The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between pets and their humans. At the heart of this bond is animal welfare, which means we always must take into account the physical, mental and environmental state of the animals we care for.
Sharing your life with a pet is a privilege and also a responsibility that should result in a win-win relationship. As pet owners, we are committing to the lifelong care of our companions, so remember that when choosing a bird or reptile they can outlive you! Make sure to arrange a way to keep them taken care of in the event of your death. Pet owners also need to recognize that there is a financial burden attached to each pet. Furthermore, there is a time commitment and as such we must take into consideration that our lifestyle and physical health play a big role in the bond we share with our pets.
Choosing a companion is a complicated issue and your veterinarian can be a source of advice and a resource for you. The new paradigm of pet ownership is that pets are part of the family, and as such, deserving of our love and attention. Of course, we must be aware of the basic care that includes shelter, food, water, health care, socialization, and a safe environment but love is the glue that keeps the bond strong.
In my recent quest to become certified in the Human-Animal bond, I came across multiple studies in which researchers took samples of the blood pressure, stress parameters, and oxytocin levels of their patients and allowed them to pet dogs, then measured the same parameters. Unsurprisingly, the results showed a statistically significant decline in all of them. Curiously, the dog oxytocin levels were also increased by the interactions. The relevance of these findings is that it proves that our attachment to our pets not only makes us healthier but it affects them positively as well.
There is mounting scientific evidence that demonstrates how pet ownership improves heart health; helps with depression; increases empathy in children, and enriches the lives of senior humans. In addition, companion animals can be trained to do specialized jobs and assist persons suffering from post-traumatic stress, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism. It is important to be aware of the importance of the role Veterinarians have when they take an oath to keep all pets healthy because in an indirect way they help keep the wellbeing of our communities. In our communities, the daily dog walk has become a socialization experience for both pet and walker.
Gandhi said " the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated", and I would like to add to that statement that the measure of the happiness of a nation is also related to the strength of their human-animal bond.
In my practice, we acknowledge, nurture, and facilitate the human-animal bond in every visit, every pet, all the time.