In this post, our Gallup vets share some of the powerful mood and health-boosting properties of owning a pet.
How a Pet Can Be Good for Your Health
Pets of all types can have health benefits, not just dogs and cats. A rabbit could be ideal if you’re allergic to other animals or have limited space but still want a furry friend to snuggle with. Birds can encourage social interaction and help keep your mind sharp if you’re an older adult. Snakes, lizards, and other reptiles can make for exotic companions. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce stress and provide a calming effect.
Here are just a few of the benefits that can come with pet ownership:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which produce a calming and relaxing feeling.
- Some studies have shown lower rates of blood pressure and cholesterol levels amongst pet owners.
- 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.
Other Benefits of Pet Ownership
Besides the health benefits listed above, owning a pet can also:
- Increase your exercise levels. This is especially true if you have a dog. Taking your pup for a run, walk, hike, or even to the park to play is an easy way to add some extra steps into your day. Exercising and playing with your pet also keep your pet healthy and less likely to have behavioral issues.
- Provide companionship. Everyone needs companionship and a pet is a great way to experience it. Caring for an animal can help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from your problems, especially if you live alone. Most pet owners talk to their pets. It can be great to have a sounding board that doesn't ever judge what you're saying.
- Help you meet new people. Pet's can help you meet new people, whether it's out walking, at the pet shop, or at an event (try looking up a pet expo near you)!
- Add structure to your day. Many people benefit from a routine and a pet can do just that. On days when you might have had trouble getting out of bed, having a pet can give you the motivation you need to get your day going.
Pets & Seniors
Many seniors, particularly those that live alone can benefit from the companionship of pet ownership. Pets can help older adults find a newfound meaning and joy in life. Choosing to adopt a pet from a shelter, especially an older pet, can add to your sense of fulfillment, knowing that you’ve provided a home to a pet that may otherwise have been euthanized.
Pets can also provide you with a sense of connection, particularly if you have a dog. Dogs are a great way to spark up a conversation and meet new people.
Older adults with pets also report an increase in vitality. Dogs, cats, and other pets encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy.
Pets & Children
Pets can be a great addition to a child's life. They can have a soothing presence, act as a companion, and teach your child about responsibility.
Studies have also shown that children with behavioral issues, such as aggression or hyperactivity, can benefit from pet ownership. Of course, both the animal and the child need to be trained to behave appropriately with each other, but the pet can teach your child patience, empathy, and understanding.
If you are considering a pet for your child be sure to pick one that you also won't mind taking care of, especially if you have a young child. Even kids with the best intentions of playing with the dog every day or cleaning the kitty litter box may need some adult help once and a while.
Now that we've talked about all the great things about pets there are a few other points to cover. Having a pet is not a cure-all for poor health, mental or physical. While pet ownership can certainly help you on your way to a healthy lifestyle it is still important to seek proper medical attention if needed.
It is also important to remember that owning a pet is a big commitment. If you don't have the proper time or funds to successfully raise an animal, owning a pet could end up creating more stress than if you didn't have one.
Before embarking on the journey of pet ownership, be sure to research, budget, and plan to be sure you and your new friend will have a long and happy life together.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always consult with a vet before making medical decisions for your pet.