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Alternative Therapies >> Pet Therapy
   

Research has shown that heart attack victims who have pets live longer. Even watching a tank full of tropical fish may lower blood pressure, at least temporarily. A study of 92 patients hospitalized in coronary care units for angina or heart attack found that those who owned pets were more likely to be alive a year later than those who did not. The study found that only 6 percent of patients who owned pets died within one year compared with 28 percent of those who did not own pets.

The therapeutic use of pets as companions has gained increasing attention in recent years for a wide variety of patients -people with AIDS or cancer, the elderly, and the mentally ill. Unlike people, with whom our interactions may be quite complex and unpredictable, animals provide a constant source of comfort and focus for attention. Animals bring out our nurturing instinct. They also make us feel safe and unconditionally accepted. We can just be ourselves around our pets.

Research has shown that pet ownership can:

  • Reduce stress-induced symptoms. : In a study people undergoing oral surgery spent a few minutes watching tropical fish in an aquarium. The relaxation level was measured by their blood pressure, muscle tension, and behavior. It was found that the subjects who watched the fish was much more relaxed than those who did not watch the fish prior to the surgery. People who watched the fish was as calm as another group that had been hypnotized before the surgery. Other researchers have found that: Petting a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure. Bringing a pet into a nursing home or hospital can boost peoples' moods and enhance their social interaction.
  • Requires Less Medical Care : A study conducted at UCLA found that dog owners required much less medical care for stress-induced aches and pains than non-dog owners.
  • Add years to your life : In a study conducted at City Hospital in New York, it was found that heart patients who owned the pets were significantly more likely to be alive a year after they were discharged from the hospital than those who didn't own pets. The presence of a pet was found to give higher boost to the survival rate than having a spouse or friends.

We should point out in this connection that pets can be a source of stress to some people. They may worry who will take care of their pets when they die. In most cases, however, the need to take care of the pets give a reason for living to many terminally ill patients, prolonging their life span.

It is surprising that it does not matter what the pet is to get the therapeutic benefit. It could be a dog, a cat, parakeet, a gold fish or anything else. The only thing which matters is that the animal is of interest to you.

However, it is important that the pet you have selected fit your temperament, living space and lifestyle. Otherwise it will be additional source of stress. So, look over the pet and see whether the chemistry is compatible before you decide to adopt one.

It is possible that people who own pets may have different personality traits than those who do not. Research has found that complex, varied, and interesting daily activity is the strongest social predictor of longevity. Pet ownership may affect people physiologically through the soothing and relaxing effect of touch. And speechless communication with a pet, or simply watching a cat or fish, may produce a relaxation response with little demand on the patient.

Pet owners often feel needed and responsible, which may stimulate the survival incentive. They feel they need to survive to take care of their pets. (Many cancer patients with pets have lived longer because they felt that their pets need them!) Stroking a dog, watching a kitten tumble, or observing the hypnotic explorations of fish can be an antidote to a foul mood or a frazzling day.

Pets such as dogs and cats provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and affection. And pets can shift our narrow focus beyond ourselves, helping us to feel connected to a larger world.

 

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