You know how on those really bad days, you can come home at the end of them to your dog’s wiggling bottom, and you just can’t help but smile? Well, it’s not just in our heads. Our pets really can make us feel better when we’re down. Besides that, being a pet owner has so many other benefits as well!
The pet population has quadrupled since the 1960s, to over 160 million pets in the US now! I know that my life is full of friends, family and co-workers with pets. There are families with children, single workaholic adults, empty nesters, and college students who are all pet owners. Humans and animals have been living together for thousands of years, so it only makes sense that we would have developed a close bond with each other. Here are three big ways that pets can improve your health:
#1- Improved Physical Health
- If you get a dog, then you should be taking her for walks regularly-the activity will add up and make you healthier in the long run. Also try trips to the dog park and try to keep up with your dog, or take your dog on a bike ride with you!
- Being a pet owner lowers your cholesterol level, blood pressure, and triglycerides.
- Service dogs can be trained on a variety of issues so they can help people lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. An example would be diabetic alert dogs, who notice small changes in their owners’ body chemistry when blood sugar begins to drop, and notify their owner, thus keeping her safe.
- Pets can help keep you young! Being more active leads to overall cardiovascular improvements over time as well as improvements in mobility, flexibility, strength, longevity and independence.
#2- Improved Mental Health
- Pets can help us connect with others by sparking up conversations at the dog park, or by helping us talk to a coworker who we don’t usually speak with about our common interest: our cats.
- Pets can help build self-esteem by letting us talk to them without judging us and helping us talk to others by breaking the ice. I find that pets are an easy conversation topic for me, personally.
- Pets can help with depression and PTSD by lifting the mood of and having a calming effect on people. Try petting your dog or cat the next time you feel stressed or sad and see if you don’t start to feel better.
- Pet owners have lower cortisol overall. Cortisol is the so-called “stress hormone”.
- Dogs are almost always happy to see us and in a good mood when we come home! Cats are…well, they’re glad you’re home by dinner time. It makes me feel good to walk into a house full of wagging tails and meows.
- Pets can be great companions for the elderly or people who may live alone or not leave home very much. Just be sure that you can physically care for a pet before adopting! They can also increase self-reliance in the elderly.
- Pets have a calming effect on children with Autism and on elderly Alzheimer’s patients.
#3- Pets are Good for Kids and Families
- Children who grow up in homes with pets present are less likely to develop asthma, eczema, and allergies and tend to have very robust immune systems compared to children who grow up in homes without pets.
- Children who grow up with pets can learn more responsibility and empathy than children without pets by learning to help care for the pet on a schedule, and by learning that their dog can feel hunger if he is not fed one morning, or pain if his hair is pulled.
- Children with pets grow up with more confidence and with better social skills. Pets are great for children to talk to, helping with conversational skills, and speech shyness.
- Families as a whole benefit from having pets because they are a shared joy and should also be a shared responsibility. Your pet is a companion your family will talk to each other about on a daily basis! You can also do fun things with your pet as a family such as going on walks, going to dog parks, and letting the dog ride in the car on drive-through errands (Remember to never leave a dog in a hot car!).
For more information and research on how pets are beneficial to our lives visit The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation. It is, “a non-profit research and education organization that is gathering, funding and sharing the scientific research that demonstrates the positive health impacts of animals on people. The growing body of scientific evidence that proves the specific health benefits of the human-animal bond can be used by everyone – from doctors to policymakers – to make informed decisions that improve both human and animal health.” www.habri.org
How do pets enrich your life and health and the life of your family? Let us know in the comment section below!