The scientific reasons why having pets builds strong immunity and improves both mental and physical health in humans.
I was fortunate that my family considered pets to be an important part of life while I was growing up.
I grew up with a menagerie of furry, feathery, oinking, bleating, mooing, neighing, clucking, sniffing, and otherwise delightful animal creatures.
My family had a hobby farm. In other words, we-have-40-acres-let’s-give-the-kids-something-good-to-do-with-their-time!
And the good times we had.
Some of my best and most colorful memories are from my farm years…like the time my plucky mother wrestled the two goats into the shower to wash them up for a visit to the local nursing home…or when one of those same goats “relieved” herself on my sunbathing sister…
Our chickens had names like Scooter, Scratcher, Squirt, Jeepers, Creepers, Peepers, Hog, & Esmeralda.
Jeepers, as the rooster, once chased down a raccoon that was terrorizing the hen house…and lived to strut up the driveway the next morning, crowing about it.
Did I mention chasing pigs through the woods, or the neighbor’s cow down the road? Or fresh born itty bitty baby goats nibbling on the fingers?
Or, my mom being called upon to help deliver the neighbor’s sheep because her hands were the right size (and she had the gumption to do it)? I’ll also never forget our family trail rides on our horses.
The point I want to make is that embracing pet ownership by inviting animals into your home is beneficial in a number of ways.
- … and immune boosters!
How Pets Supercharge the Immune System
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, founder of the GAPS Diet Protocol for healing autoimmune diseases, lists animals as #7 in her Top Ten Influencers On Immunity list.
She has this to say about pets and the importance of pet ownership in particular. (1)
Pets are wonderful: they provide an unconditional love for the whole family, and they provide stimulation for the immune system.
The important thing is to have healthy pets, and in order to do that they must be fed properly. Dogs and cats have not been designed to eat grains or soy.
Commercial pet foods are largely made out of grains and soy; that is why, thanks to the commercial foods, our dogs and cats get arthritis, autoimmune disease and cancer. On top of that they get skin problems, such as dermatitis and eczema, shedding allergy-causing dandruff.
Feed your pets the way Nature has designed them to eat, and you will never need to worry about your pet’s health. Cats do best on raw meat with fat on it, raw milk, raw fish and raw liver.
An occasional leftover of cooked meat and fish will do them no harm.
Dogs do very well if you mix raw minced meat (with good amounts of fat) with some finely chopped raw carrot and live yoghurt. Raw eggs, raw milk and raw fish should also be a regular part of their diet. Cod liver oil and fish oil are very good for dogs, particularly in winter.
Occasional cooked vegetables and meat, left over from your dinner, will also do your dog no harm. You will find that feeding your dog and cat that way will cost you less, than buying commercial pet food, and you will save a fortune on vet’s fees.
Worm your dog or cat once every 6-8 months, and don’t worry about parasites: we all have them and no less than our dogs or cats.
Pet Ownership = Pleasure = Immune Health
Pet ownership is a simple way to bring much needed pleasure into our lives.
Chris Kresser has this to say about the effect of pleasure on our immune health. (2, 3)
“The chemicals released when we experience pleasure do more than counteract stress hormones and improve mood. They also:
- Improve immune function by producing an antibacterial peptide
- Enhance the killer instincts and abilities of various immune components, including B cells, T cells, NK cells, and immunoglobulins
- Enable certain immune cells to secrete their own endorphins as a way of improving their disease-fighting capacity
The persistent state of chronic stress in our lives makes the counter-balancing effects of pleasure even more important. This is especially true for anyone dealing with chronic illness or pain, which are both stressors on the body.”
It’s important to make a distinction between pleasure and distraction.
Being distracted by movies and devices is not the kind of pleasure that supports our immune system. Pets also encourage us to play!
Stress causes illness and pleasure can prevent it. – Chris Kresser (4)
Immune Education = Immune Health
It seems that the earlier a child is exposed to pets, the better!
The immune system gets a valuable education, an “imprinting” if you will, that will help protect them from an overactive immune system (i.e. autoimmune, allergies, etc.) later in life.
Pets keep us from being “too clean” and not having a properly stimulated immune system. (5)
According to a study done in Finland, dogs (as the animals of the study) in the first year of life may also have a protective part to play in reducing respiratory infections in children as well. (6)
In adults, having pets can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease! (7)
Feeding Pets Properly
I talk often about the GAPS Protocol. The GAPS Protocol is not just for people!
Sometimes pets need to go on a healing diet, especially when they are developing the same chronic health conditions we are, from eating processed pet food and foods that are not natural to them. (8)
Here is an article about putting dogs on the GAPS Intro Diet.
And Linda Zurich has written several excellent articles about the real foods that pets should eat. Great information to consider!
- Traditional Diet for Dogs and Cats
- How to Assemble a Raw Diet for Your Pet
- Dirty Secrets of the Pet Food Industry
What about you? What pets do you share your home with?
(1) GAPS Diet
(2) Go outside!
(3, 4) Beyond Paleo
(5) Pet ownership and human health
(6) Respiratory Illness in the First Year of Life: Effect of Dog and Cat Contact
(7) Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease
(8) Why you should stop buying commercial dog food