The Mood and Health Benefits of Pets - HelpGuide.org (2023)

Pets

Pets have some powerful health benefits. See how caring for a dog, cat or other animal can help alleviate depression and anxiety, reduce stress and improve heart health.

The Mood and Health Benefits of Pets - HelpGuide.org (1)

The benefits of pets

Most pet owners are aware of the immediate joys that come from sharing their lives with their pets. However, many of us are unaware of the physical and mental benefits that snuggling with a furry friend can bring. Only recently have studies begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond.

Pets have evolved to tune in to people, our behavior and emotions. Dogs, for example, can understand many of the words we use, but they are even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language and gestures. And like any good human friend, a loyal dog will look you in the eye to gauge your emotional state, trying to understand what you're thinking and feeling (and, of course, knowing when the next walk or treat is coming up).

Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, alleviate loneliness, encourage exercise and play, and even improve cardiovascular health. Taking care of an animal can help children grow up more confident and active. Pets are also valuable companions for older adults. Perhaps most importantly, having a pet can bring genuine joy and unconditional love into your life.

Any pet can improve your health

While it's true that people with pets generally experience greater health benefits than those without, a pet doesn't necessarily have to be a dog or cat. A bunny can be ideal if you're allergic to other animals or have limited space but still want to cuddle with a furry friend. Birds can encourage social interaction and help keep your mind sharp if you're an older adult. Snakes, lizards and other reptiles can make exotic companions. Watching fish in an aquarium can also help reduce muscle tension and lower your heart rate.

Studies have shown that:

  • Pet owners suffer lessDepressionthan those without pets.
  • have people with petslow blood pressurein stressful situations than people without pets. One study even found that people with borderline hypertension who adopted dogs from a shelter had a significant drop in blood pressure within five months.
  • Playing with a dog, cat, or other pet can increase serotonin and dopamine levels, which is calming and relaxing.
  • Pet owners have lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol (indicators of heart disease) than non-pet owners.
  • Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
  • Pet owners age 65 and older make 30% fewer visits to the doctor than those without pets.

One reason for this therapeutic effect is that pets fulfill the basic human need for touch. Even prison-hardened criminals exhibit long-term behavioral changes after dealing with pets, many of whom are experiencing mutual affection for the first time. A loving animal can be petted, hugged, or otherwise touched.quickly calm down and calm downyou when you are stressed or anxious. The company of a pet can alsorelieve loneliness, and most dogs are a great incentive for healthy exercise, which can greatly improve your mood and relieve depression.

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How pets can help you make healthy lifestyle changes

Adopting a healthy lifestyle plays an important role in relievingsymptom of depression, Anxiety, Stress, Bipolar Disorder and PTSD. Pet care can help you make healthy lifestyle changes:

Increased exercise.Walking the dog, walking, or running are fun and rewarding ways to adapt.healthy daily exerciseon your schedule. Studies have shown that dog owners are much more likely to meet their daily exercise needs, and daily exercise is good for the dog too. This will deepen the connection between you, eliminate most canine behavior issues, and keep your pet fit and healthy.

To keep company.Companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to your life, while isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression. Taking care of an animal can help you feel needed and wanted and take your attention away from your problems, especially if you live alone. Most dogs andcat ownerthey talk to their pets, some even use them to solve their problems. And nothing beats loneliness like coming home to a wagging tail or a purring cat.

help you meet new people.Pets can be a great social lubricant for their owners, helping them get started and keep up.new friendships🇧🇷 Dog owners often stop and talk to each other on walks, hikes, or at a dog park. Pet owners also meet new people at pet stores, clubs and training courses.

reduce anxiety.The company of an animal can offer comfort and helprelieve anxiety, and build confidence for people eager to get out into the world. Because pets tend to live in the moment and not worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow, they can help you become more mindful and appreciate the joy of the present.

Bring structure and routine to your day.Many pets, especially dogs, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. A consistent routine keeps the animal balanced and calm, and it might work for you too. Regardless of your mood (depressed, anxious or stressed), one pitying look from your pet and you'll have to get out of bed to feed, exercise and shave him.

[Read: Dealing with depression]

Provides sensory relief from stress.Touch and movement are two healthy waysdeal with stress quickly🇧🇷 Petting a dog, cat, or other animal can lower your blood pressure and help you feel calmer and less stressed quickly.

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The Mood and Health Benefits of Pets - HelpGuide.org (3)

Get a dog, get

Several studies have linked dog ownership to weight loss:

  • A year-long study at the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago found that walking an obese dog helped both the animals and their owners shed unwanted pounds. The researchers found that the dogs provided similar support as a human training partner, but with greater consistency and without the negative impacts.
  • Another study by the Human-Animal Interaction Research Center found that board residents who walked therapy dogs for up to 20 minutes five days a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds in one year without changing their diet.
  • A third study, conducted by dog ​​food manufacturer Mars Petcare, found that people walked their dogs 30 minutes more per week than they did before getting a dog.

