Man’s (and Baby’s) Best Friend

July 13, 2012 / Michael M. Siegel, MD

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Are you a dog lover? There is some good news if you are! A recent study shows that infants living in households with dogs are healthier and have fewer ear infections than their non-canine owning peers. Researchers believe the main reason for this benefit is the exposure to different dirt and bacteria brought in by dogs helps strengthen babies’ immune systems.

In addition to these benefits for babies, there are other reasons that having a dog can improve your health.

Exercise from walking. Any responsible dog owner knows that taking your dog for walks is important for them. Luckily, while making sure your dog gets exercise, you will also benefit from the additional activity.

Stress relief. Having a cat or dog has been proven time and again to improve people’s psychological well-being and self esteem. Just 15 minutes bonding with your pet can relieve anxiety and enhance your mood. Improve blood pressure. Studies show that pet ownership can help lower blood pressure and even speed up recovery from heart disease, increasing life expectancy.

Unconditional love. It is difficult to put a value on the loyalty and companionship pet owners receive. Some therapists recommend pet ownership for people battling depression. Cats and dogs can be great listeners and they don’t talk back! While there are many health benefits to pet ownership, it is not something to take on lightly without thinking it through. It is a big responsibility and can also be a financial strain.

Do you have pets? What other ways has pet ownership improved your health?