It's been a little while since I've done a wellness post. It recently occurred to me that it would be fun to talk about health benefits of owning pets.
Disclaimer: I'm speaking as dog owner here, but I'm sure some of these benefits apply to cats as well. :) Pets make our lives so much richer, and as it turns out, healthier too!
Health Benefits of Having a Pet
Build immunity in children
Kids who grow up with pets are about half as likely to develop allergies as those in pet-free homes. Studies have shown that early exposure to dander can reduce risk of allergic sensitivity later in life. Guess those tumbleweeds of dog hair I was exposed to as a child served as a crude sort of immunotherapy. Who knew? :)
A dog is good at making you feel like the most important person in the world (to them, technically yes, because you set down that bowl of food every day) They make us feel loved. They do goofy things to make us laugh. I don't think the title "Man's Best Friend" (or "Lady's Best Friend") was bestowed on a whim. Dogs have earned and held that place for many, many years.
Pet therapy appears to be effective in helping patients with chronic pain conditions (i.e. fibromyalgia, migraines). The comforting presence of an animal may decrease anxiety, and in turn,
decrease pain severity.
Lower blood pressure and stress levels
Several studies demonstrate that blood pressure decreases when someone pets a dog. Also, in times of stress, dog owners have less cardiovascular reactivity - any increase in heart rate and blood pressure is less significant, and these values return to normal more quickly.
When I fell stressed out, Pruitt is one of my top confidantes. He doesn't ask questions, but just expresses understanding and concern in his own doggy way.
No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does. ~ Christopher Morley
Encourage an active lifestyle
Pets make the best exercise companions because of their seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm. When the weather is right, I love to go for hikes with Pruitt. (Read about some benefits of exercising outdoors in this post.) He eagerly tugs me along the trails, sniffing every blessed leaf and twig we encounter. His joy is contagious and encourages me to venture further than I might by myself. He also makes me feel safer in some of the more isolated sections of trail. As I mentioned, we only do this when the weather is mild enough. High temps or below zero wind chills can be dangerous for humans and pets alike.
'Til next time,
Final disclaimer: If you already own a pet, marvelous! If you don't and are considering adopting a pet, please make sure you have the time and space in your life that a pet deserves. If that means getting up at 3 a.m. to let out a puppy who has yet to comprehend potty-training, that's what it means. Do your research and be a smart pet owner! While pets can be a significant benefit to us, we have to be just as much to them. We are wholly responsible for their well-being.
Woman's Day - 10 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet
Harvard Health - Having a dog can help your heart - literally
National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association - Animal Assisted Therapy