• Nicola Zaina

Pets are a Health Benefit

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

As many of you may know I am a happy dog owner and my dogs play a significant role in my health and happiness. It only seemed right to share why owning a pet can benefit your health. 


Of course, I would always advocate a dog and there is a reason for this as dogs are our “old friends” and one of the first animals that lived with us it is a very symbiotic relationship. I know the cat owners amongst you would disagree. 


The role of dogs in our lives has been coming up a lot lately. A friend recently lost her beloved 17-year-old dog, we became friends because we shared a love for dogs. Moving to dog crazy Cornwall has made me realise that many people feel the way I do about dogs. 


Dogs have always been a part of my life, I grew up with dogs. Zora, a rescue Doberman helped me learn to walk. I would lean on her as I got up and then hang on to her back as I tottered along as she walked slowly beside me.


When I was a teenager and it felt no-one understood me, our family dogs would come and sit next to me and I could share my woes with them. 



When I left home I could no longer own a dog because I lived in a flat. My longing for a dog was so strong that moving to a farm seemed like a good solution to be able to have a dog, one dog turned into three. Everyone always asked me if I was lonely living on the farm, how could I be with three dogs for company!


The impact of pets on our health has been studied for more than 25 years and below are some of the awesome reasons to own a pet, especially a dog. 


Physical Well-Being

Heart Health

Owning a pet can help lower blood pressure. One study found that men who own pets are more likely to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.


Stress 

Constant stress can cause damage to our immune system and is linked to heart disease, who isn’t stressed today? Playing with a pet has been shown to increase both serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters which have a calming effect on the body.


Inflammation

In one study subjects were given a dog to look after for 3 months, after which time they could adopt the dog. After 3 months it was found that their mood had improved but more significantly they had lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines are linked to depression, dementia, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Seems like adopting a dog is a good health insurance policy. 


Keeping Fit

Owning a dog requires daily exercise and spending time outdoors, which has been shown to be very beneficial to your health and well-being. Playing with a dog can be a great work-out.


Mental Well-Being

Pets have been shown to reduce both anxiety and depression. For older retired people pets provide structure and continue to give life a sense of purpose. You are less likely to feel lonely if you own a pet and they help to prevent cognitive decline as you get older. 


Owning a dog can also help your social life, many dog owners can attest to lasting friendships made through their dogs. This can also be particularly important for older people as they can often feel more isolated.


It is such a pity that so many blocks of flats, often the home of older people, don’t allow dogs. With studies showing reduced doctor visits with those owning pets, you think clever insurance companies would make it a health benefit to owning a dog and give you extra points, no names mentioned!


Microbiome and Dogs

The most fascinating health benefit of owning a dog is the impact they have on our microbiome. The March 2017 Nature Magazine reports on a study done on infants born into homes that have dogs.


Children who have grown up with dogs are less likely to have developed allergies and asthma because they have more complex microbiome.


Allergies and autoimmune diseases are so common and while factors related to this can be diverse the role of over clean homes is a factor. Growing up with a bit of dirt and dogs all help the microbiome develop and become more diverse. The immune system of a child develops alongside the microbiome.


Two microbes in dogs were also found in children that grew up with dogs. One of these is linked to a lower level of allergy sensitivity and the other is linked to being leaner and less likely to be obese.


While most of the benefits of pets to our microbiome occur when we are infants it has been shown that people who own dogs have a more diverse microbiome. 


Life with Dogs

Bringing two of our dogs to Cornwall was an expensive and stressful undertaking but life here would feel incomplete without them being part of it. My dogs give my life routine and a daily rhythm. They keep me active, they make me laugh and they give me so much love. They enrich my life in so many ways. 



Owning any pet will help you be healthier but owning a dog can have added health benefits that other pets don’t have.  I would always advocate adopting a rescue dog over a breed but any dog would be better than not owning one.


Just make sure you are choosing the breed because it is a good fit for you and not because it is a fashionable breed. A dog is a commitment, I recently had an altercation with a woman who has 2 pug puppies. She thinks because they are dogs they can be left outside for long periods of time with minimum input by her. 


Dogs are pets and should be treated as part of the family so please bear the following in mind when thinking of getting a dog. And don’t forget those older dogs that are often looked over for younger cuter puppies. Older dogs often make a more suitable companion than a high energy puppy that requires a lot more work. 


Please Consider This

  • Can you afford the cost of owning a dog

  • Can you provide it with a safe and secure environment

  • Can you give it the time and attention it deserves

  • Are you ready for the lifetime commitment

  • Can you exercise it daily 

  • Can you provide good healthy food and freshwater 

  • Can you ensure it feels comfortable and safe


But most importantly can you be loving, patient and kind



In memory of Gandolf and all the dogs who bring so much joy into our lives. 



#dogsandhealth #dogsandheart #dogsandstress #dogsandinflammation #dogsmicrobiome #dogsandinfants


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Health is about the food you eat, and the way you move your body.
It's about stilling the mind and connecting to others and nature.
Health is about living a meaningful life that brings you joy & fulfilment.
Find ways to be healthy every day, have fun & don't get stressed or obsess about it.
Health may not look the same for everyone but being healthy is worth striving for.
Nicola Zaina     
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