also highly susceptible to obesity. Overweight pets have been shown to be at a higher risk of developing diabetes, liver problems, joint pain, kidney failure, and cancer. Lack of exercise and high-caloric diets are considered to be the primary contributors to pet obesit.

Effects of pets on their caregiver's health:

Health benefits:
Pets might have the ability to stimulate their caregivers, in particular the elderly, giving people someone to take care of, someone to exercise with, and someone to help them heal from a physically or psychologically troubled past. Having a pet may help people achieve health goals, such as lowered blood pressure, or mental goals, such as decreased stress. There is evidence that having a pet can help a person lead a longer, healthier life. In a 1986 study of 92 people hospitalized for coronary ailments, within a year 11 of the 29 patients without pets had died, compared to only 3 of the 52 patients who had pets Having pet(s) was shown to significantly reduce triglycerides, and thus heart disease risk, in the elderly. A study by the National Institute of Health found that people who owned dogs were less likely to die as a result of a heart attack than those who didn’t own one.Other studies have shown that for the elderly, good health may be a requirement for having a pet, and not a result.[48] Dogs trained to be guide dogs can help people with vision impairment. Dogs trained in the field of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) can also benefit people with other disabilities.

Pets in long-term care institutions:

People residing in a long-term care facility, such as a hospice or nursing home, experience health benefits from pets. Pets help them to cope with the emotional issues related to their illness. They also offer physical contact with another living creature, something that is often missing in an elder's life.Pets for nursing homes are chosen based on the size of the pet, the amount of care that the breed needs, and the population and size of the care institution.Appropriate pets go through a screening process and, if it is a dog, additional training programs to become a therapy dog. There are three types of therapy dogs: facility therapy dogs, animal-assisted therapy dogs, and therapeutic visitation dogs. The most common therapy dogs are therapeutic visitation dogs. These dogs are household pets whose handlers take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, detention facilities, and rehabilitation facilities. Different pets require varying amounts of attention and care; for example, cats may have lower maintenance requirements than dogs.

Health risks:

-Aggravation of allergies and asthma caused by dander and fur or feathers
-Falling injuries. Tripping over pets, especially dogs, causes more than 86,000 falls serious enough to prompt a trip to the emergency room each year in the United States. Among elderly and disabled people, these falls have resulted in life-threatening injuries and broken bones.
-Injury, mauling, and sometimes death caused by pet bites and attacks
-Disease and/or parasites due to animal hygiene problems, lack of appropriate treatment, and undisciplined behavior (faeces and urine)
-Stress caused by behaviour of animals

Common types:

While many people have kept many different species of animals in captivity over the course of human history, only a relative few have been kept long enough to be considered domesticated. Other types of animals, notably monkeys, have never been domesticated but are still commonly sold and kept as pets. There are also inanimate objects that have been kept as "pets", either as a form of game, or humorously .

Domesticated:

Domesticated pets are the most common types of pet. A domesticated animal is any animal that has been tamed and made fit for a human environment.They have consistently been kept in captivity over a long enough period of time that they exhibit marked differences in behavior and appearance from their wild relatives.

Professionally trained animals such as guide dogs for the blind offer obvious benefits to people. However, the average domestic dog or cat can also provide an array of mental and physical health benefits. Dogs particularly can ease loneliness, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, promote social interaction, encourage exercise and playfulness, and provide unconditional love and affection. Caring for a dog can help children grow up more secure and active or provide valuable companionship for older adults. Perhaps most importantly, though, a dog can add real joy to any human life.

How do dogs improve mood and health?

More than any other animal, dogs have evolved to become acutely attuned to humans and our behavior and emotions. While dogs are able to understand many of the words we use, they’re even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures. And like any good human friend, a loyal dog will look into your eyes to gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you’re thinking and feeling (and to work out when the next walk or treat might be coming, of course!)

While most dog owners are clear about the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with canine companions, many remain unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that can also accompany the pleasure of playing with or snuggling up to a furry friend. It’s only recently that studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond. The American Heart Association has linked the ownership of pets, especially dogs, with a reduced risk for heart disease and greater longevity.

Studies have also found that:

-Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
-People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
-Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
-Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
-Heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without.
-Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that dogs (and cats) fulfill the basic human need to touch. Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with dogs, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time. Stroking, hugging, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed or anxious. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and most dogs are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost your mood and ease depression.

How can dogs help you make healthy lifestyle changes?

Adopting healthy lifestyle changes plays an important role in easing symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. Caring for a dog can help you make healthy lifestyle changes by:

Increasing exercise. 
Taking a dog for a walk, hike, or run are fun and rewarding ways to fit healthy daily exercise into your schedule. Studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements and exercising every day is great for the animal as well. It will deepen the connection between you, eradicate most behavior problems in dogs, and keep your pet fit and healthy.

Providing companionship.
Companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to your life, while isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression. Caring for a living animal can help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from your problems, especially if you live alone. Most dog and cat owners talk to their pets, some even use them to work through their troubles. And nothing beats loneliness like coming home to a wagging tail and wet kisses.

Helping you meet new people. 
Dogs can be a great social lubricant for their owners, helping you start and maintain new friendships. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks, hikes, or in a dog park. Dog owners also meet new people in pet stores, clubs, and training classes.

Reducing anxiety. 
The companionship of a dog can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world. Because dogs live in the moment they don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow they can help you become more mindful and appreciate the joy of the present.

Adding structure and routine to your day. 
Dogs require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. Having a consistent routine keeps a dog balanced and calm and it can work for you, too. No matter your mood depressed, anxious, or stressed one plaintive look from your dog and you’ll have to get out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for your pet.

