Source: South Coast Herald (Extract)
Posted: May 16, 2020

Researchers have linked a close relationship with a pet to lower blood pressure, increased cardiovascular health and fitness and even improved immunity.

Pets are in integral and much-loved part of families in millions of homes across the globe, and with good reason, it seems. Dr Liza le Roux, Technical Manager, Companion Animal Team at Zoetis South Africa says that a growing body of work has proven that pets make you healthier.

Researchers have linked a close relationship with a pet to lower blood pressure, increased cardiovascular health and fitness and even improved immunity.

The greater humanisation of pets has been linked to improved quality of life. This has impacted on cancer patients, as well as assisted with caring for the aged and even treating conditions such as autism and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers have shown how pets improve childhood development, build social and communication skills and boost youngsters’ self-esteem. There is also significant evidence that pets can help with a variety of mental disorders, including anxiety, depression and loneliness.

However close you are to your pet, there are certain things that need to be kept in mind. “Many pets no longer sleep outside in a kennel, a barn or a cage. They’ve moved inside our homes and into our bedrooms and our beds. They, and unfortunately their parasites, sleep next to us as well as close to our children! The proximity of pets to people has made basic hygiene all the more important, in particular, parasite control,” says Le Roux.

In South Africa, tick fever and tick bite fever are of particular concern. “If you cannot effectively control ticks, then they can transmit these potentially lethal diseases to dogs. Ticks can also move from animals to humans and can transmit dangerous pathogens.”

The same goes for fleas. In addition to causing itchiness and flea allergy dermatitis, fleas are also intermediate hosts for Dipylidium tapeworm. Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to tapeworm infections due to their playing habits and close proximity to pets.

There is also inevitably greater socialisation not just between pets and humans but also between pets. Le Roux says: “Almost every single weekend, there is a doggy day or walk or doggy adventure trails. Because there’s a lot of interaction between animals, we need to keep vaccinations up to date to prevent transmission of diseases between our animal friends.”

She adds that vaccines not only prevent pet to pet but also pet to human transmission of killer diseases like rabies. “That’s why it is law in South Africa to vaccinate all animals against rabies. Any mammal can contract and transmit rabies.”

“A yearly booster vaccine is recommended, accompanied by a full annual health examination by your vet. This can help to identify conditions that may not have been noticed so treatment can begin far sooner. Dental disease is the most common condition found during an annual check-up. This is not just ‘bad breath’. It is estimated that, by the age of three, 70% of pets will have some degree of dental disease.  Early intervention means happier and healthier pets.”

“Another example is parvo virus, which causes a deadly bloody diarrhea in pups. If you start with and stick to an effective vaccination program and prevent a parvo outbreak in your household, you can save as much as R8 000 in veterinary bills,” concludes Le Roux.

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