Pets and Our Health: Our Friends and Us


Our friendship and “work” relations with animals root back to thousands of years. The first tamed animal is dog. Domestication goes back to 12 thousand years B.C. for dog, 6-7 thousand years B.C. for cow and sheep, 3,5 thousand years B.C. for cat and 3 thousand years B.C. for horse.

Today, pets are beyond cat, dog, bird and fish. Although animal lovers object, various animals from reptiles to lions are kept as pets in captivity at home instead of being free in nature as they should be. Pets establish a large and important sector with production, food, accommodation and veterinary services. Here we summarize the studies of human-animal interactions for dogs which are dependent on human support and cats who can partially sustain their ability to survive in nature.


A great number of people love animals; even if they do not love, they do not want pets being harmed and a smile appears in their faces when they see a kitten or a puppy. Some people cannot think a life without pets at home and usually accept them as a member of their families…


Why do the ones having a pet feel committed or what is the secret of their happiness?


Medical and psychosocial scientific studies, which have increased gradually in recent years, help us understand the interraction between pets and humans. Our current knowledge show that two systems are affected in human body: first one is the “oxytocin” hormone which increases during interaction between mother and child, and the second is “epinephrin/adrenaline” which has significant roles in stress and feeling happy and are main elements of the neural system. Psychological and social effects develop on the basis of hormonal, neural and other biological grounds that we know and do not know yet.


Human and animal interraction has an important positive and healing effects of on human lives which cannot be underestimated. The effect on human health, education and social interaction can be determined by scientific studies and convincing data such as positive influence on cardiovascular health, hormonal balance, interest in education and focusing on learning, alleviation of depression, increase in the rate of exercise and good mood,.


Working pets, especially dogs with special training can provide support to many therapeutic services such as accompanying people with visual, auditory and physical disabilities, early recognition of epilepsy attacks and fluctuations of blood glucose level and increasing compliance of kids to treatment.


Human-Animal Interaction” evidenced by scientific studies:

Social Interaction:


It is observed that relation of human with animals leads to increase in human confidence, empathy, respect, positive phycology and decrease in anger, stress and consequently have positive influence on “inter-human” relations.


-Social Cohesion: People react more positively towards a person who has a pet and a pet can fasilitate human relations and help new ones by a conversation or a smile.

For example: when a family has a pet, they spend more time and do more activites together and children’s visitor and friends increase. When children grow up, leave home and parents are alone pets have a positive effect. If a person with wheelchair has a dog more people establish social relations with them. Pets have positive effect in life quality indicators for old people who are alone and withdrawn at centers for seniors and Alzheimer patients such as more conversation, eating with joy and feeling better.


-Better Compliance with Treatment: Compliance of elders, children and the persons with disability and chronic disease to the treatment plan, life quality and joy of life are positively influenced.


For instance; when there is a dog in the environment, autistic children establish relations longer, focus on their environment, and children with psychological problems express themselves better.


-Increased Trust and Trustworhiness in Human Relations: Self-confidence and trust in other people increase in persons who have a friendly animal companion. Also, people who have pets are mostly accepted as with people who have no pet.


For example, in experimental studies; people on the street were asked to lend money, young girls were asked to give their phone number or help to collect the money dropped and it was found that more people helped if the person who asked had a pet/dog.


-Effect on Empathy: Children with a pet has better skill of understanding other people and observation skills -such as happy, angry, hungry, in need and can be sick, and these skills have positive influence on social relations.


-Reduction of Aggression: In children beginning to the primary school, it is observed that aggressive behaviors decrease when a friendly, playful dog is to the classroom.


-Reduction of Depression, promotion of Positive Mood: In the senior centers where a dog is present or dogs regularly visit, loneliness and anxiety are alleviated, social relations and life quality are increased, and it is also found that interaction with pets is as effective as play therapy for children who stay in hospital for long term.


In various experiments; effects of leisure with reading, conversation, resting, playing with a toy and playing with a living dog are compared and it is determined that effect of feeling happy/good is more significant while petting a dog.


Effect on Education:


It is demonstrated that healthy children and children with developmental retardation complete their tests of motor skills more successfully with a dog present and this effect may derive from both motivation, soothing and stress decreasing effects of dogs.


It is observed that children with or without speech disorder are more successful in works which require concentration and memory, when there is a dog present.


Effect on Human Health: It is shown by the virtue of various scientific methods: verbal evaluation, observation, and experiment, physical examination (pulse, blood pressure, oxygen concentration in blood, body temperature etc), blood, saliva, urine tests: cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, renin activity, epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine levels and so on.


-Anti-Stress Effect: Hormone levels change in our body with stress conditions such as cortison, neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, norepinephrine get higher and it has been shown that interaction with animals effect positively. For instance, it is found that the stress indicators decrease in children spending even a short time with a cute dog and in pediatric patients who has began to live with a trained/companion dog.


-Reduction of Anxiety and Pain: It is observed that interraction with animals before a medical process decreases fear and anxiety at senior centers and hospitals, keeps patient calm, and alleviates anxiety and stress, especially in children, and decreases the need of medicine for those taking pain killers for a long-term.


