It is thought that owning a pet reduces stress, thereby improving health. One Japanese study found pet owners made 30 percent fewer visits to doctors. A Melbourne study of 6,000 people showed that owners of pets had lower cholesterol, blood pressure and heart attack risk compared with people who didn’t have pets. There could be a variety of reasons for these results, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the animals play an important part.
Dogs in particular have demonstrated remarkable things in relation to the health of their owners. There are stories of dogs warning their owners of imminent health threats. University of Florida researchers published a report in the journal Seizure noting that some dogs seem to have an innate ability to detect impending seizures. The British Medical Journal examined case studies of dogs alerting people with diabetes of a coming hypoglycemic episode and service dogs are now trained for just such a purpose.
More recently, some studies have suggested dogs can be cancer detectors. In 2006, the medical journal Integrative Cancer Therapies reported how ordinary house dogs could identify breast and lung cancer patients by smelling their breath. A University of Maine study is testing whether dogs can sniff out ovarian cancer. Dogs are amazing creatures, probably possessing abilities we haven’t yet touched on.
But despite these ways that dogs detect and aid people with illness, think about the simple comfort that a pet brings when we’re under the weather. When we’re stuck in bed, regardless of the ailment, there’s something indescribably reassuring about the feel of a warm cat curled up next to us, or the unfailing loyalty of our dog lying beside us. Pets are our companions, our caretakers, our friends. The love us unconditionally, and that love is healing.