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How The Pet Effect Shows Why Animals Are Our Best Friends

February 14, 2019
the pet effect

People have been keeping pets for as long as tens of thousands of years. What started as a utilitarian relationship has evolved into an unbreakable friendship.

People love their pets, and most people who have them consider them family members. It’s obvious that pets make people feel good, but researchers are learning more about the positive impacts they have on health — physical, mental, social and otherwise. The positive impact pets have on our physiology, known as the pet effect, is further proof that animals are our best friends.

Here are some examples of how pets positively impact our health.

Cardiovascular Health

According to the Pet Effect, a campaign that aims to raise awareness of the health benefits of pets, having a pet may lower resting blood pressure. One study has even found that having a dog in the room can lower blood pressure more effectively when people are under stress than taking an ACE inhibitor, a common type of blood pressure medication.

Some studies mentioned by The Pet Effect have even found that people who have never had a cat maintain a relative risk of death from a heart attack that’s 40 percent higher.

Mental Health

Recently, there’s been a rise in the number of emotional support animals. Research backs up their positive effects on mental health. A recent meta-analysis of 17 research articles found that pets can, indeed, help those with mental health conditions manage their emotions and deal with the symptoms of their conditions.

Research has found that pets can help with a range of conditions, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies have also shown that a visit from a therapy dog helped to reduce anxiety in patients hospitalized for heart failure. According to Pets for Vets, pets can benefit those with PTSD by helping them form social connections, encouraging feelings of love and boosting their confidence.

Physical Fitness

Having a dog encourages physical activity, which is associated with improved overall health. One study of dog owners in California found that people who have dogs are more likely to walk for leisure than those who don’t. The reasons are apparent. Dogs need walks, and having one gives you more motivation to go for a stroll regularly.

Another study found that some dog walkers walk at a pace of around three miles per hour, which is considered to be moderate-intensity exercise. Having a dog, especially an active one, may also keep you moving when you’re at home since you have to get up to feed them, let them out and play with them.

Social Support

Pets also come with a range of social benefits. They provide social support, which helps to decrease stress. Having a pet can also encourage social interaction, which reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Research has confirmed that walking with a dog increases the likelihood of social interaction. One study found that it was more likely to increase social interaction than dressing “smartly.” Another recent study compared the emotional and social health of participants with pets and those without them. The study found that the pet owners had higher self-esteem and were more conscientious, more extraverted, less lonely, less fearful and less preoccupied.

Autism

Having a pet may help encourage positive behavioral changes in children with autism. A recent review of the literature found that animal-assisted intervention can increase social functioning through enhanced social awareness, interaction and motivation as well as improved social skills and decreased social isolation. Studies have also shown that dogs may help improve family functioning in families with a child who has autism. Having a dog may also decrease problematic behaviors and increase feelings of security and independence.

Aging

Research suggests that having a pet can be very beneficial for older adults. The social support and motivation to exercise that pets provide can be especially important for older individuals. One study found that seniors who had a pet were better able to complete physical activities that are part of daily life, such as preparing meals, bathing, climbing stairs and taking medications. These benefits occurred in people with both dogs and cats, those who had recently gotten a pet and those who had their pet for longer.

Whether a pet is a service animal, emotional support animal or just a family pet, they can have immense benefits for their owners’ physical and mental health. The health benefits may seem obvious to pet owners, but now researchers are finding more data to back up these claims. Today, the majority of doctors believe that pets can have positive health impacts and have recommended a pet to a patient. The pet effect is very real. Animals are our best friends, and they’re also great for our mental, physical, emotional and social health.

Wildlife

Will 2019 Be the Year of Wildlife Conservation?

January 31, 2019
Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife is facing immense threats, and 2019 will be no different. While conservation saw some successes in 2018, it was still a rough year for wildlife. Species disappeared and regulatory changes, climate change and other threats continued to worsen the situation. Meanwhile, conservationists continued to work tirelessly.

In 2019, this trend will continue. New threats will emerge and many existing ones will continue to worsen. While these things will threaten wildlife, it will also spur more people into action to help protect the planet’s incredible biodiversity.

So, what can we expect in 2019 in relation to wildlife conservation? While the world is always full of surprises, here’s a look at the year ahead.

Climate Change

Climate change has been a theme in conservation circles for a while now — with good reason. The current changes happening in our climate are having substantial impacts on vast numbers of species. Many effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, appear to be worsening. Scientists are also discovering new ones. A recent study from oceanographers at the University of Rhode Island, for example, found that decreased oxygen levels could cause significant harm to zooplankton. Climate change can make these oxygen level problems worse.

