In “The Flintstones” cartoons and movies, characters used domesticated dinosaurs to perform tasks like washing dishes, vacuuming, moving heavy objects, etc. While there is no evidence man coexisted with dinosaurs, there is plenty of documentation that men and animals have shared a close bond for tens of thousands of years.
Domesticated dogs appeared more than 12,000 years ago, according to historyworld.net, and sheep, goats, pigs, draft animals and even cats soon followed. Animals and pets still play an important role in the lives of many and research shows that the connections with pets benefit people in many ways. Here are a few.
Improved heart health
There is plenty of scientific evidence that owning pets is good for your heart. “Some of the largest and most well-designed studies in this field suggest that four-legged friends can help to improve our cardiovascular health,” reports the National Institutes of Health. “One NIH-funded study looked at 421 adults who’d suffered heart attacks. A year later, the scientists found, dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than were those who did not own dogs, regardless of the severity of the heart attack.”
Lower risk of allergies
“Exposure to dogs in infancy — especially around the time of birth — can actually influence children’s immune development and reduce the likelihood of certain allergic diseases,” according to research from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. This study discovered children who had a dog at home as newborns were much less likely to have a variety of allergy symptoms. Children who got a dog sometime after birth did not seem to have the same health benefits.
A study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Conference showed stockbrokers lowered their blood pressure in stressful situations when they got a dog or cat for a pet. An article in Psychology Today reported the addition of a pet significantly enhanced the effectiveness of medication prescribed to treat stress-related high blood pressure. Other researchers found merely petting a friendly and familiar dog lowered blood pressure, slowed heart rate, relaxed muscle tension and improved breathing.
Dogs have assisted man for thousands of years, but we are still discovering new ways they can provide critical — even life-saving — service. In addition to being guides for the blind, dogs are used to alert individuals suffering from epilepsy about the onset of a seizure, to assist autistic children, to aid mobility, to provide emotional support and even to detect cancer.
Taking care of pets is a simple and meaningful way to help children learn about responsibility. “Pets must be both loved and cared for,” explains mathandreadinghelp.org. “This means they need to be fed, given fresh water and exercised regularly. Give your child a sense of responsibility by having them meet these needs, whether they feel like it that day or not.” Some pets require a significant commitment of time, effort and money. Parents who are uncertain about the level of dedication of their children can start them off with something simple like fish or a hamster or guinea pig.
In an article for Harvard Health Blog, Dr. Thomas Lee, co-editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter, is quoted as saying, “People who have dogs live longer than people who have cats, and the assumption has been that dogs naturally cause their owners to be more active. The emotional benefits of having an affectionate creature are also one of the theories for why dog-lovers live longer.”
Even though there are documented health benefits, experts agree that should not be the primary purpose of acquiring a pet. Getting a dog does not replace regular physical activity, eating a balanced, nutritious diet or receiving quality medical care.