-Cardiovascular Health: It is determined that when elder or middle aged persons with or without cardiovascular conditions have a pet, they use less medicine and survival rate is higher after a heart attack is sustained. The protective effect on cardiac health increases parallel to exercise and regular life. In all age groups, it is observed that with the negative effects of stressful situations on cardiac findings such as blood pressure and heart pulse rise, happens less and tend to turn back to normal limits.


For instance; walking alone and walking with a dog are compared in patients with heart failure and more positive compliance is observed; in children aged 2 to 6 years who present to doctor for standard medical examination, measurable positive effect is presented in findings, such as blood rate and pulse, which may vary (increase) due to excitement, when there is a cute dog in the environment; however, the same effect is not observed on children aged 7 to 10 years, who visit a dental clinic.


-Human Immunity System: In a study, increase in immunoglobulin A, which is accepted to be a positive indicator, is determined after an interaction with a living dog and a toy dog.


-General Health: It is determined that the ones having a pet visit a doctor less, exercise more, have lesser complaint of insomnia, and moreover, drug need decreases, high-quality sleep increases, duration of sick leave shortens and mood indicators improve in employees. In families whose children left home, adaptation to the new period is easier and the number of doctor visit declines. There is an improvement in the indicators when children with psychological problems interact with farm animals. To sum up, in terms of preventive and therapeutic medicine, there is positive effect in emotional wellness, health and behavioral problems at all ages.


Many positive effects listed above can be explained by increase in secretion of oxytocin hormone. Oxytocin is secreted from brain in both women and men with delivery, breast feeding, sexual intercourse, touch and hug of loved ones. Positive effects of oxytocin such as empathy and confidence as well as increase in social relation and decrease in depression, aggression/anger tendencies and commitment to the person’s child and partner are demonstrated in people. It is demonstrated that this effect arising from interpersonal relations is also valid in relations with animals.For example, when its owner rubs his/her dog for 5-24 mins, oxytocin concentration can increase.


Special for Cats:


Cats have a special and different position among pets: voices of “purr”. These sounds cause vibrations between 20-140 Hertz as far as they can be determined and they can cause extra positive effects:


Recovering effect:

-Decreasing stress, soothing, decreasing respiratory problems, decreasing blood pressure

-40% decrease for the risk of heart crisis among cat owners

-Faster recovery of infection, soft tissue injuries

-Support to bone healing at frequency of 100-200 Hertz, albeit more remarkable at 25-50 Hertz

Positive influences on patients:

-Decrease in anxiety and burst of anger in Alzheimer patients

-Lesser depression symtomps for those with fatal diseases like HIV

-Hypertensive patients can deal with stress easier and blood pressure can be maintained at normal limits

-Patients who has anamnesis of heart attack can live longer

Prevention of health problems:

-In the old people having a pet at home, unnecessary hospital visits and helathcare costs can decrease due to both increase in exercise and positive influences of establishing friendship

-Male patients have less heart problems and cardiac complaints, and blood lipid levels can decrease

-It decreases the risk of allergy, asthma and eczema in children.


Do pets cause diseases or allergy?


When pets live in the same environment with us and regularly go to veterinarian check, they do not cause serious health problems. For the animals who go in and out of the house the risk is not high as many diseases making animals sick do not affect humans and veterinarians take measures such as vaccination and others for the diseases that can be transmitted to people.


There are many studies with contradictive outcomes on allergy. However, there are also scientific data and views, which reveal out positive approach to human-animal interaction. It is observed that the children living in extremely clean environments in their infanthood have tendency towards asthma, allergy and infection more frequently, although such conditions are far less prevalent in children living with an animal at home and in touch with nature.


Scientific discussions continue over how cat-dog allergies should be interpreted, what is the real resource of the allergy (fur, saliva, microbes they carry etc.). Listen to your doctor’s advices and keep your ears wide open to alternative opinions..!


In conclusion, positive effects are far more for humans in “human-animal interaction”. There are many happy house pets but there are also too many abandoned, mistreated or living in bad or inappropriate environment. Can we say pets/animals are lucky as we are? Hope will all share a happy, peaceful, healthy life and natural environment with animals...


RECOMMENDATIONS:


- Adopt an animal if you are able to or ready to take responsibility for them on “good and bad days”, it will be your friend throughout your life!

- In order to learn the animal world, you must research and provide them with a natural environment.

- Animals also go through infanthood, adolescence and seniority stages, and their personality and habits will also vary; you should spend some time to know their personality before adopting.

- Do not adopt a baby cute pet only with an instant decision as if they are “souvenirs”, do not leave them as they will suffer more than you think!

- Do not buy animals from petshops, breeding farms or animals smuggled abroad; do not forget many of them are treated badly!

- There are enough abandoned species, “pure blood” and good natured animals at the animal shelters, veterinarian’s office and on streets.

- Dolphins and whales can accompany us but they are not animals for show, treatment or training, they should not be kept in captivity, bred in pools and should not be trained by torture.

- Do not visit zoos which do not provide natural environment to animals!

- Do not forget that animals are treated badly in circus and many zoos, and imprisonment makes them pay a heavy cost, and many of them do not get retired!





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