By Ashley Watson
If you have a pet, you probably already know the value of having a loyal companion in your life. But have you ever really thought about how your pet improves your quality of life? Numerous studies have explored the ways pets help improve their owners’ overall health and well being, from lowering blood pressure to sensing low blood sugar. This week’s post from Pet Naturals® will cover all the ways the family pet can make you happier and healthier. While there are many different types of pets, this post will focus on cats and dogs since they are the most popular.
Pets are perhaps most known for helping to alleviate depression, anxiety, and other mood problems in humans. The simple act of brushing your cat or petting your dog can lift your mood. Our basic need for touch is part of the therapeutic effect that our pets have on us. In fact, some of the most hardened prisoners have demonstrated behavioral changes after interacting with pets. Many therapists and psychiatrists use therapy dogs or bring their pets to the office to help patients feel more relaxed.
Mood support isn’t the only mental benefit of having a furry companion around. Any kind of contact with a pet can have a very calming effect on people when they are stressed. Dogs and cats are also very perceptive, and they can tell when you are stressed out. While this may be a result of their ability to sense chemical changes in your body, such as higher cortisone levels, they do seem to know when to be extra loving. Additionally, people who work in dog-friendly offices are also known to have decreased stress levels at work, and the work environment tends to be healthier.
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is an increasing problem in our society, whether its caused by high-stress occupations, environmental stress, or other stressful situations. No matter what the cause, stress and high blood pressure take a toll on our health. In addition to relieving general stress, owning a pet can help lower blood pressure. A University of Buffalo study conducted by Karen Allen, Ph.D., evaluated the effect of social support from pets on a group of 48 stockbrokers. The study looked at blood pressure in response to mental stress. The results showed that the half of the participants who were given a dog or cat had lower blood pressure than the non-pet control group.
For people with high blood pressure, it’s always a good idea to start with limiting stress and to get plenty of exercise while maintaining a low-sodium, balanced diet. Owning a pet can certainly augment your wellness program. But lifestyle changes are your first line of defense.
Encourages Exercise and a Structured Schedule
Having a dog will inevitably encourage owners to get more exercise since dogs need to be walked at least once a day, and the more the better. Even playing with your cat can add to your daily activity. Increased exercise also means increased mood support. There are plenty of ways to get exercise for you and your dog. It’s best to find a place you can let them run loose, such as a trail or dog park, to give your dog the full benefit of running off leash. Having a feeding schedule or time of day that you walk your dog will also add more structure to your day, making it a little easier to be more organized and productive.
Provides a Reason to Socialize
If you are an introverted person, owning a pet can provide a reason for you to socialize, especially dogs. Humans and dogs are both social creatures, and while you may not thrive on being social, you still need it just like your canine counterpart. Walking your dog can also spark up conversations with other dog owners you meet on your route. For people who live alone or don’t have family nearby, pets provide companionship, which helps decrease feelings of loneliness and helps fight depression.
Pets are not only companions; they are also excellent at serving others. Dogs have been trained to assist people with disabilities, detect early signs of a seizure in people with epilepsy, and even detect low blood sugar in diabetics. Detecting these signs early can help prevent serious damage or death in some cases. Click here to read the New York Times article about dogs detecting health problems. Dogs are also excellent at sniffing out drugs and bombs in airports or other public places.
What has your pet done for you? Share your story with us on Facebook!