Toddler girl sitting at a table with stickers with golden retriever dog

The Benefits of Having a Pet

Are you debating whether or not to have a pet join your family? A pet can be a perfect addition to your child’s life and has the potential to provide much more than loyalty and afternoon cuddles. Having a pet in your home can actually boost your child’s emotional, physical and intellectual vitality.

From an emotional perspective, a pet can distract a child from pain, unpleasant medical treatments and general anxiety associated with a difficult diagnosis.  Certified therapy dogs are often incorporated into treatment plans at children’s hospitals for this very reason.  While your child may not be dealing with an extended hospital stay, a pet can help relieve the everyday stress associated with “boo-boos” or sad feelings.  A pet provides warmth, comfort and a sense of familiarity, which may give your child extra emotional support in times of uncertainty.

As a whole, growing children are susceptible to getting sick. But, those who have pets tend to develop stronger immune systems. In fact, having a pet in a household can lower a child’s risk of developing common allergies and asthma. Children love playing with pets, which offers an easy opportunity for more physical activity.  Increased exercise while actively engaging with a pet helps improve overall health and well being.

Pets are also great for children with disabilities. Certain pets can make every day activities easier and safer for a child. Dogs tend to be the animals that are best able to provide assistance to the disabled. After extensive training, certified therapy dogs can assist children with disabilities such as:

  • Blindness – Guide dogs are trained to be the “eyes” for a blind person. This can help make tasks like crossing the street and traveling easier and safer.
  • Deafness – Hearing dogs are able to alert children of important sounds such as alarms, telephones, or a friend talking to them.
  • Diabetes – Diabetic alert dogs are trained to sense when a child’s hypoglycemia levels change. This change is undetectable by humans without a blood sugar test.
  • Epilepsy – Seizure response dogs initially are used to call for help or to protect a child while he or she is seizing. Some dogs, after a long period of time, are able to sense an oncoming seizure.

Pets can offer more than just emotional and physical support; they can also provide intellectual support.  Children who are learning to read may feel more comfortable reading aloud to a pet.  This sense of companionship and support may also help a child to engage in conversations and better interact when a pet is present.  As a pet may help support communication and reading skills, children with pets may feel an increased sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

In the formative years of a child’s development, a pet can serve as a confidant, playmate and best friend.  A pet can be a wonderful addition to any growing family.

Why do you want to add a pet to your family?

“Animal Assisted Therapy for Special Needs Children.” Equine Therapy. Web. 24 October 2013.

<http://www.equine-therapy-programs.com/special-needs-children.html>.

David, Jeanie Lerch. “5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health.” WebMD. WebMD, LLC. Web. 24 October 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/health-benefits-of-pets>.

Meyer, David. “10 Reasons Pets are Good for Kids.” Oprah. Harpo Productions, Inc. 10 June 2010. Web. 24 October 2013.  <http://www.oprah.com/relationships/10-Reasons-Pets-Are-Good-for-Kids>.

McCandless, Sarah Grace. “Top 5 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet.” Animal Planet. Discovery Communications, LLC. Web. 24 October 2013. <http://animal.discovery.com/pets/benefits-of-pets.htm>.

<http://www.doggiebuddy.com/topics/pdf/assistance.pdf >.

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