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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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FDA Veterinarian Newsletter May/June 1999 Volume XIV, No III

National Pet Week will be celebrated May 2 - 8, 1999, and provides a time to reflect on the positive impact that pets have on our society. "Taking Care of Each Other" is the theme for this year’s campaign as we pay tribute to the joy and love pets bring to our lives.

Numerous studies now document the health benefits of the human-animal bond. In addition to the traditional role of animals as helpers and guardians of disabled individuals, pets have helped millions of people who suffer from a variety of afflictions, from high blood pressure to AIDS. Senior citizens receive enormous comfort from the companionship of pets, and the health benefits are becoming more evident. Pet therapy is now utilized increasingly as physicians are recognizing the positive effects in treating human patients with the therapeutic use of animals. A study of heart attack victims demonstrated that patients with pets in the family have a significantly greater chance of surviving. Another study showed that people’s blood pressure is lower when they are talking to pets than to other people.

Reasons for a pet’s positive impact on human health include: social support, reduction of stress, anxiety and anger, and the provision of something to nurture. Animals are also becoming an integral part of rehabilitation for children undergoing psychiatric treatment, or experiencing learning difficulties. Pets can teach children responsibility, and social interaction at a young age.

It is now widely recognized that pet ownership can have a very positive effect on the quality of human life. By the same token, pet owners must ensure the quality of their pet's lives by providing proper health care for their beloved friends. Due to the high social value on animals, veterinary care is gaining recognition in our society. Many pet owners think of medical care for their pets in much the same way they would for any other family member.

Many high-tech advances in veterinary medicine can extend the life of pets. Radiation therapy, bone replacements, allergy testing, dental work, and behavior modifications are now available options used regularly to ensure pets' comfort. Adjunct veterinary facilities, such as animal blood banks, are emerging, as well.

Together pet owners and their veterinarians can have a positive influence on their pet’s health and happiness for many years to come. The rewards of pet ownership will be mutually beneficial and will last a lifetime.