Providing sensory stress relief. 
Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress. Stroking a dog lowers blood pressure and can help you quickly feel calmer and less stressed.

Get a dog, lose weight?
Numerous studies have linked dog ownership to weight loss:

-One year-long study found that walking an overweight dog helped both the animals and their owners lose weight. Researchers found that the dogs provided support in similar ways to a human exercise buddy, but with greater consistency and without any negative influence.
-Public housing residents who walked therapy dogs for up to 20 minutes five days a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds in a year, without changing their diets.
-A third study found that people who got a dog walked 30 minutes more a week than they did before.
Source: Harvard Health Publications

Dogs and the health benefits for older adults:

As well as providing vital companionship, owning a dog can play an important role in healthy aging by:

Helping you find meaning and joy in life. 
As you age, you’ll lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. You may retire from your career or your children may move far away. Caring for a dog can bring pleasure and help boost your morale, optimism, and sense of self-worth. Choosing to adopt a dog from a shelter, especially an older dog, can add to the sense of fulfillment, knowing that you’ve provided a home to a pet that may otherwise have been euthanized.

Staying connected. 
Maintaining a social network isn’t always easy as you grow older. Retirement, illness, death, and relocation can take away close friends and family members. And making new friends can get harder. Dogs are a great way for older adults to spark up conversations and meet new people.

Boosting vitality. 
You can overcome many of the physical challenges associated with aging by taking good care of yourself. Dogs, and to a lesser degree cats, encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy.

Dogs and adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia:
As part of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients may exhibit a variety of behavioral problems, many related to an inability to deal with stress.

Research at the University of California at Davis concluded that Alzheimer's patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a dog or cat in the home.
Dogs can provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication. The playful interaction and gentle touch from a well-trained, docile dog can help soothe an Alzheimer’s patient and decrease aggressive behavior.
In many cases a patient’s problem behavior is a reaction to the stressed response of the primary caretaker. Pets can help ease the stress of caregivers.
For older adults interested in adopting a senior dog or cat, there are programs available that can subsidize pet adoption fees and the animal’s medical care. See Resources section below.

Dogs and the health benefits for children

Not only do children who grow up with pets have less risk of allergies and asthma, many also learn responsibility, compassion, and empathy from having a dog or cat.

-Unlike parents or teachers, pets are never critical and don’t give orders. They are always loving and their mere presence at home can help provide a sense of security in children. Having an ever-present dog can help ease separation anxiety in children when mom and dad aren’t around.
-Having the love and companionship of a loyal dog can make a child feel important and help him or her develop a positive self-image.
-Kids who are emotionally attached to their dog are better able to build relationships with other people.
-Studies have also shown that dogs can help calm hyperactive or overly aggressive kids. Of course, both the dog and the child need to be trained to behave appropriately with each other.

Children and adults alike can benefit from playing with dogs, which can be both a source of calmness and relaxation, as well as a source of stimulation for the brain and body. Playing with a dog can even be a doorway to learning for a child. It can stimulate a child’s imagination and curiosity. The rewards of training a dog to perform a new trick, for example, can teach kids the importance of perseverance. Caring for a furry friend can also offer another benefit to a child: immense joy.

Children with learning disorders and other challenges:

Some children with autism or other learning difficulties are better able to interact with pets than people. Autistic children often rely on nonverbal cues to communicate, just as dogs do. And learning to first connect with a dog may even help an autistic child in his or her interactions with people.

-Pets can help children with learning disabilities learn how to regulate stress and calm themselves, making them better equipped to overcome the challenges of their disorder.
-Playing and exercising with a dog can help a child with learning disorders stay alert and attentive throughout the day. It can also be a great antidote to stress and frustration caused by the learning disability.

Owning a dog is a major commitment:

A dog is not a miracle cure for mental illness. Owning a dog is beneficial and comforting only for those who love and appreciate domestic animals and have the time and money to keep a dog happy and healthy. If you’re simply not a “dog person,” dog ownership is not going to provide you with any health benefits or improve your life. For some people, owning a cat requires less time and attention, and can be just as rewarding.

Even if you love dogs, it’s important to understand everything that caring for a dog entails. Owning a dog is a commitment that will last the lifetime of the animal, perhaps 10 or 15 years. And at the end of that commitment, you’ll face the grief and mourning that comes with losing a beloved companion.

Other drawbacks to owning a dog are:

Dogs require time and attention. 
As any dog owner will tell you, there’s nothing beneficial to your mental health about coming home to a dog who’s has been locked up in the house on his own all day long. Dogs need daily exercise and mental stimulation to stay calm and well-balanced.

Owning a dog can curb some of your social activity. 
A dog can only be left alone for a limited time. By training your dog, you’ll be able to take him with you to visit friends, run errands, or sit outside a coffee shop, for example, but you won’t be able to leave for a spur of the moment weekend away without arranging care for your pet first.

Dogs can be destructive. 
Any dog can have an occasional accident at home, especially if he’s sick or been left alone for too long, while some dogs are prone to chewing shoes or destroying cushions. Training and exercise can help eradicate negative, destructive behavior, but they remain common in dogs left alone for long periods of time.

Dogs require responsibility. 
Most dogs, regardless of size and breed, are capable of inflicting injury on people if not handled responsibly by their owners. Dog owners need to be alert to any danger, especially around children.

Dogs carry health risks for some people. 
While there are some diseases that can be transmitted from dogs to their human handlers, allergies are the most common health risk of dog ownership. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with a pet allergy, carefully consider whether you can live with the symptoms before committing to dog ownership. Also consider that some friends or relatives with allergies may no longer be able to visit your home if you have a dog.


About the Author

Samiyah Sajid

Author & Editor

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