Kids get arthritis too—it’s a fact that either people are oblivious to, or completely overlook. After all, isn’t arthritis an “old person’s disease”? It seems impossible that a child, under the age of 16, would have to deal with creaky, painful joints most commonly experienced by people over the age of 60.
Yet it’s true—kids do get arthritis. Those who get diagnosed younger tend to fare best, owing to the fact they haven’t really known any other reality. Those who get diagnosed in their early teens however, have a harder time dealing with the fact that they’re now unable to do a lot of the things they used to love doing.
Additionally, when even adults have a hard time articulating the emotions that they feel due to their diagnosis, how can we expect a child to easily express the difficulties that they’re experiencing?
Fact is, arthritis is just as isolating for kids as it is for adults. And when kids are unable to run and play with friends as they used to and verbalize how that makes them feel, it can be very frustrating and lonely.
For Elizabeth Medeiros, the company that her loyal little pooch provided as her juvenile arthritis escalated proved to be a godsend. “[…] I’m so glad that we got Gracie in time for those hard years. She’s always so happy, whether she’s playing or cuddling up in front of the TV. And Gracie never leaves my side on the awful days. Many quiet, painful days would have been far lonelier if it hadn’t been for my furry sidekick,” she shares in a recent post on Juvenile Arthritis News.
A pet can give a child who feels physically limited and unwell companionship to temper the feeling of loneliness that tends to creep in when you end up getting sidelined by arthritis. A few minutes cuddling up with your dog, playing with your cat, or even watching your fish swim can help you feel calmer and less anxious.
Scientifically, animals have been known to offer comfort and provide support, helping reduce patient stress and anxiety. In fact, a survey reports that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. Additionally, over half of the respondents say that their physical health improved because they have a pet.
If you’re a parent or a well meaning family member or friend who wants to give a child suffering from juvenile arthritis a pet, there are guidelines to keep in mind though.
For instance, large dogs can be quite problematic. Some dog breeds will be harder to manage, especially if you want a small child to primarily be responsible for it. So while those Labrador or Golden Retriever puppies are so adorably playful now, remember they’re going to be pretty hard to take care of when they get a little older because they have such high energy. Your options aren’t just limited to dogs either. For younger children, if puppies or kittens aren’t an option, bunnies or hamsters, even fish can also provide the same sense of companionship but demand lower maintenance from pet owners.
Bottomline? Pets can truly be a source of companionship for kids who suffer from a condition that can make them feel isolated and alone. If you agree, feel free to share this post or tell us about your personal experience with pets.