Dogs Ranked #1 Healthiest For Benefiting Humans’ Happiness and LongevityA wealth of studies suggests that pets are good for your health, sometimes in unexpected ways. The right pet can lower your risk for heart disease, curb stress, and even sniff out illnesses. In fact, the more attached you are to your pet, the stronger its protective health benefits may be. Health magazine asked three animal authorities to review nearly 30 years of research on animal companions’ health benefits on humans to help come up with a list of America’s Healthiest Pets. The six winners are in the May issue, on newsstands April 28th.
Studies link dog ownership to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and dog owners also seem to live longer after a heart attack and get more exercise than non-owners. Then there’s also the mood-boosting benefit, simply petting a dog is like a spa treatment; you get a massive release of mood-boosting serotonin. Add to the list the role canine’s play as service companions and the striking ways they’re contributing to medicine, and there’s really no argument that man (and woman’s) best friend is aptly named. What kind of breed is best? Our experts recommend small, mixed-breed shelter pups. If you’re allergic, look for a breed that doesn’t shed much (though no breed is truly allergy-proof) like poodles or poodle mixes and, of course, the Obamas’ choice; a Portuguese water dog.
More than 30% of Americans live with at least one cat, and they’re probably getting the same stress relief and happy-hormone release from their pet of choice that dog-owners get, there are just less studies to prove it. The busier you are the healthier choice a feline may be; cats are low maintenance, so you don’t have to feel guilty about getting home late.
The meditative escape of an aquarium is a great alternative if you’re stressed out or allergic to furry friends. Numerous studies show that spending time in nature and around wildlife reduces stress and improves well-being, and an aquarium lets you bring that healing action indoors.
Human companions for ages, birds have only recently been recognized for their healing properties. Like fish, these small-space-friendly creatures offer “nature on demand” in your home. They provide the same interactive pleasures that make dogs and cats hugely popular and several species truly thrive in captivity and can bond with their owners for life.
Their size and strength can make them a bit intimidating to a novice rider, but therein lies their substantial healing power. By gaining control of a horse, a creature much larger than yourself, you can gain control of a larger problem in your life. This is why you’ll find horses used in hundreds of animal-assisted therapy programs that benefit at-risk youth, abused women, people with disabilities, eating disorders and other groups. For many of us there’s no room in the backyard—or the budget—for an equine friend. But you can always volunteer to groom at a stable, or check out your area’s horse rental stables.
Our judges say these gentle creatures—and other “pocket pets,” including gerbils, guinea pigs, and rabbits—can bond with people and give kids experience with responsibility, as well as an appreciation for life and death.
Health (www.Health.com) is America’s most-trusted health-and-wellness magazine, giving women credible, useful, and up-to-date information and inspiration on how to live healthier, happier lives. Health covers well-being, fitness, nutrition, and beauty with intelligence and flair, showing that healthy living isn’t just important — it’s fun, too. The magazine is published 10 times a year, reaching nearly 8 million readers with each issue.