Dear Readers: A few weeks ago, veterinarian Sheila Fitzpatrick contacted the Ellicottville Times to ask if we’d be interested in her writing a veterinary advice column. Of course, we jumped at the chance! 

Not only is Dr. Fitzpatrick an expert in her field, but you might just know her, too, because she’s a 1983 graduate of Ellicottville Central School. She’s also a graduate of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and owns Mountain Mobile Veterinary Service in Eagle and Vail, Colorado, where she cares for small and large animals. She’s a frequent visitor to Ellicottville where her parents still live and her father Dana and brothers Greg and Dan own and run Fitzpatrick and Weller. 

This first column addresses how pets can keep you healthy. The next columns will address how you can keep your pets healthy. 

By Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM

Are you looking for new ways to get healthy? Over the years your family physician has told you, “eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, increase your daily exercise, and of course, reduce your stress level!” But has your physician ever said “head over to the local shelter and adopt a pet?”

Most likely not, but read this!

We all wish we had the golden key to longevity, but studies have shown that pet ownership surely can contribute to health benefits for people through enhanced physical, mental and emotional improvements.

How you ask?

First, studies through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that pet owners have reduced blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, all of which decrease the risk for heart attacks and strokes!

Second, pet owners have a tendency to be more physically active. By having a scheduled and regimented walk two to three times daily, pet owners have a much higher level of fitness. Just a one-hour walk per day can increase longevity up to seven years!

Third, pets boost the immune system. Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have proven that having a furry friend in the house can lower the allergy potential in a child by 33 percent, as well as cause children to have a stronger immune system overall.

Fourth, pets offer unconditional love and companionship, making the pet owner a more emotionally balanced person, feeling more loved and “complete,” thus lowering anxiety and emotional stress.

And fifth, pets offer a window to a more socially active lifestyle. Through pets, owners can develop more social interactions with other pet owners, enhancing their social wellbeing and thus enhancing their emotional wellbeing!

So the next time you are feeling frustrated with how you’re feeling emotionally or physically, think about adding a furry friend to your household!