Volume 2, Issue 4, April 2017
By. Julie Teuber, MD
Let’s face it, animals are really great. The feeling you get when a puppy lays its head in your lap or when you are surrounded by exotic fish in the ocean while snorkeling is second to none. What is it about animals that make humans feel so happy? Well there is a group of researchers that studies nothing but the benefit of animals on human wellness (and vice versa). According to HABRI or the Human Animal Bond Research Institute the bond between humans and animals really is. They describe it as:
“…a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that is essential to the health and well being of both. This includes, but is not limited to emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals and the environment.” 
Not only do animals make us feel better, they may actually MAKE us better. Recent research has shown that pet owners, specifically dog owners have lower systolic blood pressures, lower cholesterol, and even better survival after MI compared to non-dog owners. [2, 3]
A large amount of research was completed in the 1990s to assess human attachment to pets. The Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) was created to determine how strong a bond existed between pet and pet owner.4 This scale has been used in dozens of studies to help determine how people might react when their pet has to be euthanized, how elderly nursing home adults improve with companion animals, and even describing the role of an animal in the life of a ‘work-a-holic.’ People that have a bond with an animal score higher on the LAPS and enjoyed a higher level of wellness.
So the next time a therapy dog is roaming the halls, take a minute to pet and bond with the animal. It may do you more good than you think!
- HABRI, Human Animal Bond Research Institute. 2011-2017
- Larsen, BA. Dogs and Health. A Review of Documented Connections. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 1997 Dec 10;117(30):4375-9.
- Baun, MM. Physiological effects of human/companion animal bonding. Nurs Res. 1984 May-Jun;33(3):126-9.
- Jonson, et al. The Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale. 1992