Photo illustration by Inger Furholt

The one thing I miss most from home is Levi, my golden retriever-German shepherd mix. He is always so happy to see me and his energetic personality always makes me smile. In fact, many would say that owning pet has positive effects, both physically and emotionally.

Peteducation.com offers information about the benefits of owning a pet and provides articles to help pet owners answer questions.

The site reports that people who own dogs are more likely to have healthy hearts. Dog ownership might also be a reason why some people are more likely to survive a heart attack. Even if it causes only a two to three percent increase for survival, research says it’s a noteworthy difference. Not only that, but pets may actually decrease the possibility of a heart attack.

That may be due to the fact that people generally have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels due to interaction with pets. A study found on peteducation.com showed that children at a doctor’s appointment had a lower heart rate accompanied by lower blood pressure and less behavioral distress when with a dog. Studies also showed that in women, interacting with pets reduced blood pressure more effectively than interacting with friends.

Becca Bustraan, biochemistry freshman, isn’t surprised by this fact. “I feel happier when I’m around my dog because Cooper is the cutest dog in the whole world and he’s always so full of life,” she said.

The potential for increased physical activity is another perk to owning pets. Pets not only need daily exercise, but also require upkeep. Those with pets at home generally have fewer visits to the doctor and not as many minor health problems as those living without an animal companion.

Peteducation.com shows that dogs especially seem to provide many medical benefits. Some are trained to predict seizures. The dog is able to sense a type of change before a seizure and signals the owner, sometimes predicting it up to 45 minutes ahead of time.

Other dogs are able to assist those with Parkinson’s disease. Those with the disease sometimes experience “freezing.” This occurs when the feet freeze in place, but the body continues to move, causing the individual to lose balance and fall. Studies have found that if a dog touches the foot, it breaks the freeze. So far there is no explanation available as to how or why it works. Dogs are also able to counterbalance the person’s weight, keeping them from falling.

The most extraordinary medical benefit is George, a dog living in Florida. He is reported to be able to find malignant melanomas. George can identify this cancer due to a particular scent caused by the skin tumors associated with it. He does this with almost perfect accuracy.

Pets also have mental and emotional benefits. Studies have shown that pets help people deal with illness and death by providing physical contact and taking the edge off of loneliness.
“If you’re with them, you’re never bored. They always manage to entertain you in some way,” said Lashae Bacon, business freshman.

Pets are shown to increase happiness because people generally feel safer and more relaxed around animals. They also provide something, or someone, to care for, which in turn supplies consistency in peoples’ daily lives and even helps to build social skills.

Ashley Lejuerrne, undecided freshman, has two golden retriever/poodle mixes. Lily and Maggie are sometimes her best friends. “They love you all the time, unconditionally, even when you don’t feed them on time,” she said. “I miss them because they used to always greet me when I got home. My roommate doesn’t do that.”

Erin Morris is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at erin.morris@sckans.edu.