Health benefits from human-animal interactions 

Health benefits from human-animal interactions. Photo: Shutterstock

The unconditional love of a pet can provide more than companionship. Pets can also improve owners’ health and even help children with their emotional and social skills. 

The NIH/Mars Alliance is funding a range of studies focused on the relationships we have with animals. For example, researchers are investigating how animals can influence child development. 

They are studying animal interactions with children who have autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other conditions. 

Animals can serve as a source of comfort and support. Therapy dogs are especially good at this. Sometimes taken to hospitals or nursing homes to help reduce stress and anxiety for patients. 

“Dogs are very present. If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit back and be loving,” says Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “Your attention is on the person all the time.”Berger works with people who have cancer and terminal illnesses. She teaches them about mindfulness to help decrease stress and manage pain. 

NIH (National Institutes of Health) is the U.S. medical research agency, supporting scientific studies that turn discovery into health. 

Mars Petcare is a leading provider of high quality, science-backed nutrition and therapeutic health products. Anicura, a leading European provider of high-quality veterinary care for companion animals is part of Mars Petcare. 

Since 2019, Hospital Veterinario Marina Baixa is part of Anicura. 

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