Pets may help you get exercise, but that’s not the only way they keep their owners healthy. Owning a pet — whether a cat, dog, or other furry (or not-so-furry) creature — can offer mental, emotional and physical benefits. So, if you’re looking for another reason to get a pet, look no further than your wellbeing and health.
Over the years, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH) have done studies that have proven true a wide array of health benefits to pet owners.
- Lessen stress. Studies have shown that the sheer presence of a pet lowers stress levels when you’re performing a task, even when compared to the presence of another (human) loved one.
- Lower cholesterol and blood pressure, particularly in high-risk or hypertensive patients.
- Decrease chances of heart attack and stroke — especially for cat owners. Additionally, if a dog owner has a heart attack, their chances of recovery are much better.
- Prevent allergies, at least in kids who grow up with dogs. By exposing children to pet dander, they’re less likely to develop asthma or allergies, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison pediatrician James E. Gern.
While most studies haven’t yet to determine if pet owners tend to be more active, which would contribute to these health benefits, there’s really no question about it: there’s a correlation between pets and good health.
Plus, these health benefits even extend to people who aren’t so healthy.
- A watch dog (or cat) for diabetics. With their heightened senses, one-third of all pets may change their behavior if they detect changes in their owner’s blood sugar levels, which make them wonderful, and useful, companions to diabetics.
- Help those in chronic pain. Not only do pets give those suffering from chronic pain a sense of purpose — since they have to take care of their pet — but pets also can distract from the pain. If properly trained, such as through obedience and agility training, they can also assist in their owner’s day-to-day life.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
Just as pets can help those in chronic pain cope with feelings of isolation and loneliness, pets can also help those suffering due to depression. This is in large part due to pets giving people a sense of purpose in life, and that’s why many veterans in therapy for PTSD often find so much value in having a pet in their life. Not only are they responsible for taking care of the pets on a day-to-day basis, from feeding them to getting outside to take them on walks, but they don’t have to explain what happened to them when they served. Veterans can just enjoy their presence.
And the sheer presence of a pet can really be uplifting for just about everyone. People with pets tend to enjoy the small moments in life more, such as coming home from work and having a furry creature greeting them at the door.
Pets and Exercise
You don’t have to do doga, that’s yoga with dogs, to reap the health benefits of exercising with your pets. One explanation for many of the above health benefits harkens back to a simple fact: pets, particularly dogs, make you move more. If you’re taking your dog out to play fetch in the backyard, even if a dog fence surrounds it, or walking them to the park, you’re getting out and about, and moving more than you would otherwise.
When you are on those dog walks, you may even discover another benefit: a social one. If you’re walking your dog in the neighborhood, it makes it easier to meet other people, particularly other pet lovers, who may stop to greet your pet. The social aspect of pet owning can’t be underestimated; by making connections within your community or neighborhood, you’re getting to know others, and that’s good for your mental health too.
Pets bring so much good into our lives. They give us unconditional love, and they keep us healthy, and you need no more reason for a pet in your life than that.
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