Benefits of Pet Ownership for a JIA child

Children with Juvenile Arthritis and other Autoimmune Conditions can benefit from Pet Ownership


The companionship that a pet can bring to a child with JIA is priceless. Unfortunately, children, teens, and young adults with chronic pain often experience loneliness because their condition can sometimes make it hard to leave the house or hang out with others. Having a furry or feathered friend can bring so much joy and energy into a home.

Even small pets, like rabbits and birds, provide excellent companionship. Having someone to sit with you can be so comforting, especially when you’re feeling unwell. A child can also read or do homework with the pet as it sits on their lap.

But beyond providing company, pets can also inspire us to keep moving. Kids with JIA and other Auto-immune conditions can benefit from that push to get up to play or go for walks. It’s a little easier to motivate yourself to go for a short stroll when you know Fido is looking forward to his daily walk. Playing with a cat with some string, playing with a rabbit or mice, and cleaning out their cage and grooming them are activities that will keep your child moving.

Pets aren’t one-size-fits-all

If you think a dog is the right family pet for you, consider the dogs age, size, personality, their type of coat, also can you provide adequate physical and mental stimulation. If a dog is untrained, large and heavy this could cause some pain if they jump up on, or want to sit on a child’s lap that has JIA.
Plus high energy dogs can be hard to handle because a child with JIA may not be strong enough to keep control of the leash. Not every child with JIA will face those issues. Many children with arthritis own and adore their big dogs and use them as weighted blankets and heating pads that never go cold when cuddling.


 Something to consider

If you are considering getting a pet for your child with JIA, it’s essential to consider how a specific animal will affect your child, and whether your child can handle the demands of a particular pet. Caring for a mouse is easier than caring for a Saint Bernard! A calm, lazy dog, will enjoy walks and playing fetch but aren’t too intense, having a relatively low-maintenance dog is also something to consider if you have a busy household.

If you’re considering getting your child a dog, it is highly recommended to get involved with obedience classes. Puppies, in particular, can benefit from these classes, which can teach them to be calm and not to jump up on anyone. The classes can also make them easier to handle on walks because they learn not to tug on the leash.

Whether you’re considering a dog, cat, or a smaller pet, consider adopting an adult or elderly pet, they tend to be calmer, plus older dogs can learn new tricks and can be trained if needed. Pets can truly be a wonderful source of companionship for kids who suffer from a condition that can make them feel isolated and alone.

Research has shown that just 10 to 15 minutes of petting a pet reduces the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) circulating in the body. Pets have a relaxing effect, it has also been reported that owning a pet can help provide a significant reduction in pain.  Being around our pets helps to act as a natural pain reliever, this is possibly because of potential endorphin release in the brain when interacting with them.

Remember it is not only what you can give to a pet; it is also what a pet can give to all of the family members.  A pet is not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.