Monday, March 28, 2022

Reigning: Cats and Dogs

Pet owners know that dogs and cats are like family members and get joy (as well as the occasional pain) from their animal companions. It is well known that pet ownership went up during the Covid pandemic: the “pandemic puppy” phenomenon.

What you may not know is the health benefits that accrue to pet owners, particularly dog owners.

A recent study from the University of Michigan followed 1369 adults 65 and older, who had normal cognitive skills at entry, over six years. They found that there was less cognitive decline among pet owners. The effect was most pronounced among those who had owned a pet for five years or more. Using a 27-point test score, pet owners had an average score that was 1.2 points higher at 6 years than non-pet owners. For comparison, this is a great difference than bestowed by the controversial drug aduhelm!

Another study looked at 11,233 Japanese adults 65 and older who had no pet or who owned a cat or a dog and followed them over 3.5 years. The dog owners had half the rate of disability develop over the study period compared to non-pet owners. There was no major benefit seen in cat owners. The researchers suggested that the benefit was due to the increased exercise forced on dog owners: dogs must be walked regularly, unlike cats.

Another interesting study was done in the emergency department of a large teaching hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada. Patients coming to the emergency department with painful conditions were randomly assigned to either receive a 10-minute visit from a “therapy dog” or not. Those who had the canine visits had significantly lower pain scores after the visit, as well as less anxiety and depression.

So, when your pet chews the furniture, cut them some slack: they are doing you a lot of good!

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