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Do Pets Really Make You Healthy? by Melanie P. Smith If you’ve ever had a pet, you understand the joy of coming home. It’s been a tough day at work, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, you’re tired, grumpy and you just want to drop onto the couch and veg for a while. Then, you push open the door and there he /she is — you’re instantly greeted by a happy, rambunctious four-legged friend who’s been waiting all day to see you. The unconditional love shines in their eyes, it’s easily recognized in the exuberant wag of their tail, or vocalized in the happy bark of greeting or a subtle meow the instant you step through the door — and it will certainly make you happy. It can also have a positive impact on your health. Studies have shown the companionship of a pet can help reduce stress, improve heart health, and improve emotional stability. It can even help your child improve social skills — I say child because; well, you know that whole old dog new trick thing?

loneliness. One study suggests that when a child grows up in a household with pets, the interaction can actually improve their development and social skills. That means any pet — dog, cat, bunny, hamster, or even a fish. So, while inconclusive, there appears to be at least some health and social benefits to having a pet. We’ve all heard of therapy dogs. These specially trained K9s are brought into hospitals to brighten a patient’s day and help them feel unconditional love and joy for just a little while. But did you know, dogs can also help in the classroom? Dogs have helped children with ADHD focus better, which improves their ability to pay attention to their studies. Kids that read to a therapy dog once a week for 30 minutes showed better social skills and, an improved ability to share, cooperate, and even volunteer. They also had fewer behavioral problems. Another study showed that kids with autism were calmer and their anxiety levels dropped when they were able to hold and play with a guinea pig in the classroom. Researchers believe that because animals offer unconditional acceptance, the children learn those same traits, and are able to utilize those skills in a social setting with their peers.

So, should you get a pet and if so, what kind should you get? Do all pets bring stability and health benefits to all people? Over the past few decades scientists have asked this very question. They began studying the potential mental and physical health benefits of different animals from fish to guinea pigs to our most common furry friends — the dog and cat.

What did they find?

Honestly, the results have been mixed. Interacting with animals – any animal, has shown to decrease stress and reduce blood pressure. Experts also suggest having a pet can increase confidence, improve your mood, decreases depression, and reduce -8-

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