By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
May 6-12, 2012 is National Pet Week and the theme chosen by the Auxiliary to the American Veterinary Medical Association is “Healthy Pets Make Happy Homes.”
Each year the Auxiliary sponsors a poster contest around the year’s theme. This year’s winner, Stephanie Jensen, depicts a whimsical home filled with children and happy family pets. While the painting is charming and deserving of accolades, the scene made me think hard about pets and families.
Just the right number of pets makes a happy home
Ms. Jensen’s painting shows a home containing every imaginable pet, but when adding pets to your family, each addition requires careful consideration. For those of us who love pets, it is difficult to resist adding another foundling to our brood. But if we continually increase our home’s pet population, at some point, the number of pets we have will exceed the resources we have to care for them. By resources I am not talking just about financial resources, but space, time, and energy as well. My current feline foster family of seven makes me very happy every morning when I peek in and see all those little cats snoozing in their fur bed. Since the family will be adopted once the kittens are self-sufficient, I can handle caring for seven cats for several weeks, but I could not do this on a forever basis and still work full time!
Children and pets, happy together
In addition to showing many different pets, Ms. Jensen’s painting shows children and their pets. The benefits of pets for children were recently the topic of a New York Times blog by pediatrician Perri Klass.
As a pediatrician, she reports commonly asked questions about children and pets, because of the widely held belief that pets are good for children’s social and emotional health. She also says that, until now, there has been little good scientific research on the benefits of pets for children. Some recent studies suggest a variety of positive outcomes associated with children and pets:
- Young children living in a household with a dog may be less likely to become overweight.
- Animal assisted therapy has a positive influence on children’s development.
- Animal assisted therapy alleviates acute pain in children.
Pets can also pose health risks to young children, and parents should take steps to protect their children from pet-related illness, especially bites.
Keep your pet healthy and keep your home happy
The pets depicted in Ms. Jensen’s painting look very healthy. To keep your pet healthy and your home happy, provide your cat and dog with a good preventive healthcare program and visit their veterinarian annually.
How do you keep your family and pets happy and healthy? Share your stories in the comments below.