The Benefits of Owning a Pet
When me and my sister were little, we did not own any pet. As there were allergies in the family, our parents, medical doctors, assumed that it would be better for our health if we wouldn't have one. As it turns out, it is quite the opposite.
"The old thinking was that if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. And if you came from an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided," says researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 
However, more and more studies now suggest that kids who grow up with a cat or dog, or on a farm, will have smaller risk of allergies and asthma.
People have cohabited with animals for thousands of years. And although it is unclear when exactly dogs have been domesticated, there is no doubt that dogs, and any pet for that matter, offer us companionship. But did you know, that owning a pet provides also many health benefits?
Dog’ saliva has been found to heal wounds due to a protein called Nerve Growth Factor. Human wounds treated with NGF heal twice as quickly as untreated wounds. The purring of a cat can help mend broken bones and soft tissue injuries because they purr at 20 to 50 Hertz, a frequency range found to promote tissue healing. And there is much more than that!
So if you have to clean the mess several times a day after your puppy, think about the fact that he:
- reduces your risk for heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease
- thanks to him, you are in better physical fitness
- you have an improved stress management, reduced risk for depression and anxiety, lower levels of cortisol, and higher levels of dopamine and serotonin - the 'feel good' hormones
- if you struggle with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or cancer, owning a pet can mean less pain and improved quality of life
- reduced isolation (remember that lady who wanted to stroke your dog when you took him for a walk?)
Especially kids can benefit from having a pet companion as they have fewer allergies, better immune function, and improved health. Kids who grow up with dogs and cats tend to show greater compassion and empathy, which is referred to as “emotional intelligence” or EQ.
Oxytocin, the 'love' hormone
Produced by the hypothalamus, oxytocin is the hormone responsible for mother-infant bonding, flooding each with feelings of happiness, trust and well being. In addition to its role in bonding and relationships, oxytocin offers physical health benefits as well, including reduced pain and inflammation. When you stroke your pet, your levels of oxytocin rise and your stress hormone, cortisol, lowers.
We get a lot of oxytocin in our home - with two cats, two kittens, a dog and a rabbit, there are not many reasons for depression. Having pets also teaches our children to take on some responsibility and that is definitely a plus. Regardless of those sleepless nights when you have to clean after your puppy.