(a.k.a., Where would we be without each other?)
Most of us can think of a relationship we have or have had with an animal that has been a cherished part of our lives. Our pets are a vital part of our day, and we cannot imagine life without them. This special relationship that people have with animals is called the Human-Animal Bond.
The American Animal Hospital Association describes the Human-Animal Bond as “a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both.” This means that animals and people being together can help both feel better or help us to do our daily tasks.
Having pets in our house can help both dogs and people become more social and physically fit as we take our daily walks to the park and greet other dog owners on our way. We keep each other company especially in times when we are home bound with illness or injury. Animals assist those with disabilities as service animals and at the same time those animals get satisfaction from being needed and having a constant companion.
Animals are also partners in promoting the health of people such as in Animal Assisted Activities, like bringing a dog to a nursing home to cheer up patients, or Animal Assisted Therapies, like a dog being brought in as a “therapy animal” to assist in a person’s physical rehabilitation from stroke. Significant research effort goes into to identifying ways that humans and animals benefit from our interactions and relationships. Studies have shown the following:
- Having pets helps lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Pets and therapy animals help cancer patients, who report “improved perceived health and decreased depressions. Additionally, improved arterial oxygen saturation levels and positive influences on the psychosocial well-being of patients.”*
- Autism spectrum disorder individuals who interact with companion animals show “improved bonding and interactions with others, more appropriate trusting, less repetitive behaviors, reduced aggression, more empathy and improved learning.”*
Most of all, we share with our pets unconditional love. They are our companions, our best friends and our family members.
*Source: “Setting the One Health Agenda and the Human-Companion Animal Bond,”International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)