Pakistan is one of a small number of countries that do not have animal welfare laws in place, yet rather than lamenting the situation, one key to improvement is a greater awareness of the health benefits – both physical and mental – that dogs can bring to children and adults. The human-canine bond goes back to time immemorial. For centuries, humans have provided dogs with shelter in return for unconditional friendship. On a worldwide scale, is is thought that around 32 million dogs live alongside humans, enhancing their health in many more ways than is immediately visible.
Dogs Boost Psychological Health
Canine companionship can quell a major obstacle to human health and happiness: stress, which studies showing that the company of a pet can significantly lower stress hormone, cortisol, in both adults and children. Dogs helps kids reach a more mindful state in which they are fully focused on the present. Dog owners are less likely to be depressed than those who don’t own pets; they also manage blood pressure better in tough situations, and tend to visit the doctor less frequently.
Did you know that stress is a contributing factor to a plethora of diseases, including obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes? It is often discussed as an adult issue, but research indicates that children as young as six or seven can encounter stress at school, sometimes in the form of bullying. Dogs provide kids with a loving environment to come home to and a friend that loves them unconditionally.
Physiological Benefits of Dog Ownership for Kids
Study after study has shown that dogs boost our physical and mental health. Obesity is an emerging problem in Pakistan, for adults as well as children, with more female than male children affected. Dogs boost children’s activity levels naturally, with studies showing that dog owners spend around 11 more minutes a day moving around than those who don’t have dogs. Parents can boost this effect by taking family walks to the park, and playing outdoor games that the whole family can take part in.
Research has also shown that in homes with children with autism, parents report less stress, improved companionship and better learning opportunities for children, when the household has a dog. Not all kids with autism benefit from dogs, however; those that are sensitive to barking and other noises can benefit more from quieter dogs or other pets such as a cat or rabbit.
Dogs and Allergies
One study carried out at the University of Wisconsin Pediatrics Unit found that dogs can exert a beneficial effect on children’s immunity, especially if they are introduced to during infancy. The researchers noted that by the time children are aged three, they are more likely to have less allergy symptoms (including wheezing and atopic dermatitis) if they have a dog. Another study published last year found that dogs may protect against childhood eczema and asthma, even when children are allergic to dogs. Those with allergies can reduce exposure by keeping the dog out of their bedroom, washing hands after playing with, bathing the dog at least once weekly, and considering the installation of a HEPA filter, which can progressively lessen allergen levels.
Dogs bring us friendship, companionship, and a host of physical and mental benefits that are worth cherishing and protecting. If you already have a dog, then you probably know the boost in joy and activity they can bring. Do your best to increase awareness of their rights and needs, contributing in your own way to making life safer for all dogs.