We feed them, clean them, play with them, and even talk to them. We love our pets and, in many ways, they love us back. Pets provide us companionship, comfort, and amusement. What we don’t realize is how beneficial these adorable animals can be to our physical and mental well-being. This May, celebrate National Pet Month by learning about the positive effects of caring for a furry friend.
1. Reduce Stress
After a difficult day, a pet can be just the thing to lift up your spirits. Research shows that people performing stressful tasks were more relaxed when accompanied by their pets. Spending time with a pet dog or cat induces physical changes in our bodies that enhance our mood. Cortisol levels are lowered and serotonin, a hormone associated with happiness, is increased.
2. Prevent Allergies
Studies reveal that children who grow up in a home with furry pets, such as cats and dogs, develop fewer allergies than those who don’t. Even kids who grow up on farms with large, domestic animals have less risk of allergies and asthma. This suggests that exposure to dirt and allergens at an early age strengthens a child’s immune system. This immunity boosting effect, however, only develops in children and does not affect adults with existing allergies.
3. Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
It has been observed that dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. This may be attributed to increased physical activity and social contact brought about by caring for a dog. Regular walks with your dog provide exercise and increased socialization with neighbors or other pet lovers. These physical and psychological enhancements have a profound effect on lowering triglyceride levels and preventing minor ailments and medical problems.
4. Help People with Illness
Pets are increasingly being used in settings such as hospitals and nursing homes as a form of treatment. Pet therapy can help motivate some patients to exert more effort when dealing with serious illnesses. Being responsible for a pet, it seems, encourages ailing patients to take better care of themselves.
A therapist who brings along a pet may appear less threatening, thereby strengthening the rapport between the patient and therapist. People afflicted with chronic pain, such as migraine or arthritis, are able to manage pain better when living with a pet, as pets can decrease depression and anxiety.
Pets are truly a valuable part of our lives. On National Pet Month, help spread the word on the wonderful benefits that pets can have on our health and our hearts.