Health Benefits of Living with Pets

Mar 1, 2019 | Avian, Care & Wellness, Cats, Dogs, Exotic, Uncategorized

There is a reason why dogs are known as man’s best friend. However, just about any pet can enrich your life — Cats, birds, ferrets, goats, and even snakes. And it’s not just that their antics make us smile. These furry, feathered, or scaled family members can actually improve our health and wellbeing.

Pet Owners Get More Exercise

It probably comes as no surprise that owning a dog requires a little bit of energy. Dogs have to be walked and exercised, which means dog owners are out there getting more physical activity than people without dogs. One study found that 60% of dog owners who took their dogs for regular walks were considered to get regular moderate or vigorous exercise based on federal standards. Another study showed that older folks are much more likely to get exercise by owning a dog than through companionship with another human.

Cats can promote activity, too. Simple activities like play time, feeding, and cleaning the litter box get homebodies off their couches. Some cats even go on walks!

Pets are known to reduce stress.

While it can be stressful when you pet becomes ill, the overall stress reduction of owning a pet outweighs this. Countless studies have shown that people experience reduced cortisol and increased serotonin while spending time with their pet. Recent studies have even shown that pet owners who are allowed to bring their animals to work exhibit increased productivity and reduced stress. Companies including Amazon, Bissell, and local speaker manufacturer Crutchfield have taken advantage of this by offering their employees pet-friendly offices.

Pets Help Treat Depression

Depression can be a debilitating disease, and pets provide those suffering from it with judgment-free companionship. This produces a relaxing effect and can improve a person’s mood. What’s more, pets need to be fed, exercised, and cared for. These needs provide people who might otherwise feel like they can’t function with structure and schedule. Many studies have shown how exercise can alleviate the symptoms of depression. Pets motivate depressed individuals to exercise. Taking these animals out into public can help foster new human relationships, and preserve existing ones, leading the owner to feel less socially isolated.

Pets Improve Life for Seniors

Seniors often suffer from depression, loneliness, and boredom. Pets can help with this. They provide companionship, and provide elders a sense of purpose through care and feeding. They help connect our seniors to the world and even the act of caring for the animal helps with exercise.

Pets can also help improve an elderly person’s physical health. Multiple studies have shown that seniors who own pets have lower blood pressure, less risk of a stroke, improved mood, and decreased risk of a cardiac event. One particular study showed a 10% reduction of blood pressure just by spending time with your pet. Another study demonstrated that owners of cats have a 40 percent reduction in the risk of having a heart attack!

Pets Help Kids Develop Stronger Immune Systems

Conventional wisdom posits that kids with pets are more prone to developing allergies. However, many recent studies are proving this is not the case. Dr. James Gern, MD of the University of Wisconsin has shown that babies who are exposed to dogs develop less allergies to everything (not just dogs!). And in general, these kids had stronger immune systems compared to babies raised without exposure to dogsdogs. In a recent study, he analyzed babies at birth and again one year later. The babies with dogs in the house showed a 19% to 33% less chance of developing allergies to pets. In addition, these babies were less likely to suffer for eczema and had elevated levels of certain hormones that help modulate the immune system.

In further studies, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills of UVA showed that both dog and cat exposure at a young age prevents not only pet allergies, but even grass allergies, dust mites, and ragweed. Dr. Platts-Mills demonstrated that children exposed to two or more dogs or cats growing up were 77% less likely to develop allergies.

The human-animal bond creates mutual health benefits. With proper veterinary care, today’s pets receive the very best quality of life. Who would have guessed that veterinary care makes humans healthier, too?

 — Dr. McKenna

For more information, contact our team at VETSS, a Charlottesville VA urgent care animal hospital!

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