Monday, July 7, 2014

Pets: Health Catalysts

Last Monday, we talked about some of the more well-known benefits that come with pet ownership. Benefits like a more robust immune system and lowered risk of heart disease.
But did you know that pets are considered preventive medicine?
Some insurance companies poll subscribers about pet ownership - and add health points to your account if you're a per owner!

Pets can be catalysts
for harm reduction 

When Dr. Hodgson made that statement, I was intrigued. I hadn’t thought about it in quite those terms before.

She gave three examples:
  • Pets can motivate you to exercise more – and more consistently 
  • Pets can provide therapeutic intervention to treat illness 
  • Pets can help you stop smoking 

Exercise: More Often, 
More Consistently 

This first one’s fairly intuitive. After all, if a dog needs to be walked that’s a powerful motivation for you to walk with him!

Jogging with dog and baby: bonus points! Photo: Don DeBold

But if you’re ever challenged to prove it, here’s the 4-1-1:

A few years ago, a study called the PPET was conducted. Here are some of its results:
  • Overweight people who exercised with a pet dog increased their physical activity by almost 4 hours per week 
  • Over 60% were still exercising one year later. They stuck with it! 

Therapeutic Intervention 

Then there are the benefits pets can have for those who are ill. Your state of mind is a powerful part of the wellness equation when recovering from illness or injury. That’s why therapy dogs and cats are so welcome in hospitals and nursing homes.

Recognize this therapy cat? We met him at BlogPaws!
Loyola University published a study a few years back, with results that showed patients undergoing total joint replacement required 50% less pain medication when in a program that included animal-assisted therapy.

And a Mayo Clinic oncologist, Dr. Edward Creagan, calls pets “medication without side effects.” He so believes in the beneficial effects of a pet during treatment and recovery that he asks patients for their pets’ names when he takes their medical history.

What I didn’t know was the benefit pets can bring to Alzheimer’s patients: a visit from a pet has been shown to reduce anxiety, agitation and depression. A Purdue study indicated that even fish tanks had calming effects.

The data compiled showed that nutritional intake increased by over 20% when the aquariums were first introduced and body weight increased significantly for the patients in the 16-week study. Patients also required fewer nutritional supplements. Quite a performance by our finned and scaled friends!

Pets and Secondhand Smoke 

Pets are far more adversely affected by secondhand smoke than you may realize. It’s not just the risk of lung cancer from inhaling.

If Faraday were around smokers, he'd be ingesting
 up to 15 cigarettes' worth of carcinogens right now.
A cat in the home of a smoker has 14-15 cigarettes’ worth of toxins in their fur.

Those carcinogens get in the mouth when grooming, and cause oral cancer. Studies also indicate there is an increase in association with lymphoma & mammary cancer.

Dogs, too, are very adversely affected. Dogs with shorter noses have higher incidents of lung cancer due to secondhand smoke, because their shorter nasal passages don’t filter out the toxins as effectively as other breeds.

Conversely, the dog breeds with much longer noses such as the collies and greyhounds are more susceptible to nasal cancer.

There was a fascinating study done in 2008 that polled smokers and people who lived with smokers. The results indicated that when a smoker learns his behavior is endangering a beloved pet, he or she is almost 30% more likely to quit smoking!

<a href="">Tweet: Did U know? A cat in the home of a smoker has 14-15 cigarettes’ worth of toxins in their fur. Read more:</a>

The next time you engage someone in a discussion on the joys of pet ownership, don’t forget to let them know about the health benefits they’ll reap, too.

Pets are indeed catalysts for more healthy behavior!


Pet Owners' Attitudes and Behaviors Related to Smoking and Secondhand Smoke: A Pilot Study

WebMD: Health Benefits of Pets excerpt:

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America: The felid purr: a healing mechanism?
Excerpt: "Domestic cats, servals, ocelots, and pumas produce fundamental, dominant, or strong frequencies at exactly 25 Hz and 50 Hz, the two low frequencies that best promote bone growth/fracture healing [Chen etal., Zhong. Wai Ke Za Zhi. 32, 217–219 (1994)].   ... Purr frequencies correspond to vibrational/electrical frequencies used in treatment for bone growth/fractures, pain, edema, muscle growth/strain, joint flexibility, dyspnea, and wounds."

PPET Study Abstract, National Institutes of Health, excerpt: “Time spent in physical activity increased in both groups to 3.9 (PP) and 3.5 (PO) h/wk. Two-thirds of total physical activity in the PP group was spent with the dogs.”


  1. Boy, we sure are glad we live in a smoke-free home!

    The few orphanages and old folks homes I've been to do not allow pets. It's really very sad.

  2. Great post!
    Lions, and Tigers and Bears oh my…
    Drinking and Smoking and Drugs? Goodbye!

  3. Me too is furry glad I live in a non smoking home !

  4. Oh my we had no idea about the smoke on a cats fur, but that makes perfect sense. This is an excellent posting, thank you!

  5. We knew cats were totally awesome! Now there's proof!

  6. The cat before me HATED that my human smoked - but she did not quit until she began exercising regularly. Harlot was quite relieved.

  7. We sure with our mom's health insurance gave her a reduction for having us.

  8. you know, I knew about the cigarette smoke, but for some stupid reason I never even considered the grooming aspect of it - and I so totally should because before smoking was banned pretty much everywhere up here, they used to allow smoking in the break room where we kept our coats. after one winter my coat stunk so much that I attempted to wash it in the bath tub (it was dry clean only and I couldn't afford it at the time) and oh my goodness the blackness that came out of it after only a few months was mind blowing..

    now.. if only I could figure out which health insurance you are talking about.. we can use all the discounts we can get :)

  9. We agree that most Beins are Just More Careful when they have us around.

  10. Never thought about what smoking might do to a pet. All around pets are the bomb!

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  12. Paws up for this message! It's so important for people to know that their lives can be healthier and happier when they share it with pets.

  13. Excellent and informative post.Thanks. XO, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  14. I am so haooy mommy said she quit somoking 11 years ago. I don;t have to worry about ti. Admiral didn't either because when mom soaked, she always used to go outside. She didm;t want her or her children or the house to have that nasty smoke to deal with.

  15. smoked, not soaked or smoaking. :-)

  16. I am glad that no-one smokes here. My mum agrees about the health benefits. When she had her operation for cancer 3 years ago, people kept telling her how well she was looking so soon after it. She always said it was because me and Eric never left her side until she was well on the road to recovery.


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