Dr. Laurel Davis, Asheville’s holistic vet, offers Stories from a Holistic Vet, the blog of a holistic vet and “animal interpreter”. With a clinic in downtown Asheville, NC. Dr. Laurel also offers animal health, lifestyle and vaccination advice for cats, dogs and their human friends across the country.
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Kids and Animals, a Love Story!
Five years old, tousle-haired, scuffed-kneed Elle is led into my consultation room by Rocko; her smallish, leggy, sweet mutt buddy. The energy in the room grows exponentially, filling the space with all the good things: joy, exaltation, delight, frivolity, oneness, and love. Being allowed to spend thirty minutes with them in blissful merriment is a highlight of my day as a holistic vet.
This sheer joyous energy shared between kids and animals is the core from which all good things come. There are many reasons why caring for animals can strengthen a child’s life. Other than the simple wonder and delight innate to the child/critter relationship, here are some practical reasons for inviting furry friends into your family.
Kids and Animals: Nine Surprising Benefits
- Love and nurturing of a family four-legged friend forges a common bond among siblings. Fuzzy companions are often the focus of family adventures out in the world. The sharing of dog walks, grooming, feeding, getting down on the floor for rough and tumble or a superior game of cat and mouse will help teach children cooperation. There are even benefits from simply watching your tiger chase her tail or a fish swim in her tank.
- Exercise! When in doubt, wear them out. Let them go at it, with supervision for the younger set, of course.
- Practice being caregivers. A child who learns to care for an animal and treat it kindly, with patience will gain invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way. Apparently, we don’t learn to nurture just from being nurtured as a child, as we need to practice being caregivers when we’re young.
- Bonus! Get the kids away from their electronics and in the grounding presence of a real, live being.
- Pets Encourage responsibility. Oh yes, enough said!
- Cuddling a fuzzy friend reduces stress, loneliness, and anxiety. Let’s face it, our lives can be crazy and over-stimulating. A crummy day at school has a good chance of unraveling in the presence of an unconditionally loving companion.
- Reading aloud to a four-legged, non-judgmental friend, will help children practice reading. There are even programs that take therapy dogs into schools for this purpose.
- Children with animals in their lives display an improved impulse control, social skills, and self-esteem. Of course, being in a relationship regardless of species brings mental, emotional, and social awareness.
- Fewer doctor’s visits. Besides the stress relief and exercise, there are several immunological reasons these fine beings amplify health. According to a study by Dennis Ownby, MD, a pediatrician and head of the allergy and immunology department of the Medical College of Georgia, having multiple animals actually decreases a child’s risk of developing certain allergies. He found that the children who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats as babies were less than half as likely to develop common allergies as kids who had no pets in the home. Children with animals had fewer positive skin tests to indoor allergens, including pet and dust mite allergens. They also had fewer outdoor allergens such as ragweed and grass. Other studies have suggested that an early exposure to the four-leggeds may decrease a child’s risk of developing asthma.
You may even be lucky enough to experience the additional benefit of musical entertainment! I just chuckled upon watching this adorable video, which captures the very essence of the cherished bond shared between child and animal companion.
Children have so many lessons to learn from caring for our fluffy buddies, and we have so many lessons to learn from the special bond and energy they share.
Here comes the spring and outdoor adventures. Time to let the youngsters and their four-legged friends out to romp in the yard. Watch the frivolous games begin!
Dr. Laurel Davis is a holistic Asheville vet offering phone and Skype consultations for animal lovers everywhere. Call 828-254-2221 or order an Ask Dr. Laurel™ phone or Skype session or bring your dog or cat to her downtown Asheville, NC clinic. Read more patient stories.
Get to know Dr. Laurel by reading her blog.