Is it healthy for a person to share a house with a pet?

Angela is a mother of three, two girls and a boy. They live with pets in a five bedroom apartment. Her two girls spend most of their time at home cuddling the cat and feeling its fur. The boy hangs out with the dog on the balcony and when its dinner time, the dog eats the leftovers from the friend's (boy) plate.

Angela is a mother of three, two girls and a boy. They live with pets in a five bedroom apartment. Her two girls spend most of their time at home cuddling the cat and feeling its fur. The boy hangs out with the dog on the balcony and when its dinner time, the dog eats the leftovers from the friend’s (boy) plate. 

While some people think that these animals are meant to provide security, Angela considers these adorable pets a source of company for her kids. She is also aware that animals need to be vaccinated against diseases to ensure safety towards her children.

What experts say

In fact many people understand the risk that animals pose inside a residential home but they choose to keep them for several reasons. In most cases, dogs are meant to inhibit intruders while cats are thought to keep mice away. But what do health experts and researchers have to say about adopting a pet?

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A child plays with a dog. Veterinary doctors say pets should be
vaccinated at least every year. (Solomon Asaba)

“Since animals are the carriers of lice, fleas and germs, it is important to ensure that they are safe before domestication,” says Dr. Alphose Rutayisire, a veterinary doctor at CLINIVET Kigali PETS Ltd.

“Through animal bites and scratches, infections may find their way into the body of a healthy human being. That’s why the first step is to ensure that all animals receive vaccination from zoonotic diseases (diseases transmitted by animals).

Dr Olivier Manzi, a specialist in infectious diseases and a lecturer at University Teaching Hospital, also agrees that microbial infections such as salmonella, E-Coli are mostly present in animal environments.

However, Dr. Rutayisire also emphasises that, “leptospirosis, influenza, rabies, ringworms, sporotrichosis, toxoplasmosis, larval migraines and Lyme disease spread by ticks are common in unhygienic and untreated animals.” Since animals have evolved to be part of the human lifestyle, it is mostly important to know how to keep them in the healthiest way.

How to handle pets in a home

Dr Rutayisire advises that, “besides vaccination, domestic animals like dogs should be dewormed regularly.

He adds that, “When animals play, external parasites are picked up in the fur and craws. Medicated shampoos should be used to kill ticks and fleas which also spread from one animal to the other. Animals should be brushed with with soapy water”

“The scourge of microbial contamination is on the rise, and animals harbour many different species of these, they should therefore not be given liberty to share rooms with human beings,” Dr Manzi warns.

“All pets in a home should easily be identified by people and this is only possible through using tags, tattoos, microchips, collars bearing the names and address such that in case any problem arises they can easily be traced,”Justin Mukadaisenga, a dog trainer advises.

Why you should own a pet

Studies by the Minnesota Stroke Institute that followed more than 4,000 cat owners over 10 years, revealed that owning a cat can dramatically reduce a person’s chance of dying from a heart disease.

People who owned cats were 30 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. However, these conclusions cannot be made about dogs although suspicions were high that a dog study would provide similar results.

This study merely adds to the existing evidence that shows how animals can benefit human health.

Psychologists of the British Veterinary Association have found reason to believe that owning a dog helps to lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol while similar research shows that pets help us feel better overall and help us to deal with stress, which can be a source of illness

And let’s not forget the benefits for the elderly. For example, one study observed neural activity in seniors while they walked or interacted with a dog. It turned out that walking with a dog gave seniors a boost in parasympathetic nervous system activity, which is good because the parasympathetic nervous system helps calm and rest the body.

Other studies have also indicated that pets certainly can have a special effect on their owners. It is also possible for a dog to foresee its owner’s seizures and even detect cancer.
Victorin Uwanziga, a resident of Remera, says, “I always get to find out that there is someone at my door when my cat starts making noise. This relieves my worries before even opening the door.”

Eric Gabiro, a dog owner, also agrees with Uwanziga that, “barks from his dog provide relief from panic. From my dog’s alarm, I can predict what is in the surrounding.”

All studies indicate that owning pets is essential to the general health and physical activity. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health revealed that dog owners were 34 percent more likely to complete the recommended minimum 150 minutes of exercise per week.

Other research has shown that dog owners walk 19 more minutes a week on average, and that having a family dog increases physical activity among adolescents.

 

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