One of the wonderful side-effects from this time of sheltering at home is many animal shelters around the nation are empty. Animals are being adopted and Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, was quoted as saying the rates of animal fostering have increased by 90% in some cities. This is not entirely surprising when we look closer at the physical and mental benefits of having a pet.
For example, scientists found dog owners were likely to live longer than those who didn't have dogs: Dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause, according to the study. For people with heart problems, living with a dog had an even greater benefit, authors of the study said. But that's not all.
Benefits of Being a Pet Owner
According to Helpguide.org, studies have found that:
- Pet owners are less likely than others to experience depression.
- When dealing with stress, people with pets have lower blood pressure.
- Pet owners also have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels and are less likely to experience complications due to heart disease.
- Pet owners age 65 and older were found to make 30% fewer doctor visits than their peers without pets.
- Activity and playing with animals elevates dopamine and serotonin, chemicals in the brain known for improving mood, memory, sleep, libido, and appetite.
Which Animals Provide Health Benefits?
Dogs are the most familiar animals when it comes to animal therapy. It is common practice for hospitals and care facilities to encourage canine health visits. The act of stroking a dog reduces stress and boosts moods. Therapy dogs assist with mental health challenges and experts even suggest patients heal more quickly by spending time with canine friends.
While dogs and cats are among the top pets known to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and encourage activity, good health, and companionship, other pets can provide similar benefits. Spending time with any animals, even watching fish swimming lazily in a bowl, provides benefits to the pet owner.
According to the Anxiety Treatment Center, equine therapy has been popular to promote physical and emotional growth since at least 600 B.C. Riding horses can help individuals build communication, trust, social skills, confidence, and perspective.
Other animals, used in therapy, that provide health benefits include rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, llamas, alpacas, and even elephants and dolphins. Of course, some of those animals are easier to invite into your home than others.
Why Owning a Pet Benefits YOUR Health
Many people find helping their pet stay healthy helps them stay healthy as well. Taking dogs on walks is great for the animal and their owner.
Loneliness and isolation lead to depression. Animal companionship can help prevent those negative feelings of being alone. Serving others, even a pet friend, takes the focus away from yourself and provides the chance to help someone else. Plus, nothing beats a furry friend who is super excited to see you every morning.
Companion animals have become increasingly popular when dealing with anxiety. Pets build self-confidence and provide a constant source of affection, comfort, and security, very important elements for those with many concerns in their life. Pets provide the perfect example of not worrying about what happened yesterday or what is coming in the future – but instead, just living in the moment.
Creating a Schedule
Animals need to be cared for and pet owners quickly find themselves in a routine. This helps the pet know what to expect and adds a positive structure to the pet owner’s day.
Animals help reduce stress in their owners. Blood pressure is lowered as the pets get you moving and also provide comfort through snuggles and stroking.
Pet owners find laughter, exercise, and interaction with their pet increases their energy and boosts their immune system.
By taking care of a pet, owners come into contact with many new people. Pets provide a way to start up conversations and make new friends. When discussion about a pet initiates a conversation, there is a shared interest in common from the get-go.
Taking Good Care of Your Pet
While our pets are busy increasing our mood and health, just by being their friendly furry selves, it is important we also take good care of them. It is common, as animals age, for them to develop arthritis and other illnesses. This often manifests as pets show difficulty in moving, experience swollen joints, have appetite changes, or just slow down.
A good glucosamine supplement can provide the building blocks for healthy joints and connective tissues while also providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Effective Natural Products has liquid glucosamine supplements for dogs, cats, and horses which offer the benefits of quick absorption and easy digestion.
A pet can offer love and companionship, even be a best friend, and the benefits don’t stop there. Owning a pet decreases stress and improves our health. During National Pet Week, take a few moments to be mindful of the benefits you receive from your pet and show them some extra appreciation.
Ellis, E. G. (n.d.). Thanks to Sheltering in Place, Animal Shelters Are Empty. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-pet-adoption-boom/
Equine Assisted Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://anxietytreatmentexperts.com/equine-assisted-therapy/
The Mood-Boosting Power of Pets. (2020, April 16). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.htm
Torrey, T. (2020, March 20). How Dogs Can Offer a Unique Form of Mental Health Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/therapy-dogs-benefits-2615438