Shifting Policies

Recent shifts in government leadership have led to policy changes that could make protecting wildlife more difficult. In the United States, the Trump administration has been stripping away environmental protections since it began. The administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act that would cut protections. If these proposals are put into action in 2019, endangered species would be at an even greater risk than they are today. Elsewhere in the world, Brazil recently elected a new far-right president who promised to remove protections of the Amazon rain forest.

Industry Ramping Up

New infrastructure and road projects, both legal and illegal, are popping up in crucial habitats all around the world. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has been described as a modern-day silk road, is driving many of these projects. This project may have economic benefits but could threaten habitats and introduce invasive species. There’s also a considerable number of illegal roads being constructed by miners, loggers and poachers around the world.

Deadlines Approaching

In 2010, 194 countries signed the Aichi Biodiversity Targets at the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity. The nations committed to meeting 20 ambitious conservation goals by 2020. That means 2019 is the last year for these countries to achieve their goals. A 2016 report by several conservation groups found that most countries hadn’t made sufficient progress on their goals. Unfortunately, the nations that signed to these targets still have a lot of work to do and will likely miss the deadline.

Increased Emphasis on Marine Conservation

In 2019, we’ll see more of an emphasis placed on conservation of marine species. This year, World Wildlife Day will focus on ocean-dwelling animals for the first time. This theme aligns with the United Nations Sustainability Goal 14 — Life below water. The United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has called on its members to support the conservation of marine species and habitats in 2019.

Growing Public Awareness

As climate change and other environmental threats worsen, public awareness of conservation-related may increase. Various high-profile weather events have put environmental issues in the spotlight, including increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Movies and other media with conservation themes will help raise awareness. An ambitious eight-part docuseries by Silverback Films and the World Wildlife Fund, Our Planet, is scheduled to release on Netflix this year.

More Innovative Grassroots Solutions

Conservation efforts are continuing to become more innovate and more grassroots. One such initiative is the Female Engagement Teams recently created by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. These teams consist of indigenous Maasai women in Kenya who work to drive wildlife conservations on the lands where they live. We may see more of these types of initiatives in 2019.

Plastic Waste

Plastic waste is a huge threat to many species. In a recent study of 102 sea turtles, every animal studied had plastic, microplastic and other synthetic substances in their digestive systems. As we continue to produce massive amounts of plastic, studying its impacts on wildlife and ways to protect animals from it should be a focus.

Emerging Diseases

Diseases are another significant risk to animals, but it doesn’t get as much attention as some other threats. White-nose syndrome, for example, has had a devastating effect on bat populations in the U.S. In 2019, we should dedicate more resources to understanding and stopping these diseases.

Poaching, Snaring and Wildlife Trafficking

Illegal activities such as poaching, snaring and wildlife trafficking are always an important issue. With recent policy shifts, some of these rules are under threat. Last year, for example, China announced that commercial trade in rhino horn and tiger bone from farmed animals for use in medicine would be legal. After public outcry, however, China postponed the change. If such loosening of restrictions gets approved this year, the result could be devastating.

Captive Breeding

Conservationists may increasingly turn to captive breeding to help increase species’ wild populations or keep them alive once their habitats disappear. Such programs have already helped various species and may help even more in 2019 and beyond.

The planet’s species continue to be at risk due to climate change, illegal activities, policy changes and other factors. In 2019, wildlife conservation will continue to face challenges, but conservationists surely won’t slow down their work to protect the world’s biodiversity.

Wildlife

California Wildfires Devastate Humans and Animals

January 21, 2019
california fires animals

The increase of California’s wildfires in recent years has led to severe casualties for humans and animals. Wildfire season has seemed to expand throughout the entire year, as the disasters in 2018 began in February and lasted until late November.

However, the worst of the fires occurred at the end of the year with the Camp Fire, which lasted from Nov. 8 to 25. Now confirmed as the most destructive wildfire in California’s history, the fire affected more than the landscape.

As the town of Paradise perished and the surrounding Butte County area suffered, at least 85 people died in the Camp Fire. But humans weren’t the only victims of the wildfires this year. Animals, whether pets or cattle, were in danger, too. Different kinds of animals had specific needs during the disasters, which caused varying levels of safety.

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Wildlife

6 Best Conservation Movies for the Whole Family

January 7, 2019
best conservation movies

It can be hard for anyone, child or adult, to believe in conservation and climate change when those in power are continually denying its existence. Thankfully, plenty of amazing movies and documentaries can introduce everyone to the idea of conservation, regardless of their age.