The benefits of pets for seniors

In addition to vital companionship, owning a pet can play an important role.healthy aginghelp you:

Find meaning and joy in life.As you get older, you lose the things that used to take up your time and give your life meaning. You may retire from your career or your children may move away. Taking care of a pet can bring you joy and help boost your morale, optimism and self-esteem. Deciding to adopt a pet from a shelter, especially an older pet, can increase your sense of satisfaction in knowing that you have given a home to a pet that might otherwise have been euthanized.

[Read: Cultivating Happiness]

Stay in touch.Maintaining a social network is not always easy in old age.retirement, illness, death and relocation can affect close friends and family. And making new friends can be more difficult. Pets, especially dogs, are a great way for older adults to start conversations andMeet new people.

Increase your vitality.You can overcome many of the physical challenges that come with age by taking good care of yourself. Dogs, cats and other petsstimulate the game, laughter and exercise, which can strengthen your immune system and boost your energy.

How Pets Help Adults with Alzheimer's or Dementia

as part of the diseaseAlzheimer's patientsThey can exhibit a variety of behavioral problems, many of which are related to an inability to cope with stress.

  • Research from the University of California at Davis found that Alzheimer's patients experience less stress and fewer anxiety attacks when a dog or cat is in the home.
  • Pets can be a source of positive non-verbal communication. The playful interaction and gentle touches of a docile, well-trained animal can help soothe and calm an Alzheimer's patientreduce aggressive behavior- how easy it is to be exposed to bright fish tanks or fish tanks.
  • In many cases, a patient's problem behavior is a reaction to the primary caregiver's stressed response. Pets can help reduce stress for caregivers. Cats or caged animals may be more suitable than dogs, which often require more attention and can add to the stress of someone already caring for an Alzheimer's patient.

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The benefits of pets for children.

Children raised with pets not only have a reduced risk of allergies and asthma, but they learn responsibility, compassion, and empathy from owning a dog or cat.

[Read: Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children]

  • Unlike parents or teachers, pets never judge and never give orders. They are always affectionate and their mere presence in the home can help instill a sense of security in children. It can be helpful to always have a pet with you.Relieve separation anxiety in childrenwhen mom and dad aren't around.
  • The love and companionship of a pet can make a child feel important and help them develop a positive self-image.
  • Children who are emotionally attached to their pets are better able to bond with other people.
  • Studies have also shown that pets can help calm hyperactive or overly aggressive children. Of course, both the pet and the child need to be trained to behave properly with each other.
  • A pet can help develop a young and developing mind, teaching a childEmpathyand understanding. Children can talk to their pet without fear of rejection, which helps build their confidence and even their vocabulary.
  • Keeping even a small pet, such as a guinea pig or hamster, in a cage is a great way to teach a child responsibility.

Just like adults, children can benefit from playing with a pet. It can be a source of rest and relaxation, as well as a source of stimulation for the brain and body. Playing with a pet can even be a gateway to a child's learning. It can stimulate a child's imagination and curiosity. For example, the rewards of teaching a dog a new trick can teach children the importance of perseverance. Taking care of a furry friend can offer a child another benefit: immense joy.

Children with learning disabilities and other challenges

some children withAutism or other learning disabilitiesThey are more capable of interacting with pets than humans. Autistic children often rely on non-verbal cues to communicate, just like animals. And learning to bond with a pet first can even help an autistic child with their interactions with people.

  • Pets can help children with learning disabilities regulate stress and calm down, better preparing them to face the challenges of their condition.
  • Playing and exercising with a dog or cat can help a child with a learning disability stay alert and alert throughout the day. It can also be a great antidote to the stress and frustration caused by learning disabilities.

Having a pet is a big commitment.

Despite all the benefits, it's important to remember that having a pet is not a miracle cure for mental health issues. Owning a pet is only beneficial and comforting to those who love and appreciate pets and have the time and money to keep a pet happy and healthy. If you're just not an "animal person," having a pet won't provide any health benefits or improve your life.

Even if you love animals, it's important to understand everything that goes into caring for a pet. Having a pet is a big commitment that will last for the animal's lifetime, perhaps 10 or 15 years in the case of dogs. And at the end of that commitment, you will face the pain and sadness that accompany the loss of a loved one.

[Read: Dealing with the loss of a pet]

Other disadvantages of having a pet include:

Pets cost money🇧🇷 Food bills, veterinary care, licenses, grooming costs, toys, bedding, feeding fees and other maintenance costs can add up. If you are unemployed or elderly on a limited fixed income, it can be difficult to afford the costs of owning a pet.

