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Pet prescription: new remedy to common problems

By Gabby Katz

Section: Arts

February 18, 2011

After imprisonment in the library all week from studying for pre-break midterms, it seems as though many are craving social interactions beyond the frozen Canadian geese squawking on the Great Lawn. Since you’re preparing for February break, I thought it would be a good time to suggest purchasing something that could bring you continuous companionship both throughout the break and rest of the school year. No, not a hooker or a JDATE account; I am thinking more along the lines of a pet. According to the CDC, NIH and MSN, having a pet can provide a multitude of health benefits for your mental, social and physical health!

Pets like dogs can help fight weight gain. A recent study by St. George’s University shows that kids with dogs take 360 more steps and exercise 11 minutes more per day than kids without dogs exercise. This, in turn, can combat high triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels while lowering any heart disease risks that are associated with being overweight. In previous articles, I’ve outlined the benefits of exercise, but, just to reiterate, exercising more with your puppy can increase the release of endorphins and make you a happier person.

OK, so your Great Dane makes your forced triple a little too squished (not to mention that it’s also illegal in the dorms), but no problem—cuddling with any furry pet can help bring zen to your life. As Ph.D. sociologist Christine Carter explained to The Huffington Post, research from Buffalo University shows that adult pet owners had lower blood pressure when responding to stress than adults without pets. The CDC also says petting your furry pets can decrease feelings of loneliness, and playing with your pets can increase your levels of dopamine and serotonin, both of which are natural anti-depressants. In addition, there’s something to be said about coming home to someone that unconditionally loves you. After all, how could you not be happy after a slobbery kiss?

Owning a pet, furthermore, can decrease depression through potential involvement in a social network of pet owners. If you’re shy, talking about your pet can be an easy way to open yourself up to others and create new opportunities for socialization. Pets can facilitate matchmaking, as many people initially find their soul mates through a shared love of animals. EHarmony has some serious competition with Lassie.

Lastly, many studies now indicate that having a pet helps prevent the development of allergies. A study by the Medical College of Georgia shows that kids who live with pets are 50 percent less likely to develop allergies than kids who do not, an outcome which results from the endotoxins introduced by pets to their owners. In an interview with Fox News, researcher M.D. James Gern stated that people who grow up with furry pets have a lower risk of developing asthma, allergies and eczema.

I know my dog Tova is the queen of our household and, when any one of my family members has a bad day, she seems to absorb all the sadness just by sitting on their lap. She’s also always glad to be my snuggle buddy every Valentine’s Day and never expects me to buy her flowers. Really, what else could I ask for? With PETCO down the street from Main street and multiple local shelters in the area, a new friend is anxiously awaiting your adoption. Enjoy your new furry friendship and remember that they help you as much as you help take care of them.

As always, tune in for more health tips and send me an e-mail at gkatz10@brandeis.edu with any health-related questions you may have.

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