Your Pet Is Your Immunity Shield

  • 3 mins read
  • Wellbeing
  • Relationships
  • Dr. Jatin Bhide

Owning a pet can do miracles for our mental health, but research has found that it can naturally boost your immune system too.   

Our furry friends are no less than family members to us.

They are an important part of our lives and bless us with the most adorable moments to cherish for a lifetime. No one can deny the emotional benefits of having a pet.

Emotional support and unconditional love? Yes, please.

We all need more of that. But did you know that pets can boost your immunity? Let’s find out how our four-legged companions are looking out for us and our immune systems.

Pets: Your Immuno-Therapists

Owning a pet can do miracles for our mental health, but research has found that it can naturally boost your immune system too. It is noted that children who grow up in rural farms have fewer allergies than their urban counterparts as animal dander can act as natural immunotherapy. The presence of pets around us induces some changes in the microbes already present in our body (especially gut, skin, and respiratory system) and provides these wonderful benefits:

Cuddly stressbusters, effective immune boosters

No normal person can maintain a straight face with puppy eyes glaring at him/her. Pets, in their mysterious ways, manage to wash away stress and bring out our playfulness. Interacting with animals can lower stress hormones in our bodies, which would otherwise suppress our immunity. Hence, keep your pets close, and stress away. 

Off and running

Let’s be honest. How many times have you dashed behind your pets on the streets? Or wondered, “Am I walking my pet, or is he walking me?” Countless, am I right? Owning a pet means running for your life – literally. The increased levels of physical activity and regular exercise can boost your immunity and energy levels immensely. Remember that the next time you’re on a chase!

Don’t want your child to miss school? Get them a pet!

We’re not kidding with this one! Cats and dogs have a kind of protective effect on your respiratory system during early childhood development. Early exposure to pets can lower the risk of developing asthma in children. Studies have shown that children who grow up in pet-owning households are less likely to miss school than those who do not have pets.

Pet away your illnesses

This may sound strange, but the simple act of petting an animal can prevent illness! Certain proteins called immunoglobulins are present in our body and are crucial for immune response. Studies have suggested that petting an animal can boost the levels of certain immunoglobulins (specifically IgA), linked to less frequent illnesses.

Owning a pet can be life-changing. These amazing creatures do much more for us than we give them credit for. From guarding our houses to protecting our health, they do it all. And ask for nothing in return. The least we can do is take care of our health to ensure they have a fit and healthy owner. Let’s vouch to be strong and active for our beloved animals.

 References:

  1. Taborda-Barata L. Pets and Immunomodulation. In: Ramiro PM, Sousa ACA (eds.).  Pets as Sentinels, Forecasters and Promoters of Human Health. Springer International Publishing. 2020;209-243.
  2.  Sinojia MJ.  Stress management and pet therapy. Int J Bus Quant Economics Appl Manag Res.2014;1(5):54-60.
  3. Stress Weakens the Immune System. Available from:https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune. Accessed on 20 April 2021.
  4. Hodgson K, et al. Pets’ impact on your patients’ health: Leveraging benefits and mitigating risk. J Am Board Fam Med. 2015;28(4):526-34.
  5. Charnetski CJ, et al. Effect of petting a dog on immune system function. Psychol Rep. 2004;95(3 Pt 2):1087-91.
  6. Pets: Do They Enhance Our Immunity. Available from:https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/42723/PDF/1/. Accessed on 20 April 2021.

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