Conditions

Study Finds a Dog or Cat's Love Helps Women Cope with HIV/AIDS

Dog owner
A woman hugs a dog in a file photo. web4camguy/flickr

A new study from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University has found that having pets is helpful for women living with HIV/AIDS and managing their chronic illness.

“We think this finding about pets can apply to women managing other chronic illnesses,” said Allison R. Webel, an instructor of nursing and the lead author of the study said in a statement. The findings were published in the journal Women’s Health Issues.

To better understand how women manage their HIV/AIDS, Webel conducted 12 focus groups with 48 women to find out what they did to stay healthy. The women had an average age of 42, about 90 percent had children, and more than half were single.

Webel was surprised to find that being a pet owner had such a positive impact on dealing with HIV/AIDS, encouraging women to take their medications, follow doctors’ orders and live healthy lifestyles.

“Pets, primarily dogs, gave these women a sense of support and pleasure,” Webel said.

The pet owners expressed their feelings of security with their pets.

“She’s going to be right there when I’m hurting,” a cat owner said.

“Dogs know when you’re in a bad mood…she knows that I’m sick, and everywhere I go, she goes. She wants to protect me,” said another.

Webel said that the human and animal bond in healing and therapy is being recognized as more animals are visiting nursing homes to connect to people with dementia or hospitals to visit children with long hospital stays.

“We found the social context in which this self-management happens is important,” said Webel.

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See a video on the topic from Case Western Reserve University below:

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