Health Benefits of Having a Pet
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Pets are invaluable members of our communities. Time and time again, it has been proven that they not only give us their loyalty and unconditional love but that they can also help us with our overall health.
Having a pet provides many benefits in terms of physical health, mental health, and social interactions. Children and seniors particularly benefit from pet ownership. For many years, pets have also been used in therapy and assistance for people with special needs.
This article aims to explain the benefits of pets for human health and help readers to understand why owning a pet is important.
Physical Health Benefits of Having a Pet
The physical health benefits of pet ownership are numerous: Studies show that people who are pet parents experience multiple cardiovascular health benefits. They have been found to have a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and improved regulation of these vital signs during stressful situations. These findings are attributed to a reduced release of the stress hormone cortisol.
Dog ownership increases physical activity. Dogs need exercise, so daily walks with your canine companion can help you achieve the ideal activity levels needed for health. This, in turn, can aid in preventing conditions such as obesity.
Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet
Pets can also be beneficial in terms of mental health.
- You may have heard from pet parents that dogs and cats understand their worries, fears, and overwhelming feelings of depression, providing invaluable support for mental health conditions like anxiety, mood disorders, and depression. These insightful furry friends can help alleviate symptoms associated with these conditions and provide emotional comfort through their care and companionship.
- Pets don't judge and accept their pet parents wholeheartedly; thus, owning a pet can improve self-perception and reduce negative self-image.
Social Benefits of Having a Pet
Apart from the positive effect on your physical and mental health, there are also social benefits of having a pet:
- Do you enjoy petting your furry friend? Research shows that petting a furry friend causes a boost of oxytocin and endorphin in pet parents, which increases social bonding and happiness. Therefore, petting your dog or cat may help reduce your feelings of social isolation.
- You can also socialize yourself by taking a dog out if you have a pet that likes to interact, initiating conversations, and encouraging human-animal interactions that foster participation in social situations. Pets also enhance social interaction in the community, as supported by studies that show that people with pets are more likely to participate in community events.
Children and Pet Ownership
Do you want to have a pet but are afraid that it will harm your child or that your child isn't ready for a pet? Consider these benefits of household pets during childhood while you make your decision:
- Early exposure of children to pets can reduce their chances of developing allergies. Studies show that children with pets have reduced health risks such as allergies and asthma. It also shows that growing up with a pet from a young age can prevent weakened immune systems.
- Studies have also found that children with pets have fewer sick days than those without. In short, pets can be great company for your little ones and help them grow healthily.
- Children with learning disabilities, such as autism, benefit from the presence of a pet. Dogs or cats help them pay attention, reduce anxiety, and enhance communication skills. Autistic children often find it easier to interact with pets due to their reliance on non-verbal cues, facilitating their engagement with people.
Unique Benefits of Pets for Seniors
Having a pet can benefit you at any age, but research shows specific benefits of pet parenting for older people.
- Pets help seniors cope with loneliness and low mood. They have been found to improve depression and cognitive function in elderly nursing home residents.
- Seniors may find it difficult to maintain their social networks as they age. Owning a pet can decrease feelings of loneliness and provide socialization through interaction with other pet parents while also boosting energy levels and providing playful companionship, joy, and emotional support.
Therapy and Assistance Animals
Pets promote healing in addition to providing loyal company. Pets can be involved in helping people with physical and psychological distress. Here are some of the benefits of having a pet as a therapy or assistance animal:
- Therapy animals can help people strengthen their immune systems and increase their pain thresholds by reducing cortisol release and increasing oxytocin release. Animal-assisted therapy studies have shown reduced pain, discomfort, and stress for pet parents. Moreover, this has been shown to reduce not only the stress of the people receiving the therapy but also the stress of the caregivers during the therapy.
- Pets helping with mental health can reduce outbursts in patients with anxiety disorders by slowing their breathing. Including therapy animals in the treatment plan can help people to cope with their illnesses more efficiently.
- Dogs are also known to assist people with disabilities in carrying out their daily activities.
Owning a pet can enhance and improve every aspect of your life. Whatever your circumstance, whether you're a person who wants to improve their lifestyle, a parent with young children, a senior in need of a companion, a person with special needs, or someone suffering from mental health issues, there is an ideal pet for you.
If you're considering adding a pet to your family but need help knowing where to start, BetterVet's virtual consultations can help you learn everything you need about pet care. Schedule an appointment, and BetterVet will ensure you and your pet have healthier and happier lives together.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are pet parents happier?
The answer is a resounding yes. Their presence reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol and increases oxytocin and endorphins that elevate mood.
Will a pet make me less lonely?
Human-animal interaction helps people to deal with the overwhelming sadness and loss of purpose caused by loneliness by providing loyal companionship. Dog ownership does wonders for a person's mental health. Older adults particularly benefit from pet companions, even those in nursing homes.
Do pets affect personality?
Studies showed that pet parents generally choose pets with similar personalities, and pets do not change your character but reflect it.
Can dogs sense anxiety?
The answer is yes. Dogs are amazing natural observers. That's why dogs can pick up on any change in movement in their pet parents, differences in their body odors, and even the pitch of their voices. This is why dog parents may notice dogs' anxiety and other emotional changes.