August 16th, 2018

To Your Health: As if you needed another reason to love dogs

By Gillian Slade on May 14, 2018.

Dogs open doors to health benefits.

Some well trained dogs can actually open real doors but I’m talking about dogs enhancing your life, opening new doors for you for the health of it.

Pass someone while you are out for a walk and you may say “hello” but if either of you have a dog there is likely to be a little more friendly conversation.

Dogs are an ice-breaker, making the dog owner more approachable, which in turn reduces your own feelings of loneliness.

Research has shown that up to 75 per cent of dog owners say they feel less lonely and about half said their dog had enhanced their feelings of being connected to their community.

People with dogs, according to that research, typically had about three friendships that began initially because a stranger talked to the dog. That created a climate that was ripe of general chatter between the people and ultimately a friendship developed.

There is scientific evidence to show dogs can help to reduce blood pressure in people. Tender emotions during interaction with the dog helps to remove some of the stresses of life.

The enthusiasm many dogs have about going for a walk can encourage the owner to get out of a chair in front of the television and take them for that walk. On a chilly winter morning it is often the people with dogs you see out for a walk while the rest of us have chosen to stay warm inside.

This raises an interesting idea. If you love dogs but for whatever reason do not own a dog you may be ideally suited to volunteering to walk the dog of a senior. You’ll both benefit.

Studies have indicated that owning and handling animals brings health benefits for the elderly who live longer, stay healthier, and have more enjoyable lives.

Seniors still living independently with a pet are typically more active. The dog’s tail wagging vigorously is an invitation for physical activity — even if it is only mild. In addition to the benefits of the physical exercise there are psychological rewards, too. A pet asking for food and water encourages an older person to move about and attend to those needs.

An experiment was done in a seniors home called Eden Alternative, which acquired birds, dogs, and cats including out of doors pets such as rabbits and chickens. Over a five-year period they experienced a 15-per-cent lower mortality rate than other seniors’ homes without pets.

Locally, Cypress View Foundation has introduced cats to its seniors residence. Aware that some people are not partial to cats they thoughtfully created a special cat zone. Cats have their own suite and those who enjoy cats can go in there to spend time with them. Those not partial to cats need never see them. Well done Cypress View Foundation.

Here’s to dogs and cats and how they enrich our lives, physically and mentally, and her’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her by email on call 403-528-8635.

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