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Tuesday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
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Friday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
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The positive health effects of pet ownership
Benefits include lower risk of cardiovascular disease and higher self-esteem
I did something last night that I have not done in a while. I read a book to my son, Matthew. He is nine years old and does not need me to read him a story but he seemed game, so I proceeded.
The name of the story was "The Market Square Dog," by the famous author/veterinarian James Herriot. It is a short story about a dog that Herriot sees begging at the market. The dog is rather skittish and when approached takes off running. A short time later, a local police officer brings the dog by his office after it was hit by a car. The dog's leg is broken and he has many lacerations. Herriot casts the dog's broken leg, cleans and stitches his wounds and then turns it over to the local shelter.
Ironically enough, in this small town, the shelter and police station are one in the same. The dog slowly recovers and Herriot intermittently visits to check up on the dog. Herriot also inquires with the officer if anyone claimed the dog. The answer is always no.
One day Herriot arrives and the dog is gone. The police officer who has acted as an intermediary claims the dog was arrested and Herriot should follow him to see the dog. Herriot quietly follows the officer down the road to a house and finds out the police officer was just kidding. The dog was not arrested, but rather adopted by the officer as a gift for his two daughters. They had always wanted a dog.
After finishing the book, my son and I both looked at the bottom of the bed to see our dog, Jasmine and cat, The One Eyed Guy, lying next to each other. We both reflected on how lucky we are.
I decided afterwards to do some research on the positive effects of pet ownership. I found that people with pets tend to be more active, have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, higher self-esteem and an overall more positive outlook on life.
There are concerns with transmission of zoonotic diseases (diseases pets can pass to humans), allergies and some considerations for the elderly. Although pet ownership did enhance the lives of the elderly, there was the risk of tripping over their pet or the concern of care for the pet if the person has an extended hospital stay/moves into an assisted-living situation that does not allow pets. However, the data overall was very positive.
Editor's note: The Centers for Disease Control notes that pet ownership can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness. They can increase exercise and outdoor activities of their owners as well as provide opportunities for socialization.
So, to all you pet owners out there, thank your furry friends and family members. They not only enrich our lives, but also extend them.
Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 14 years.