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Animal magic

By Robert Nurden 16/02/2013

Could your pet keep you healthy?

A furry friend can boost your wellbeing...

Whether you’re old or young, a furry friend can boost your wellbeing, says Money Matters contributor Robert Nurden.

Pet owners don’t need to be told that having an animal companion around the place is more of a boon than a burden – at least most of the time. Yet, while every pet owner senses there’s a feel-good factor to living with an animal, experts are now coming up with hard medical evidence to support the notion, too.

From encouraging exercise and lowering blood pressure to providing unconditional love and mood lifts, keeping a pet is a win-win situation. So says Julia Dando, training manager at SCAS, the Society for Companion Animal Studies (01993 867214). ‘Owning a pet has huge benefits,’ says Julia. ‘For example, dog-walking keeps you fit, helps reduce the risk of heart attack and cuts cholesterol levels.’ Taking man’s best friend for a walk is one of the most obvious ways to keep in shape. But the trend for agility classes – where dogs tackle obstacle courses – adds a fun and competitive element. Check out agilitynet.co.uk, which lists most available agility classes nationwide.

‘Pets and Children’, a 2011 study by SCAS, shows that kids growing up with a dog or cat in the home are healthier and more emotionally balanced. But the advantages extend to all age groups, including the elderly.

‘There are huge psychological benefits to having a pet,’ says Clare Guest of the charity Medical Detection Dogs (01296 655888). ‘They can provide a sense of self-esteem for those lacking in confidence, and often give a much-needed social outlet. Sufferers of Alzheimer’s Disease have fewer anxious outbursts if there’s a pet nearby.

‘For the depressed and bereaved, it can offer a focus and help to heal mental anguish and overcome loneliness. It is one way of getting unconditional love.’

Precious Poppy

Yorkshire terrier Poppy has transformed the life of diabetic Philippa Copleston-Warren, 37. How? By smelling chemical changes when her blood sugar levels dip. She gives Philippa advance warning and prevents her from passing out. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without her,’ says Philippa, a business consultant who works from her London home. ‘She looks after me and tells me if I’m becoming hypoglycemic. She’s a miracle dog.’

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