Everyday at the hospital I have the pleasure of witnessing the strength of the human-animal bond playing a crucial and positive role in the health and well being of our community.
There is no denying that the positive effects that pets have on people has been well researched. Very new research conducted by the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom suggests that pets can help people who are living with a mental illness to manage their condition. The study involved 54 participants with a severe mental illness such as a bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Of these participants, 25 of them identified a pet as being important in the everyday management of their illness. What’s more, of these 25 participants more than half of them identified their pet as being one of the most important things to them in the management of their mental health. Research is also suggesting that pets have positive effects within communities. A study conducted by the University of Western Australia found that pets facilitate first meetings and conversations between neighbours, with over 60 percent of dog owners reporting that they got to know their neighbours through their pets.
Owning a pet can provide many benefits to people including companionship, health and social improvements and assistance for people with special needs. There is also strong evidence to indicate that owning a pet brings physical health benefits, and increases the amount of exercise individuals receive by walking their dogs or playing with a cat or exotic pet.
Its important to remember that while pets can improve our health and well being, the human-animal bond is a two way street and we owe it to our pets to properly care for their health and well being.
Written by Dr Renee Pigdon BVSc MANZCVS