Pets affect our health in many subtle yet substantial ways. When you come home to a purr or wagging tail at the end of a stressful day, the sudden wave of calm you feel isn’t just your imagination. Have you ever noticed you feel better when you’re around your pet? It’s true. Spending quality time with a dog, cat or other animal can have a positive impact on your mood and your health. Pets can be calming stress-fighters.
Research suggests your fluffy friend truly is good for your physical and mental health. Pets give unconditional acceptance and love and they’re always there for you. There is a bond and companionship that makes a big difference in our overall health. Researchers found that pet owners, on average, were better off than non-owners, especially when they have a higher-quality relationship with their pets.
For some active people, that includes playing ball or Frisbee in the park. For others who can’t get outside, just petting your dog can help you feel connected.
Here are 18 ways your Pets can positivity effect your health
1. They get you outside.
A dog will force you to step outside at least once a day. Exposure to nature has been linked to everything from improved immune function to decreased stress, so even that super-quick morning walk around the block could be doing wonders for your health and well-being.
2. They keep you active and boost fitness
While the idea of braving the cold or rain to walk your dog may seem daunting sometimes, think of it as an investment in your health. In an age of online shopping, nearly instantaneous food deliveries, and constant entertainment at our fingertips, we are exercising less than ever before. Animals can help you stay active and hit your daily step count without having to think about it.
Dogs are the best companion on a walk, even better than a friend. Johnson—co-author of Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound—led a study at the University of Missouri that found that dog walkers improved their fitness more than people who walked with other people. Another study found that dog owners walked 300 minutes a week on average, while people who didn’t own dogs walked just 168 minutes a week. And a study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found not only did dog owners walk more than non-owners, they were also 54% more likely to meet their recommended levels of physical activity.
3. They regulate your sleeping schedule.
Since most dogs expect to be fed first thing in the morning, they encourage us to set our alarms earlier and lay off the snooze button. Waking up at the same time each day, preferably with the sun, is a proven way to reinforce the body’s natural circadian rhythm. It helps us sleep better and reap the restorative benefits of a good night’s rest.
4. Decrease loneliness
Loneliness is a full-blown epidemic these days, and it’s making us sad and sick. Feeling alone raises our stress level and leads to significant unnecessary inflammation. Having a pet at home has been shown to decrease feelings of loneliness, especially in older adults. Not to mention, becoming a regular at your local dog park is a great way to get to know neighbors you probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
As is true with any relationship, some human-pet relationships are likely to be more rewarding than others. Some people are more attached to their pets than others and those feelings could influence the impact of the pet on the person’s health. Other factors like gender and marital status may play a role. One study found that having a dog was associated with lower rates of depression among women, but not men, and among single individuals but not married people. So, while Pets might have a positive impact on well-being for some people, it doesn’t affect everyone the same way.
Having a pet also helped the people to keep a strong sense of “identity, self-worth, and existential meaning.”
5. Petting your pet is good Medicine.
The notion that animals are therapeutic goes back to ancient Egypt, where it was thought that a dog’s lick could heal sores or lesions. Since then, science has proven the idea that petting animals can lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels by releasing oxytocin in the brain and decreasing cortisol production. It makes sense that therapy dogs are staples in hospitals and nursing homes.
It’s a win-win: petting your pooch or kitty brings down blood pressure while pleasing your pet. Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo discovered that in people already taking medication for high blood pressure response to stress was cut in half if they owned a cat or dog. Pets also Reduce your risk for heart disease by lowering cholesterol, stress, and blood pressure levels combined with increased fitness may add up to a reduced risk of heart disease. That’s a theory supported by the American Heart association 2013, the AHA reviewed numerous studies examining the effects of pet ownership on cardiovascular disease risk and concluded that having a furry friend, particularly a dog, is associated with a reduced risk and increased survival rate among heart patients. 5 Kittens and a Blog
6. They give your home a healthy microbiome.
The bacteria, viruses, and fungi that dogs introduce into our homes can help diversify our gut microbiome—the collection of microorganisms that influences everything from our mood to our digestion and respiratory health. That’s one reason kids who grow up with a dog at home are nearly 13 % less likely to develop asthma later in life.
Even if you live in a tiny apartment and work around the clock, you can still reap some of these health benefits without owning a dog of your own. Simply making a charitable donation to humane societies like the ASPCA can make you happier and healthier.
7. Fewer Doctor Visits
A large German study collected pet information (dog, cat, horse, fish, bird or other pet ownership) from over 9,000 people at two different times (1996 and 2001 The survey included a number of health, economic, and work questions, so that respondents would not realize the researchers’ interest in a link between pets and health. Researchers found that people who said they had a pet in both 1996 and 2001 had the fewest doctor visits, followed by people who had acquired a pet by 2001; the group of people who did not have a pet at either time had the highest number of doctor visits. Similarly, a study of women in China found those who had a dog had fewer doctor visits, took fewer days off sick from work, and exercised more often.
