We always enjoy the company of animals and having a pet in our life. It brings the feeling of joy that goes both ways. Whether we are at our best or feeling down, pets always remain right by our side. More than a furry, loyal companion, pets are considered to be another member of the family. According to the American Psychological Association, pet owners are just as close to their pets as they are to the most important people in their lives. Pets can provide owners with numerous other health benefits, both psychological and physical. The following are the 5 health benefits of owning a pet:
Animals, particularly dogs, are often used to help individuals manage high-stress levels. In 2012, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University examined stress levels of employees who brought their dogs to work, employees who left their dogs at home, and employees who didn’t own a pet. They found that dog owners whose dogs were present at work reported less stress over the course of the workday while those with a dog at home or no dog at all reported an increase in stress. Furthermore, employees reported a significant increase in stress on days they left their dog at home compared to when they brought their pet to work.
Boosts Heart Health
Pets can also boost owner’s heart health, perhaps as a result of the increased physical activity that they promote. According to the American Heart Association, dog ownership, in particular, may reduce cardiovascular risk, likely as a result of owners walking their pets more often than non-dog owners. Owning pets may also be associated with a lower risk of obesity, lower blood pressure, less stress, and lower cholesterol levels, all of which can have a positive impact on the heart.
Research also indicates that simply interacting with a dog can provide heart benefits. In a 2007 study performed out of UCLA, researchers provided therapy dogs for patients hospitalized with heart failure. They found that after a 12-minute visit, patients exhibited improved cardiopulmonary pressures, healthier neurohormone levels, and less anxiety.
A lot of the health benefits of owning a pet may stem from the mental and emotional benefits. “People who have pets are less harried; there’s more laughter in their life,” says Dr. Becker. “When you come home, it’s like you’re George Clooney: You’re a star.” This is a primary reason why pets are used in various forms of therapy. “At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, they’re using dogs to help soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Katy Nelson, DVM, an associate emergency veterinarian at the VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. “They’re finding the guys who have a pet are able to re-enter society a little bit easier. They’re showing a decreased suicide rate, one of the biggest health threats [veterans] face. These guys who have a pet have someone they’re responsible for, someone who cares about them. And they don’t have to explain what they’ve been through.”
Prevents Allergies and Improves Immunity
Dr. Becker says pets can dramatically improve immunity and prevent allergies. “A study found that children ages 5 to 7 from pet-owning households attend school three weeks more per year than those who don’t have pets,” he says. He also says that the more pets you have earlier in life, the fewer allergies you will develop. “Kids who grow up on farms and around animals don’t have allergies,” he says. “That dander on that hair, that’s natural immunotherapy.” But he notes that this effect is not reversible: Getting a pet as an adult will not minimize allergies, it only helps prevent certain allergies from developing in children.
Lowers Blood Pressure
While some studies have found a stronger connection than others, having a pet has the potential to lower blood pressure, especially in hypertensive or high-risk patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “If you have a dog around, your blood pressure is lower,” says Marty Becker, DVM, veterinary consultant for Good Morning America and author of the upcoming book Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual. “A lot of it goes back to reducing stress: You might lose your job, your house, your 401(k)—but you’ll never lose the unconditional love of your pet.”
These were the top 5 health benefits of owning a pet. Missed any other health benefits of owning a pet? If yes, share your thoughts in the comment section below.