Here is a list of six of the best conservation movies you can watch with the entire family.

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Wildlife

Do Animals Mourn Like People?

November 29, 2018
animal mourning

Grief is a universal human experience. We feel grief following the loss of friends, family members, pets and sometimes even strangers. Though funeral traditions vary from culture to culture, mourning remains a consistent aspect of human societies.

Are humans alone in the experience of grief, though? Many people wonder whether animals may experience any of the same emotions. Some people even report behavior that seems like mourning when pets lose their owners or animal companions.

In the past, scientists hesitated to say animals experienced complex emotions like grief or love. However, new research suggests that the issue of animal grief may be more complicated than people initially assumed.

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Wildlife

Wildlife Forensics Helping Uncover Illegal Poachers

November 12, 2018
Wildlife forensics

It isn’t an uncommon scene in the savannas of South Africa. A grazing rhinoceros lowers its head to a patch of grass, and a sudden gunshot from a heavy caliber weapon catches them in the side. An illegal poacher comes to collect its horn, and in little as 10 minutes, they’ve moved on to their next target.

Poaching remains a critical issue across the globe, with endangered animals at threat of extinction over the value of their body parts. The musk deer of Asia are a popular target for their glands, which can sell to foreign traders for upwards of $200. A single tiger can yield over $50,000 in their skin, teeth and claws.

Through the application of wildlife forensics, however, poachers have a far more difficult time plying their illegal trade. Modern technology has proven so effective in stopping them that a system installed in a South African reserve has reduced the number of poached rhinos to zero. So how do these new methods work?

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Wildlife

What Are the Longest Living Animals?

October 22, 2018
longest living animals

Humans live a pretty long time — estimates for human lifespans generally fall between 70 and 80 years — but humans don’t even come close to outliving some of the planet’s oldest creatures. For some animal species, living past 100 is the norm, not the exception. Some scientists even think other species can teach humans a thing or two about aging well.

Studying earth’s longest living animals benefits people for a myriad of reasons. It can allow us to understand the biological aging process better, discover conditions that make for long lifespans and even understand how to protect our planetary elders. In addition to practical reasons, though, humans are fascinated by old animals because they represent the Earth’s past. It’s amazing to think that some animals alive today have been around since before the United States became a country.

Some of the planet’s oldest animals have endured changing climate conditions, predators and disease. They remind us that the results of our actions today can affect the environment not just now but for years and years to come.

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Wildlife

How Can You Participate In National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month?

October 8, 2018

There’s nothing better than having a little furry family member ready to greet you when you get home every day. Nothing, that is, other than adopting one from a shelter or animal rescue. October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. If you don’t already have a dog — or if you do — how can you participate in this awesome month-long event?

Start at Your Local Shelter

The best place to start during National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month is at your local animal shelter. Depending on where you live and how many animals are currently staying in the shelter, you may be able to find the perfect new four-legged member to add to your family. Many animal shelters run events and offer discounts on adoption fees during this month to encourage adoption.

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Wildlife

How to Put an End to Makeup Testing on Animals

September 24, 2018

When people walk into stores across the world, they’re thinking about what they need to buy and how quickly they can get out of there. That’s to be expected, especially when brands don’t advertise how they make their products in the stores where they’re sold.

If people do more research into what products they use on a daily basis, they’re able to make informed decisions about what they’re buying. The few minutes it’ll take to learn about this process could actually end up saving lives.

Animal testing is commonly acknowledged as a way that companies test products before putting them on the market, but the damage done to animals is extensive. Read on to learn how exactly you can help put an end to the dangerous and lethal ways that animals are used for product testing so you can ensure you’re promoting cruelty-free companies and using ethically made products.

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Wildlife

Tips for Teaching Wildlife Conservation for Kids

September 10, 2018
wildlife conservation for kids

Childhood lessons continue to influence kids throughout their lives, which is why it’s so important to make sure you’re teaching your kids what they need to know about life and the planet. By teaching your kids about wildlife conservation today, you can help ensure they’re kind to their environment even when they’re all grown up.

As climate change and unsustainable practices continue around the world, people are spending more and more leisure time inside in front of screens. In order to remedy this common disconnect from the natural world, make sure you’re helping your kids develop an appreciation for nature early in life. The more they get involved with the outdoors, the more they’ll understand the importance of protecting the planet.

Though Shakespeare definitely wasn’t talking about kid conservationists, it’s true that, though your kids be but little, they are fierce. They have the power to build a sustainable future, as long as you help them see why it’s important. Here are some tips you can use to teach wildlife conservation for kids.

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