Eat. Play. Love. - Health & Beauty

Eat. Play. Love

A 16th century manuscript stated that an unknown man had been “...leading a dog’s life since his wife left him,” alluding to a life of misery and sorrow for dogs during that time. Today, the phrase can also refer to the pampered life of many canines; fed well, walked, played with and loved. For many, they are part of our family and who has not returned home feeling down, only to be greeted with unconditional love by our dog as though we’d been away for months?

Pet power

The health benefits of owning a pet are well-documented. Dog owners look after their heart health by going outside and walking them. Pets can calm us; stroking and playing with them has been shown to reduce stress and lower our blood pressure. Dog walkers often stop to chat, so for many older people they give an opportunity to socialise and are treasured companions if living alone, combatting loneliness and depression. Pets can be good listeners!
Children who learn to responsibly look after an animal, treat it with compassion and care, understand how to also treat people. Life-lessons such as birth, illness, death and sadly bereavement are often a child’s first exposure to these aspects of life if the family own a pet. Hyperactive children can release energy with a lively pet and, for those who are neurodiverse, owning an animal can be calming or help with self-confidence and communication.

Dogs detecting disease
Our four-legged friends have more than 200 million scent receptors – humans have five million. Dogs take short breaths and are always picking up new scents. They are now being trained as disease detectors with remarkable success. Human tumours produce volatile organic compounds, which are released into urine, exhaled breath and sweat. Trained dogs can detect differing types of cancer, including melanoma, lung, prostate and breast. These dogs can also discern specific odours from epileptics that warn of a seizure. Even untrained dogs have anecdotally detected cancers; in a 2013 British case study, an Alsatian continually licked an asymptomatic lesion behind her 75-year-old owner’s ear. This lesion was subsequently found to be malignant. Studies into dogs sniffing out disease continue.

Pet insurance

Sadly, our pets can become ill or have accidents and are, of course, not covered by free healthcare. Veterinary bills can be unaffordable for many Kiwis and cause financial stress. A Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016 Report stated that three out of four New Zealanders say their cats and dogs are part of the family, but one in three struggle to pay vet bills. Pet insurance, dependent upon the plan you choose, can reimburse you for some veterinary costs; after treatment, you should be able to make a claim and receive back a percentage of payment. There are many policies available. The SPCA helps animals all over the country and the purchase of their insurance policy supports this work.

Catteries and kennels
A home away from home for our pets should be licensed, clean and comfortable with a good reputation. It pays to do your research and pay a visit beforehand. Are the staff caring and do the animals look happy and with enough space? A reputable kennel will enquire about your dog’s vaccinations; you may want to ask them what the procedure is if your pet becomes ill. Alternatively, there are numerous pet-friendly holiday rentals in Otago. Finding a lovely boarding facility for your beloved pet is worth the effort and means you can go on holiday without worrying. - Gill Towle