Whether they be dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, or even fish, pets bring unconditional love into our lives. And if that isn’t reason enough, research shows that owning a pet makes you happier and even improves your life and health.
- 31% increased fitness
- 65% better mental health
- 76% reduced stress level
The special bond that you share with your pets positively affects your well-being and has many health benefits. This article takes you through the power of pets in your health, the many ways pets can improve your health, various health benefits, and much more.
Power of Pets
Approximately 68% of American households own a pet. While studies on human-animal interaction are relatively low, they have shown that pets undoubtedly have a positive health effect. A study by the National Institutes of Health in partnership with Mars Corporation’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition analyzes the effects animals have on humans. They are also looking into the potential physical and mental health benefits for animals such as fish, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, and dogs.
Ways Pets Improve Your Health
Studies have shown that owning a dog or cat can improve your health in many ways. They help fight stress, chronic pain, depression and even reduce allergies. Owners should take time out to get out, walk your dog and clear your mind. Pets also help you feel better. Interaction with animals decreases the levels of the stress hormone, Cortisol, and also blood pressure. Pets also support and comfort their human companions when they are in pain or terminally sick. For this same reason, therapy dogs are brought into hospitals to reduce anxiety and stress.
Let us consider these health benefits in more detail.
Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
According to the researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo, petting your cat or dog brings down your blood pressure. It may be due to the calming effect animals have on their owners. Another study, this time by CDC, suggests that people who have pets tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, especially in high-risk patients. While the reason isn’t apparent, scientists think it may be due to the active lifestyle you lead to take care of your pet. While you may still have to maintain your weight and exercise, having a pet can also aid you in keeping your blood pressure levels down.
Stronger Immune Systems and Prevent Allergies
Children growing up in a home with dogs and cats tend to have a robust immune system and are less likely to develop allergies. In addition, doctors have observed higher levels of certain chemicals in their system, which attribute to their higher immunity. This keeps them healthier as they grow older.
Pet fur and dander seem to be some of the crucial triggers of allergies. However, exposing them to pet dander in the first year of life reduces the risk of getting asthma. According to a study by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, newborns who coexist with cats have a lower risk of developing asthma, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia.
Relieve Stress and Depression
Pets listen to you as long you talk and without interrupting. This interaction, along with walking, grooming, and playing, assists you in your recovery from depression. In addition, it helps you feel better about the way you spend your time.
We live in a world of stress from the frantic pace of modern life. This has taken a toll on our bodies by increasing the risk of heart disease. Contact with pets counteracts this response by lowering the stress hormone. Furthermore, pets can help ease anxiety, reduce loneliness and boost mood in seniors bringing a see of calmness. Studies show that 10 minutes of petting a dog or a cat can lower the cortisol levels in college students, easing the pre-exam stress.
Boost Heart Health
One study observed that dog owners did at least 30 minutes of walking. In addition, they were 54% more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity. Research, this time by the NCBI, suggests that cat owners are 40% less likely to have a stroke and 30% less likely to have a heart attack. Similarly, dog owners have a better survival rate one year after a heart attack.
Generally, pet owners are less likely to have heart disease, including heart failure. Having a furry friend, especially a dog, helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to AHA (American Heart Association), dog ownership has been long associated with reduced cardiovascular disease.
Emotional development is critical for a child to become a healthy adult. And pets are beneficial in this cause, especially in children with developmental disorders.
According to a study in 2016, at least 1 in 54 8-year-olds had autism or ASD. Children with autism can find pets soothing and also help better connect with others. As such, animals such as dogs are used in therapy programs for autistic children. A study saw little ones with ASD relaxed and laughed more in the presence of guinea pigs. Other than dogs, horses, chickens, and alpacas are also used in therapy programs. Moreover, children with ADHD respond better to therapy when there’s a dog nearby as they have shown to be a soothing presence. Your pet can help develop a predictable routine suitable for a child with ADHD.
A Better Quality of Life
Dogs, especially therapy dogs, help people recovering from injuries or illnesses such as stroke. Petting a dog can help rebuild strength during the recovery phase. These dogs are trained to understand commands and help people in need, especially those with aphasia. Furthermore, horses help stroke patients recover, stretch muscles, build core strength and regain balance.
Pets are super sensitive to people who are sick and can help take the mind off the condition. Walking and playing with your pet help conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes, their presence in itself can be calming and help feel better.
Bring Your Family Closer
According to Rebecca A. Johnson, Ph.D., director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, having a pet can help bring the family closer. Whether it is feeding your dog or cat, or your kids waking your dog, it helps bring the whole family together. Pets help the bridge between generations providing a convenient and easy topic to relate to. Additionally, kids learn responsibility, caring, and how to treat others with kindness.
Health Benefits of Owning a Pet
A pet can be a good friend to someone who lives alone and needs companionship. However, while we are aware of the joys that come with their companionship, not everyone knows about the many physical and mental health benefits.
- Studies have shown that dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction in people dying of any cause.
- A loyal pet can understand the emotions and words of its owners. As a result, they can reduce anxiety and boost your mood. Additionally, they are also excellent companions for children and older adults alike.
- Most pets, particularly dogs, require structure in their daily lives. Maintaining a routine for the pets helps you to have a structured and organized life.
- Researchers say that dog owners walk close to 30 minutes every week. Add in a game of fetch, and you have gotten more exercise than before. Germany is considering enacting a law that forces pet owners to walk their pets for at least an hour every day.
- Pet-assisted therapy helps cancer patients both emotionally and physically. They not only help with loneliness and despair but also motivate them to eat and follow the treatment plan.
- Your pet can make you more approachable and help you make friends. For example, one study found people in wheelchairs receive more smiles and conversations. Another study found students more comfortable with psychotherapists with a dog and more likely to disclose personal information.
- Cats and dogs offered comfort and social bonding to people who have Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition, studies show that pets can reduce behavioral issues, boost their moods and increase their nutritional intake.
Practice Good Pet Hygiene
Pets can spread disease-causing germs to humans. However, practicing good pet hygiene and handwashing help prevent the spread of germs. In addition to that, keep your dogs and their supplies out of the kitchen and food preparation areas. Clean your pet’s litter box daily to reduce the chance of exposure to harmful parasites. Never clean the pet supplies in the kitchen or bathroom sink or in any food preparation areas.
Keep children away from areas where dogs and cats poop. They might contain parasites and can get hookworms. Use a bag and gloves to pick up the dog’s feces (poop) and dispose of it in the appropriate areas. Properly disposing of your dog’s waste and properly disinfecting your cat’s litter box in your home positively impact pets and people. Keep in mind that pregnant women should avoid changing the litter box if possible. If unavoidable, use gloves and dispose of them soon after.
When you adopt a pet, you not only improve the quality of their life but also your own life in the meantime. The love and companionship of a pet do wonders for our well-being. More than that, they also have quite a few health benefits ranging from cardiovascular health to fitness and even mental health. Pet owners are often happier with higher self-esteem and even physically fit.
Pets teach compassion and responsibility to children. However, their interaction should be supervised, especially those under five years of age. Teach them general hygiene and instruct them to wash their hands after playing with pets.
Pets are most loving and can bring happiness and a better quality of life to their owners’ lives. But do not buy an animal, adopt one. By adopting a pet, you not only give it a home but also save its life. In Tucson, Santa Cruz Pet Clinic is a world-renowned and trusted veterinarian that you desire for adopting your very own pet and providing it the proper vaccinations at the proper time. Contact us today to schedule your pet’s vaccinations and check-up.