A pet is certainly a great friend. After a difficult day, pet
owners quite literally feel the love.
In fact, for nearly 25 years, research has shown that living
with pets provides certain health benefits. Pets help lower blood pressure and
lessen anxiety. They boost our immunity. They can even help you get dates.
By starting a few new food habits, including counting calories and watching portion sizes, you may be able to lower your blood pressure and reduce the medications you need to control high blood pressure. Here's how.
"The old thinking was that if your family had a pet, the
children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. And if you came from
an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided," says researcher James E.
Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
However, a growing number of studies have suggested that kids
growing up in a home with "furred animals" -- whether it's a pet cat or
dog, or on a farm and exposed to large animals -- will have less risk of
allergies and asthma, he tells WebMD.
In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies
immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an
allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the
If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show
evidence of pet allergies -- 19% vs. 33%. They also were less likely to have
eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In
addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals -- a sign of
stronger immune system activation.
"Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who
have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system,"
Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet
matchmaking -- a dog is a natural conversation starter.
This especially helps ease people out of social isolation or
shyness, Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at
Emory University in Atlanta, tells WebMD.
"People ask about breed, they watch the dog's tricks,"
Kaslow says. "Sometimes the conversation stays at the 'dog level,'
sometimes it becomes a real social interchange."