A recent study, just released, and set to be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s 74th Annual Meeting, suggests that having a long-term pet companion may delay memory loss and other kinds of cognitive decline. According to the preliminary research, the study shows that pet ownership is especially beneficial for working verbal memory, such as memorization of word lists.
That should come as no surprise to those of us who are long-time pet owners, but it is believed that this is the first study to consider the effect of duration of pet ownership on cognitive health. It’s not just cats and dogs that can boost our brain power. People in the study also cared for rabbits, hamsters, birds, fish and reptiles.
The study showed that owning household pets for five years or more produced the most benefit, delaying cognitive decline by 1.2 points over the six-year period of the study compared with the rate of decline in people without pets. It’s these early findings that suggest that long-term pet ownership could help combat cognitive decline; even if it’s by just a little, that’s another ‘pro’ in the “Why I should have a pet” column.
Why does long-term pet ownership make a difference?
Perhaps because previous studies have shown the negative effects of stress, especially chronic stress, on brain health. Again, as pet owners, we know the calming effect that the unconditional love of a pet can bring. There have been many studies released over the years that have linked interactions with companion animals with stress reduction. Stroking or playing with a pet have shown reductions in cortisol levels and blood pressure, which could impact long term cognitive health.
Experts also believe that other brain benefits from pet ownership could come from social companionship, and having a sense of duty and purpose in caring for the animal. Having a pet or multiple pets combines many core components of a brain-healthy lifestyle.
The study analyzed cognitive data on more than 1,300 adults who participated in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative study tracking the lives of Americans age 50 and older. But, cognitive experts also say not to just run out and get a pet because it will help boost your brain. There are many facets to pet ownership, and there are many responsibilities that could negatively affect people.
Contact Compassionate Animal Care Today
We have always believed that animals are good for us and our brains, so it’s great to see some research to back it up. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, or need to schedule a regular check-up, reach out. Please call 480.774.6995 to schedule a clinic appointment with Compassionate Animal Care today, or call 602.359.2031 for a mobile vet appointment within the East Valley.