Dogs & Children

Pets help with Stress

Less stress equals a longer life, so keep good company.

 Most pet owners don’t need reminding that animals make you feel good. But there’s more to it than just feeling glad they’re around. An animal can make you healthy, and help you stay that way. Numerous studies have shown that having pets helps lower our stress levels, decrease blood pressure, benefit our cholesterol, improve our mood, and boost our immunity – in other words, lengthen our life span!

Studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond, such as:

  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
  • People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
  • Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
  • Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
  • Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
  • A pet doesn’t have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate.

One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch.  Stroking, holding, or cuddling a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and some pets are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost mood.

Spending time with your dog or cat, watching chickens in the garden or fish swim in a pond, can help you feel less anxious and less stressed. Your body goes through physical changes which then  makes a difference to your mood. The level of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) is lowered. The production of serotonin (a chemical associated with well-being) is increased. Reducing stress saves your body from wear and tear.

Therapists have been known to prescribe a pet as a way of dealing with and recovering from depression. No one loves you more unconditionally than your pet. And a pet will listen to you talk for as long as you want to talk. Patting a cat or dog has a calming effect. Taking care of a pet — walking with it, grooming it, playing with it – takes you out of yourself and helps you feel better about the way you spend your time.

One key to a healthy mind is staying engaged with others. And pet owners have a tendency to want to talk with other pet owners. A dog is a conversation waiting to happen. People, especially other people with dogs, will stop and talk with you when they see you walking your pet. Visiting a dog park lets you socialise with other owners while your dog socialises with their dogs.

People who own dogs tend to be more physically active and less obese than people who don’t. Taking your dog for a daily 30-minute walk will keep you moving and ensure that you meet the minimum recommendations for healthy physical activity. Two 15-minute walks, one in the morning and one in the evening, will do the same thing. After that, just playing fetch in the back yard with your dog will earn you healthful dividends.

If you exercise with your pet, you’ll both benefit. Shine a flashlight on the wall or wave a string while you do a step aerobics routine. Your cat will get a healthy workout chasing the light, and you’ll be thoroughly entertained. There are now even yoga classes for people and their dogs, called doga.

Strong bones are your best defence against osteoporosis and painful fractures. Walking your dog helps. It’s a weight-bearing exercise that strengthens your bones and the muscles around them. It also lets you spend time in the sun, which provides vitamin D. If you have osteoporosis, be sure you guard against falls. Use a short leash that won’t get tangled. And don’t walk a dog that is liable to jump on you and make you lose your balance.

Researchers have found that children who grow up in a home with a dog or cat are less likely to develop allergies. The same is true for kids who live on a farm with large animals. In addition, higher levels of certain immune system chemicals show a stronger immunity, which helps keep them healthy as they get older.

People with pets seem to enjoy better overall health. It is known that joy and laughter trigger the release of chemicals in the brain that enhance your immune function. Pets make us smile and laugh with their amusing antics and lovable gestures. And petting something furry is a proven immune boost.

While people who have pets tend to be happier, more independent, and feel more secure than those without pets, it’s important to select the type of pet that is best for you. You’ll benefit most from having a pet whose needs are compatible with your lifestyle and physical capabilities.