Your Pet Can Lengthen Your Life!

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, General Health
Last Reviewed 02/07/2014

During a medical conference lecture I gave years ago, one of the doctors in the audience asked whether I had any experience in the healing benefits of companion animals.

Although I couldn't quantify the degree of benefit, I said that, over the years, many patients have told me how comforting their pets have been to them and how they considered their animals a vital part of recovery. Some said they couldn't wait to come back to their animals following surgery or hospitalization.

Medical research also supports the healing benefits of companion animals. Specifically, they have been found to significantly increase longevity in people with coronary artery disease who have a heart attack, reduce blood pressure, and enhance the opportunity to meet other people. Their pets also allow people to be alone without being lonely.

If you don't have a pet, but think you might like some four-legged companionship, here are some guidelines to help you choose a dog to bless your home.

1. Search for a compatible animal. Different breeds have different temperaments. Some are more passive, others more active. Some dogs bark. Some don't. Some breeds shed more than others. Some breeds are more susceptible to certain disorders. Learn from books, the Internet, by talking to breeders, or from knowledgeable friends.

2. If you find an appealing pet, try the following maneuver. Turn the animal gently and quickly on its back, belly up. (If it's a puppy, you can do this in your cupped hands. If the animal is larger, do this on a table or the ground.) Animals who respond quietly are friendly as you stroke their underside tend to be submissive and more trainable. Animals that squirm excessively, bite or claw at you, and try frantically to right themselves may have behavioral problems and a hyperactive nature, and be harder to train.

3. Check out appearance. Does the animal seem hyperactive or dull and depressed? You want a balance. Also, look for a shiny coat and a lean body. A bony frame with a potbelly may indicate parasites and/or poor nutrition. Look in the mouth. A healthy exterior reflects inner health. Check the ears for mites. Clear, bright eyes radiate intelligence and energy.

A wrinkled or worried brow, snarling, or curled lips are behavioral warning signs. Pale gums may mean anemia or parasites, while red, inflamed tissue suggests gum disease. Before you make a purchase or acquisition, have a veterinarian check out the animal.

4. Follow these same guidelines of selecting a feline companion.

Now it’s your turn: Do you have a pet?

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