Man’s Best Friend, confidant and healer
A massive 99% of pet owners describe their dog as a friend and 100% regularly talk to them, according to new research published by dog health supplement company, Pooch and Mutt¹. 97% of dog owners also say that they think their canine friend helps to keep them healthy, with most of them – 98.5%, citing walks and exercise as the main reasons for this. But, with dogs increasingly being used in therapy, with mentally ill and patients recovering from physical illness, scientific research suggests that there may be many other reasons, which pet owners are unaware of, for the feelings of general wellbeing owners describe in the Pooch and Mutt survey results.
Guy Blaskey, Managing Director of Pooch and Mutt said: “there is now a significant body of evidence to support the theory that pet ownership can have a positive effect on human mental and physical health, from common problems such as stress and self esteem, to recovery from serious illnesses including heart disease and cancer². This means that, potentially, pet owners may already be saving the National Health Service considerable amounts of money!”
All in the Mind
In the Pooch and Mutt survey, 59% of pet owners admit to ‘discussing’ their problems with their furry companions, suggesting a ‘two-way’ communication between pet and owner. Many scientific studies, including those conducted by psychologist Dr June McNicholas at the University of Warwick and referenced in the British Medical Journal³, conclude that relationships with pets can have certain advantages over inter-human relationships. They are less subject to ‘burnout’ and ‘fluctuations’ and don’t impose a strain or cause concern about continuing stability.
The Office for National Statistics says that one in four adults in Britain experiences at least one diagnosable mental health problem and 8-12% of the population experience depression in any one year. The use of therapy animals is becoming more widespread and research conducted by the University of Belfast suggests that pet owners are likely to have higher self-esteem and suffer less loneliness and depression, than those living without pets. National charity, Pets As Therapy, for example, has worked with over 22,000 pets in 25 years and these animals play important roles in hospitals, hospices, care homes, day centres, special needs schools.
Lessons and Work
In addition, McNicholas’ research also showed that pet ownership has an important role in play in education, with significantly less school absenteeism among children who live with pets!
Blaskey said: “If the positive effect of pet ownership on children’s attendance at school is mirrored in adult’s attendance at work, the UK’s pet population may be making a considerable contribution to the UK’s economy and Gross Domestic Product as well as to its ‘Gross National Happiness’ – a happier nation is a healthier and more productive nation”.
Fitness and Health
91% of people surveyed by Pooch and Mutt believe that they’re fitter because they have a dog. But, like the UK’s human population, statistics show that between 30-60% of the UK’s dog population – a minimum of 6.5 million dogs, are overweight. The extra weight that these dogs carry puts added pressure on their joints, meaning that they’re even less able to exercise. This is the same vicious cycle many humans experience.
Blaskey concluded: “As a nation we’re beginning to understand how much dogs contribute to the mental and physical health of their owners, yet people are not necessarily repaying this by looking after the health and wellbeing of their pets. Overweight dogs should be given a glucosamine based supplement to reinforce their joints and help keep them mobile, so that they can burn off excess fat. For dogs that aren’t portly, plenty of exercise and a good diet, supplemented with the right mix of vitamins and minerals, will help dogs to cope with the strains of modern life and keep them in top condition – fit, alert and ready to listen to our problems! A fit dog will mean less expense of vet bills too.”
Blaskey believes that a healthy pet shouldn’t have to visit a vet more than once a year for annual vaccinations. He recommends the following for maintaining optimum health:
- Choose pet food that’s free from added salt, sugar, fat and unnecessary additives. Don’t feed your pet the same food as you eat as this will not meet its nutritional needs
- Use a good all-round worming, flea and tick treatment to keep the parasites away
- Look for a good dietary supplement containing EU approved probiotics, vitamins and minerals
- For older and overweight pets, choose a supplement for keeping joints and bones in good condition
- Check your pet regularly for ticks, especially if they walk and play in long grass
- Brush longer coats to remove parasites, grass seeds, etc, checking inside the ears for
- Keep nails trimmed where necessary
Further information about how to look after your dog’s health is available from www.poochandmutt.com.
Further information and imagery from:
Alison Taylor, AT PR Ltd; firstname.lastname@example.org; 07775 925 452
¹Pooch and Mutt survey of 1,200 UK dog owners published May 2009
²House JS, Landis KR, Umberson D. Social relationships and health. Science 1988;241: 540-4.
³BMJ 2005; 331: 1252-1254 (26 November), doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7527.1252