Most of us have pets simply because we enjoy them, or because the kids nagged us into it! But you might be surprised to learn that sharing your life with a pet can actually benefit your own physical and emotional health. In fact, there’s a whole area of research on this topic, called anthrozoology. Anthrozoologists have uncovered numerous benefits of the animal-human bond, and will likely find even more as this fascinating field of study expands.
Cardiovascular health. Several studies have demonstrated lower blood pressure in pet owners, a reduction in cholesterol, increased odds of surviving a heart attack, and more. Just try to remember that the next time Mittens puts her foot in the pie that you’re cooling on the kitchen counter.
Effects on the immune system and allergies. It’s true that some people are allergic to cats, dogs, and other animals. On the other hand, research has shown us that children who are exposed to animals early in life have a lower incidence of these allergies later on. Kids in pet-owning households also miss fewer days of school due to illness, and pets appear to have a positive effect on the respiratory system in particular.
Stress reduction. Interacting with animals produces a measurable decline in cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and boosts oxytocin (the pleasure and bonding hormone).
They make great exercise partners. Those with dogs are found to walk more often, and take longer walks, than those who do not. And in households that own dogs, the children exhibit higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of childhood obesity.
Emotional support. Emotional support animals are proving to be helpful for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s, and more. Among the elderly, who experience higher levels of loneliness and depression, or anyone suffering bereavement, those with pets often experience lower levels of illness. We think this is because depression and grieving typically produce a stress response in the body, which of course can be lowered by interacting with a pet.
Aside from all of these terrific physical and mental health benefits, owning a pet is simply fun! If you have children, animals can provide opportunities for learning numerous skills, from responsibility to empathy. It’s no wonder we love our pets so much. To help your pet enjoy a long life with your family, contact us if you have any questions about their health and behavior. We can help your pet stay healthy, and by extension, your whole family can enjoy improved health as well.