8. Healthier Children
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which encouraged parents to get their children a pet; showed that having a dog staved off anxiety and was linked to a lower body mass index (BMI). Researchers discovered that the protective effect was due to a certain type of gut bacteria often present in people with dogs. Allergies Natural Relief
9. Lower your cholesterol if you have a dog, those daily walks are helping to keep your cholesterol in check, says Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. Plus, a survey by the Australian National Heart Foundation revealed that people who have pets, especially men, tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
10. Relieve stress
Simply being in the same room as your pet can have a calming effect. “A powerful neurochemicals, oxytocin, is released when we look at our companion animal, which brings feelings of joy,” says Johnson. “It’s also accompanied by a decrease in cortisol, a stress hormone.” Through her research with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Johnson has witnessed the powerful effects of animals. “One veteran couldn’t leave his home without his wife until we placed a dog with him and in less than a week he could go around his town,” she says. How stress harms your health
11. Prevent Allergies
If you had a pet as a kid, you may be in luck. In a study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, children who were exposed to pets before they were six months old were less likely to develop allergic diseases, hay fever, and eczema as they got older. “In the first year of life, babies who are exposed to dogs in the household are more likely not to have allergies, asthma, and fewer upper respiratory infections,” says Johnson. “If exposed at an early age to dander and allergens, we may be less reactive to them over time.” And kids who grow up around farm animals, dogs, or cats typically have stronger immune systems and a reduced risk of developing asthma or eczema. More research is needed on the connection between allergies, asthma, and pets, but it is possible that the impact of having pets on allergies may depend on the age of the person at the time they are exposed to an animal as well as the type of pet. Likewise, researchers say the timing of when a pet is added to a family is also important. Children with dogs or cats in their home during the first year of life are less likely to develop allergies in childhood.
12. Pets ease chronic pain
Having pets around the house can help distract you from chronic pain. “Petting your pets release endorphins—the same hormones that give a runner’s high—and they are powerful pain relievers,” says Johnson. “That’s been demonstrated in hospitalized patients who had a visit from an animal and reported less pain simply from one visit.” In fact, Loyola University Chicago researchers found that people who underwent joint replacement surgery used less pain medication when they received pet therapy. And one American Journal of Critical Care study found patients hospitalized for heart failure had improved cardio functioning when visited by a dog. The simple task of caring for a pet can also be a positive distraction for people with chronic pain. Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression and so much more; The Long Journey Back to being Me
13. Pets improve relationships
Young adults with a deep bond to their pets felt more connected in their relationships and to their communities than those who did not have animals, found researchers in a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Science. They were more likely to take on leadership roles and tended to be more confident and empathetic; Johnson says it’s reasonable to believe this would be the case with older adults as well.
14. Pets monitor health changes
Pets are very sensitive to their owners’ behavior, which can be helpful for those who suffer from diabetes. Some animals can sense plummeting blood sugar levels before their owners can. “When diabetics get low blood sugar they get ketoacidosis (when they can’t use sugar as a fuel source), which changes the smell of their breath, and trained dogs can pick up on that scent change,” explains Christopher Buckley, director of veterinary medicine at the Human Society of West Michigan in Kalamazoo. “It’s not in the innate ability of every dog, but they can be trained to do that.” Need a furry minder? There are several organizations that specifically train dogs to aid diabetics, including Early Alert Canines, Dogs4Diabetics, and Dogs Assisting Diabetics.
15. Pets boost your self-esteem
“Pets are completely non-judgmental, don’t have an agenda, take you at face value, and they don’t care what you look like or how you behave—they love unconditionally, and that boots self-esteem,” says Johnson. “Confidence can be improved by the fact that dogs love you no matter what, and to the same extent, cats are very loving to their owners.” Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people with Pets had higher self-esteem, as well as feelings of belonging and meaningful existence than non-pet people.
16. Pets bring your family closer together
Whether you make your kids take turns walking the dog or it’s always your job to feed the cat, research has proven having a pet is good for the whole family. “Pets can be a very important bridge between family members,” says Johnson. “Often grandchildren have a hard time talking to a grandparent, so pets can be a natural bridge, providing a convenient and easy topic of conversation.” Additionally, children often have their first death experience through animals, which is a teachable moment. “Pets can provide the ultimate learning experience—kids learn how to treat others with kindness and caring, and they teach responsibility,” Johnson explains.
17. Pets are a Social Magnets
Pets, especially dogs, can help you connect with other people.
“If I saw you walking down the street, I couldn’t comfortably start talking to you if I didn’t know you, but I could if you had a dog,” Beck says. “It’s an acceptable interaction that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”
People who use wheelchairs say that other people make eye contact with them more often and ask if they can be of help when they’re with their dogs, Beck says.
18. Social Support for Autistic Children
Kids tend to relate better to their classmates who have autism when pets are in the classroom, Beck has found in his research.
“Animals change the classroom environment and help integrate those who are a little less typical,” Beck says. “Once the children get involved with animals, they view each other more positively and work together better.”
Needless to say pets are a big responsibility, but what they add to our lives far outweigh the drawbacks. Pets give far more than they take and they improver your overall health and life in ways you don’t even realize. I am one of those people who believes a house is not a home without a pet or two. My husband and I have always had pets in our home. We got our first cat two weeks after we were married and I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have pets in our thirty-three year marriage. It’s not always been easy, being a military family with all the moving can make pet ownership challenging, to say the least. But the unconditional love and health benefits far outweigh the difficulties. ADHD and ADD Treating Naturally (Including CBD Oil)
April will be the one year anniversary of the series 5 Kittens and a Blog. I will be doing a one-year-old birthday article with pictures of how much our babies have grown. We will also be posting videos of their first year on our YouTube channel. If you haven’t read my earlier articles on 5 Kittens and a Blog you can find theism in the links below and keep your eye out the first week of April for the one year birthday update and a link to the videos.
Research for this article from the following articles: