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Mind, Body & Spirit - 2018
Science has a healthy respect for the power of
pets
If youngsters have been eye- ing fuzzy kittens or boisterous puppies at nearby shelters or pet stores, parents may want to give in
to those cries for a family pet. Pets are added responsibilities, but the health benefits associated with pet ownership may be well worth the investment of time and effort.
Caring for a pet is sometimes viewed as a childhood rite of passage, but there’s much more to the experience than just learning re- sponsibility. Experts say a child’s emotional, cognitive, physical, and social development can be enhanced through interaction with a family pet. Studies continue, but the effects of family pets on children was heavily re- searched by developmental psychologist Gail F. Melson in 2003. Melson looked at literature on child-animal relationships and found that children who had pets were better able to understand biology and chil- dren who could turn to pets for uncondi- tional emotional support were less anxious and withdrawn than their peers without family pets to turn to.
Data from a small study conducted by re- searchers at the Cummings School of Veteri- nary Medicine at Tufts University reported that adolescents who had animal experi- ence were more likely to see themselves as important contributors to communities and
more likely to take on leadership roles.
Pets also can help children develop into well-rounded individuals. Playing with a pet requires children to engage in physical activi- ty and can help stimulate motor skills. An En- glish study conducted in 2010 and published in the American Journal of Public Health found that children from dog-owning families spent more time in light or moderate to vigorous physical activity and recorded higher levels of activity counts per minute than kids whose
families did not own a dog.
Pets may help with allergies and respiratory ailments as well. A 2012 study by the American Acad- emy of Pediatrics discovered that children who have early contact with cats and dogs have few- er respiratory infections and ear infections and need shorter courses of antibiotics than chil- dren who have not had contact
with pets.
A study from Dennis Own-
by, MD, a pediatrician and head of the allergy and immunolo- gy department of the Medical College of Georgia, found that having multiple pets decreases a child’s risk of developing cer- tain allergies. He found that the


































































































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