Would pet be good for senior adult?

Sunday, March 16, 2003


By Dr. John Koch

Question: Mom lives alone since Dad passed away almost a year ago. A couple of weeks ago something happened that made my sister and I take notice. Mom took care of her neighbor's little dog for a few days while they were away. It amazed us how much having the pup around brightened Mom's spirits. Because of this experience, we are seriously considering getting a dog for her. We know you see a lot of seniors who have pets. Do you have any thoughts that you would be willing to share?

Answer: There have been numerous scientific studies over the years that support the benefits of the animal-human bond. One of the more recent ones was commissioned by a non-profit alliance of organizations out of Atlanta, Ga., called PAWSitive InterAction.

Some of the study's findings showed that having pets decreases loneliness. Pets don't give their love and attention to people based on their appearance or social standing in the community. Their affection is unconditional. Pets stimulate exercise, encourage laughter and conversation which are all important to the daily well being of humans.

Pets reduce stress and anxiety. Psychologists have shown that pets often are capable helping patients with depression and mood disorders where previously prescribed medications have failed. Pets are known to reduce blood pressure, lower triglycerides, and improve survival rates in humans after they have had heart attacks. Physicians have noted that seriously ill patients often show a stronger determination to rehabilitate themselves when they have animal companions waiting for them at home.

One of the more interesting indications of the importance of the human-animal bond is an American Animal Hospital Association survey of 1,197 pet owners. This survey showed that 34 percent of pet owners say they talk about their pets when conversing with others, while only 20 percent say they talk about their spouses. Fully 78 percent report that it's their pet, not their spouse, who greets them first as they come home from work.

These results remind me of the lady whom once instructed me to take good care of her dog, because she loved the dog a lot more than she did her husband. The comment was taken, as it was intended, to be a compliment to her pet rather than an insult to her husband.

A puppy for your mother could very well be a good idea. Good luck.

Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau veterinarian.

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