Pets have always played a big part of a family's life – but we've certainly seen their role rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In fact, Banfield recently released a survey looking at the impacts quarantining at home has had on pets and their owners, with 45 percent revealing their household's happiness has increased while spending more time with their pet.

In addition to the companionship and comfort they unconditionally offer, pets can add so much more to our lives and overall wellbeing. The Mars Petcare team has long invested in research to understand how animals, and our interactions with them, can have beneficial effects on our mental and physical health, whether it's helping children's emotional and mental wellbeing, supporting people at risk for social isolation and loneliness, or helping us lead healthy lives by getting us out for more regular physical activity.

Pet owners who learn about these health benefits are – according to a recent survey by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) – much more likely to take better care of their pets by ensuring regular veterinary check-ups and keeping up with vaccines. Almost 2 in 3 respondents also said they would be more likely to take their pet to a clinic if the veterinarian discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them.

One way we're helping veterinarians learn about the science behind the benefits of pet interaction is through continuing education experiences like the virtual Human-Animal Bond (HAB) certificate training. Designed by HABRI in partnership with the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC), Banfield and Mars Petcare partnered to offer this course completely free of charge to 500 veterinarians and veterinary students. This extensive 22-hour course teaches veterinary professionals how to use human-animal interaction research insights in their daily practice so they can better support owners, their pets, and,ultimately, their bond.

Veterinarians can play a central role in the relationship owners have with their pets, from offering nutrition and healthcare advice to adoption guidance. This invaluable support plays a fundamental role in building a healthy and strong bond between humans and the animals with which they interact, be it a personal pet, a service animal, or a communal animal such as the resident cat in a nursing home.

By simply helping a pet lead a healthy life, counseling an owner about behavior challenges, or identifying and advising on pet care needs, veterinarians help foster a relationship that has the potential to reduce human loneliness and its negative side effects – especially during this time of widespread isolation.

As a board member of the Human Animal Bond Association, I believe strongly in educating on the benefits of the human-animal bond while advancing the role of the veterinary professional in nurturing positive interactions between people and animals. I hope this education initiative and others like it will continue to help veterinarians build an even stronger partnership with their clients and offer them some new ways to support owners in strengthening the bond between people and pets.

by Molly McAllister: Healthcare leader with a passion for proactive veterinary care and development of future leaders in the profession

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