Pets need time and attention.🇧🇷 As any dog ​​owner will tell you, there's nothing therapeutic about coming home to a dog who's been cooped up in the house all day. Dogs need daily exercise to stay calm and balanced; Most other pets require at least daily care and attention.

Having a pet can hinder some of your social activities.🇧🇷 A dog can only be left alone for a limited amount of time. For example, if you exercise your dog, you might take him visiting friends, shopping, or sitting outside at a coffee shop, but you can't go the weekend without a boost. First organize the care of your pet.

Pets can be destructive🇧🇷 Every pet can occasionally have an accident at home. Some cats tend to tear upholstery, some dogs tend to chew on shoes. While exercise can help eradicate negative and destructive behaviors, they are still common in animals that are left alone without exercise or stimulation for long periods of time.

Pets require responsibility🇧🇷 Most dogs, regardless of size and breed, can harm people if not handled responsibly by their owners. Cats can also scratch or bite. Pet owners should be aware of any danger, especially around children.

Pets pose health risks for some people🇧🇷 While there are some illnesses that dogs and cats can transmit to their human caretakers, the most common health problem with pet ownership is allergies. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with a pet allergy, carefully consider whether you can live with the symptoms before committing to getting a pet. Also, keep in mind that if you have a pet, some friends or family members with allergies may not be able to visit your home.

How to find the perfect pet

If you've decided that having a pet is right for you, congratulations - you're about to open your life up to a unique and fulfilling relationship. While people with pets tend to be happier, more independent, and more secure than people without pets, it's important to choose the type of pet that best fits your needs and lifestyle.

Talk to other members of your family and agree on the traits you would like to have in a pet and the traits you would rather avoid. In dogs, man's best friend comes in numerous breeds or breed mixes, each offering a different combination of personality traits.

If you're looking for something smaller or less energetic, a cat or rabbit might be just right for you and your family. Here are some things to ask yourself when looking for the perfect pet:

  • Do you live in a small apartment or a big house with a garden? This largely determines what size animal is most suitable for your home. For example, a caged cat or animal may be better suited to living in an apartment than a large dog.
  • How much time does the animal spend alone per day? If you're out most of the day and don't intend to hire a sitter or use daycare, you'll want an animal that doesn't require a lot of attention instead of a dog.
  • Do you live with young children or someone who is sick or handicapped and could be run over by a large dog? Perhaps a smaller animal is a safer option.
  • How much hair loss can you tolerate? Certain breeds of dogs and cats tend to shed less, or you could opt for a pet that doesn't shed, like an iguana or a snake (well, at least no hair).

Finally, when choosing a pet, you should be honest with yourself about the lifestyle you enjoy and the type of pet you want to care for. If you're not sure how to care for a larger animal, start small and get a smaller fish or caged animal. See how it fits and go from there.

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Shelter and rescue of animals.

Whether mixed or purebred, dogs and cats adopted from an animal shelter or rescue group make excellent pets. Most pets end up in animal shelters through no fault of their own. Its owner may have died or moved to a place where pets are not allowed, or the animal was simply abandoned by irresponsible owners who bought it on a whim and later found they couldn't or didn't want to care for it properly. If a shelter or rescue animal exhibits aggressive behavior, it will usually be euthanized rather than offered for adoption.

Rescue groups try to find suitable homes for unwanted or abandoned dogs, cats and other pets, many of which have been recovered from shelters where they would otherwise have been euthanized. Volunteers often care for the animals until they find a permanent home. This means that rescuers are usually very familiar with a pet's personality and can help advise you on whether the animal will suit your needs.

By adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue organization, you not only give a deserving pet a home, but you also save an animal's life.

Alternatives to livestock

If you don't have the time, money, or skills to keep a pet full-time, there are still ways to experience the health benefits of being around animals. For example, you can ask to walk a neighbor's dog orvoluntarilyat an animal shelter. Most animal shelters or rescue groups welcome volunteers to help with pet care or adoption events. In addition to helping each other, they will help to socialize and exercise the animals, making them more adoptable.

Some animal shelters and rescue groups offer pet “loan” programs. Dogs and cats available for adoption can walk or play. You can also temporarily care for an animal until a permanent home is found for it or until you decide if the animal is right for you.

A variety of different organizations offer specially trained therapy dogs and cats to visit children's hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospice programs, animal shelters and schools. During these visits, people are invited to pet and pet the animals, which can improve mood and decrease stress and anxiety.

Autores: Lawrence Robinson,Kai Lundgren, and Robert Segal, MA.

    Last updated: November 17, 2022

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