Zooeyia: Doctors Outline the Health Benefits of Companion Animals

Here’s a good word of the day for animal lovers: “zooeyia”—a combination of the Greek words for animal and health.  It describes the human health benefits of companion animals.  And there are a lot of them!

An article for physicians in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine lists the many physical and emotional health benefits of living with companion animals.

Here are some key ways that the presence of pets in our lives can help us:

  • Pets reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing us with companionship, attachment, and opportunities for social connection.
  • Having pets in the home can reduce harmful health behaviors like smoking because we don’t want to put our pets at risk.
  • Walking dogs and playing with pets provides people with daily opportunities to increase their amount of exercise and physical activity.
  • The presence of a companion animal can decrease stress and blood pressure. Pets can also reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and increase our sense of self-worth.

The article notes that physicians should educate pet-owning patients about the possible risks of animals, such as the transmission of zoonotic diseases, but stresses that the health benefits outweigh the risks.

Does your doctor ask you about your pets?  According to the authors, talking to patients about their animals is a great opportunity for doctors to improve the quality of patient care!

 

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Is Pet Insurance the Right Choice for You?

The start of a new year is the time when many us of make resolutions to take better care of our health.  But what about our pets?  Do your wellness plans for your best friend include getting pet health insurance?

Many dog and cat owners consider pet insurance, and some employers even offer it as part of their employee benefits package.  But is it the right option for you?

The decision to get insurance for your pet depends on many individual factors.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself—and any potential insurance companies—before you buy.

What is the annual cost of pet insurance?

This can depend on your particular situation, including the cost of living in your area and the breed and age of your pet.  Consumer advocates warn that the cost of your annual premium may be higher than the benefits you receive.

One study found that while the cost for coverage is around $500 a year, most pet owners saw only around $275 in paid claims.

Do you own a “high-risk” dog breed?

Cats are generally less expensive to insure than dogs, but not all dogs cost the same to insure.  Some breeds are much more expensive than others.

The experts at the website I Heart Dogs report that some large breed dogs like the St. Bernard and Irish Wolfhound are especially pricey to insure.

They recommend choosing a plan that covers inherited and chronic health conditions (such as hip and elbow dysplasia).  Make sure the plan covers all aspects of treatment for an illness or injury (like overnight care).

What’s covered and what’s not covered?

Make sure you understand what each insurance plan covers and what is excluded.  All plans vary but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind.

According to the website Wag! you should be prepared to cover a lot of preventive care yourself.  This includes things like dental cleanings, parasite prevention, vaccinations, spay/neuter, non-traditional therapies, and prescription diets.

What should be covered under a good plan?  Farmers Insurance notes that plans should cover treatment for accidents and injuries, and certain illnesses like cancer, arthritis, and diabetes.

Remember to review plans carefully for details on coverage of hereditary and pre-existing conditions.

How can you compare insurance plans?

Ready to look into getting pet health insurance but not sure where to start?  Check out this veterinarian-reviewed, comprehensive guide to pet health insurance plans from the website lendedu.com.

 

The Signals Dogs Use to Tell Us What They Want

A study published in the journal Animal Cognition has identified multiple “signals” dogs use to indicate when they want our attention.

Signals are defined as requests made with an object and/or a part of the body.  They also need to be directed at an individual and repeated.

After studying dozens of potential canine signals, the researchers identified 19 that clearly indicated specific requests.  The most common were related to going outside, getting food, drink or a toy, and wanting to be scratched.

Common signals include pawing at something (or someone), jumping up, and turning the head between a person and a desired object.  Many dogs will also pick their toys up and toss them a short distance or give a gentle “chomp” on a person’s arm.

How does your best friend get your attention?!

You can read the full article HERE and watch a brief video on the study from National Geographic here:

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Holiday Pet Safety Tips from the AVMA

Are you keeping your pets safe this holiday season?  Lots of tempting food and decorations around the house could lead to an unexpected holiday visit to the vet!

Here are a few common-sense holiday pet safety tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Certain people foods are toxic or unhealthy for our dogs and cats.  Make sure these popular holiday food items are out of reach:

  • Chocolate, sweets, and baked goods (the artificial sweetener xylitol is toxic to dogs)
  • Turkey skin and bones
  • Onions, raisins, nuts, and grapes
  • Alcohol
  • Raw yeast dough

Some holiday decorations can pose health hazards to pets, including:

  • Unsecured Christmas trees (and Christmas tree water that contains additives)
  • Tinsel, lights, and ornaments
  • Flowers and plants (including amaryllis, mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias)
  • Potpourri and lit candles

Here’s a cute infographic on holiday pet dangers from the AVMA that you can keep as a reminder!

 

 

“Cute Aggression” — Why We Want to Squeeze Adorable Baby Animals

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by a cute baby animal that you wanted to squeeze it or take a pretend bite out of it?  Don’t worry you’re not weird…turns out there’s a scientific explanation for this feeling.  It’s called cute aggression!

A study published in the journal Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience sheds some new light on how our brains are triggered by the sight of cute animals.

A group of people were shown images of animals, ranging from adults to babies, and the researchers measured their brain activity and verbal responses.

The results?  No surprise…the cuter the animal (big eyes, round face, etc.) the stronger the cute aggression response!  Subjects showed more brain activity and expressed a desire to squish or eat the baby animal in the picture.

According to an article on the study written for the website Gizmodo, not everyone has the cute aggression response when they see baby animals.  The lead researcher estimates that between 25 to 30% of people don’t have it, but most of us do.

Why do so many people experience cute aggression?  Scientists theorize that it’s our way of processing overwhelming positive emotions.  The sight of a baby animal triggers our caregiving response.  Cuter or more infantile looking animals evoke stronger caretaking feelings than older looking animals.