Pets and Your Heart Health

The Annals of Cardiology No.33 | Pets and Your Heart Health

You can read the introduction below or read the full version here.

Does heart disease run in your family? What if I told you there was a treatment that reduced your chances of having a heart attack by 36%? What if the same treatment alleviated depression and reduced your chances of dementia? Would you sign up? The usual reaction to this question is, “Yeah, but what is it? What are the side effects?” Or, “Are you going to tell me it’s exercise?” Well, not exactly.

The treatment I’m referring to is pet ownership. In its most powerful form, it comes as a dog. Less effective, but still useful, versions are cats, and there may also be something to say about parakeets and fish.

Last week I had lunch with Goldie. Goldie is reliable, loyal, loves to be fed, and always responds when I call. Rarely has she snarled or snapped back at me. Goldie is not my golden retriever. She’s my former employee. A few years ago she retired from office management and now house-sits for dogs and their owners. As you might guess, Goldie adores animals. The first time she came over for dinner and noticed our pet rabbits (in cages, obviously) she was horrified. She remained composed, but that didn’t stop her from asking some pointed questions, like: Do you take your rabbits for walks? (Answer: Huh?). Do you give your rabbits massages (Huh?). They were awkward questions, but they were enough to make me go to Noah’s Ark, purchase two rabbit collars/leashes and, for the next month, I took the bunnies for hops around the yard. Mostly I did it out of guilt and, to be honest, the bunnies seemed just as perplexed and uncomfortable with the new routine as I was. The only ones who clearly enjoyed the show were the neighbors.

Continued in the full newsletter…

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