Pining for pets may damage your health

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Indy Lifestyle Online

People who leave their dogs behind when they go on holiday may be damaging their health.

People who leave their dogs behind when they go on holiday may be damaging their health.

While absence may make the heart grow fonder, it doesn't make it stronger, and, according to psychologists, it maycause cardiovascular problems because of the stress and anxiety of leaving behind a loved one. The immune system too could be compromised by pining because of the mood changes triggered by the two weeks away from the dog.

Now, tourists who leave their pets at home are being recruited for a study at the University of Wales, Swansea, designed to gauge the health risks for those who choose to party without the pooch. People will have their blood pressure measured both before they go and when they come back. Their heart rate will also be monitored at the moment when they are re-united with the dog. The data will be compared to that on owners who took their dogs on holiday.

The research, backed by the Society of Companion Animal Studies, is aimed at showing the beneficial health effects of having dogs as pets, and at convincing the NHS it should allow canine visitors in hospitals.

Tony Lysons, who is supervising the research, said, "We expect to find very real differences in mood and cardiovascular response in dog owners separated from their dogs, and this has implications for a health service which traditionally has not taken pets seriously.''

Lynne Taylor, of the research team, said: "By looking at the detrimental effect on health in this kind of detail we hope we will be able to encourage pets to be allowed into nursing homes and hospitals." She said it was possible the same reactions may occur in parents who go on holiday without their children.