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One Health & the Human–Animal Bond

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)

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One Health is a collaborative, interdisciplinary initiative aimed at optimizing human, animal, and environmental health on a local, national, and global basis.

This paper reviewed existing evidence- based literature about the benefits of the human–animal bond. It focused particularly on cancer, heart disease (the leading cause of death in humans worldwide), autism spectrum disorder, and economic benefits of the human–animal bond. Research suggests that pet companionship reduces cardiovascular risk factors (eg, lack of exercise, obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, stress, depression). Cancer patients also benefit from positive interactions with animals, which may ease the discomforts of cancer therapy, decrease depression, and—particularly in pediatrics—promote a sense of well-being and motivation to “get better.”

Positive effects of pet ownership should be heavily considered in future global One Health initiatives.

Autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 88 children in the United States. Animal-assisted therapy has become a therapeutic option for treating this serious neurodevelopmental disorder. Interactions with therapy dogs help patients make better social and emotional connections and increase beneficial hormones (eg, β-endorphins, oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine). The economic benefit of pet companionship is potentially significant, with 1 study estimating a 10-year human health savings of >$3.86 billion because of decreased doctor visits. The authors concluded that the positive effects of pet ownership should be heavily considered in future global One Health initiatives. 

Commentary

One Health is an exploding area that offers the opportunity for experts from various fields to work together on innovative new solutions that can positively impact the environment as well as animal and human health. Inclusion of companion animals is a critical part of this endeavor. Given the growing amount of research surrounding the impact of companion animals on adult physical health (eg, exercise, obesity and accompanying effects) and children’s health (eg, autism, depression), discussion of the important role of pets is timely and important.—Lori Kogan, PhD

This capsule is part of the One Health Initiative.

References

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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