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Research papers on owning a dog vs. owning a cat

In addition to seeing-eye dogs and dogs that can be trained to detect seizures, animals can also be used in occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical rehabilitation to help patients recover. Is that companionship beneficial to our health? Pets may also have a significant impact on allergies, asthma, social support, and social interactions with other people.

Impact on Physical Health Companion animals may improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and regulating the heart rate during stressful situations. In a 2002 study, researchers measured changes in heart rate and blood pressure among people who had a dog or cat, compared to those who did not, when participants were under stress performing a timed math task.

People with a dog or cat had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure measures at the beginning of the experiment than non-pet owners. People with a dog or cat were also less likely to have spikes in heart rates and blood pressure while performing the math task, and their heart rates and blood pressure returned to normal more quickly.

10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Cat Owner

They also made fewer errors in their math when their pet was present in the room. A similar study found that having your dog in the room lowered blood pressure better than taking a popular type of blood pressure medication ACE inhibitor when you are under stress. For example, one study measured blood pressure, heart rate, and behavioral distress in healthy children aged 3 to 6 at two different doctor visits for routine physicals. At one visit, a dog unrelated to the child was present in the room and at the other visit the dog was absent.

When the dog was present, children had lower blood pressure measures, lower heart rates, and less behavioral distress. Further research is needed on how pets influence child development and specific health outcomes.

  1. A 2009 study found that the resources needed to feed a dog over the course of its life create the same eco-footprint as that of a Land Cruiser.
  2. However, for most people, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawbacks.
  3. Cats have a reputation of being aloof and not caring about their humans, but they have saved countless lives over the years. Children with dogs or cats in their home during the first year of life are less likely to develop allergies in childhood.
  4. Your choice of pet reveals something about your personality. At one visit, a dog unrelated to the child was present in the room and at the other visit the dog was absent.
  5. But getting a new best friend can also have many stress relieving and health benefits.

Findings suggest that the social support a pet provides can make a person feel more relaxed and decrease stress. The social support provided by a pet might also encourage more social interactions with people, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness. For example, walking with a dog has been found to increase social interaction, especially with strangers, compared to walking without a dog.

  1. A recent study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet.
  2. While dog lovers tend to be the life of the party, cat owners are quieter and more introverted. However, in a recent study, groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn't get pets.
  3. Cats have been shown to help people get over their loss more quickly, and show less physical symptoms of pain, like crying. One cat has even received the highest medal available to military animals.

There were not significant differences between dog and cat owners in their abilities to perform these activities. Neither the length of time of having a dog or cat nor the level of attachment to the animal influenced performance abilities. Companion animals did not seem to have an impact on psychological health but researchers suggested that a care-taking role may give older individuals a sense of responsibility and purpose that contributes to their overall well-being.

Researchers found that people who said they had a pet in both 1996 and 2001 had the fewest doctor visits, followed by people who had acquired a pet by 2001; the group of people who did not have a pet at either time had the highest number of doctor visits. Some studies show that having a cat might increase allergen sensitivity, while others show it might protect against cat allergies.

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Having a dog might not influence or might protect against specific dog allergies. More research is needed on the connection between allergies, asthma, and pets, but it is possible that the impact of having pets on allergies may depend on the age of the person at the time they are exposed to an animal as well as the type of pet.

For example, 6 and 7 year old children who lived with a bird during their first year of life were more likely to have respiratory symptoms like wheezing compared to children who did not have a bird in the home as an infant. Children with dogs or cats in their home during the first year of life are less likely to develop allergies in childhood.

Other factors such as gender and marital status may play a role. For example, one study found that dog ownership was associated with lower rates of depression among women, but not men, and among single individuals but not married people.

Most evidence on the benefits of having a pet comes from surveys of current health, but that means it is impossible to know if a person is in good health because she has a pet or if he is more likely to get a pet because he is in good health. Someone whose health is poor may decide he does not have the time or energy to care for a pet.

The German study described above suggests that having a pet for a longer period of time is more beneficial to your health; but it is also possible that people with pets have less time to spare to go to the doctor or are less concerned about their own health, especially minor ailments.

In addition, people who love their pets are likely to want to let researchers know that their pets help improve their lives. This could bias the study results. Does having a goldfish confer the same health benefits as having a golden retriever? Most pet studies were of people who had a dog or a cat, making it difficult to draw conclusions about health benefits of birds, lizards, fish, or other pets.

How much time the person spends with his or her pet could be strongly influenced by the type of pet and in turn could influence the health benefits of having a pet.

  • For example, one study measured blood pressure, heart rate, and behavioral distress in healthy children aged 3 to 6 at two different doctor visits for routine physicals;
  • In fact, research shows that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs than when they spent time with other people!
  • The social support provided by a pet might also encourage more social interactions with people, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness;
  • Having a furry best friend can reduce stress in your life and bring you support when times get tough;
  • Dogs as catalysts for social interactions:

While these studies do not always have consistent results, some positive findings of interacting with a therapy dog include reduced levels of pain and anxiety among hospitalized children and adults, as well as increased focus and interaction among children with autism and other developmental disorders. In nursing home settings, interaction with visiting dogs has led to more social behaviors, more interaction among residents, and less loneliness. People who have pets know that there are many benefits to having a companion animal, but we do not yet know under what circumstances those benefits are most likely.

For more scientific research about human-animal interaction, see How Animals Affect Us: Griffin, and Valerie Maholmes. All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff.

The Benefits of Pets for Human Health

An introduction to issues and topics. American Pet Products Association, Industry statistics and trends. The animal-human bond and ethnic diversity. Cardiovascular reactivity and the presence of pets, friends, and spouses: Pet ownership, but not ace inhibitor therapy, blunts home blood pressure responses to mental stress.

Leveraging Benefits and Mitigating Risk. The effects of the presence of a companion animal on physiological arousal and behavioral distress in children during a physical examination. Historical and cultural perspectives on human-pet interactions. Dogs as catalysts for social interactions: Influence of companion animals on the physical and psychological health of older people: J Am Geriatr Soc.

Pets and human health in Germany and Australia: Simpson A, Custovic A 2003.

House dust exposure mediates gut microbiome Lactobacillus enrichment and airway immune defense against allergens and virus infection. Symptoms of asthma and the home environment.

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Int Arch Allergy Immunol. Psychological effects of dog ownership: Challenges to human-animal interaction research. Animal-assisted interventions in health care contexts.

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