THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF PET OWNERSHIP
Welcome everyone to another #Wellness Wednesday. Today, this blog is going to the dogs – and cats – and, actually pets of every sort, shape and size. Because, today we’re going to discuss the Health Benefits of having a pet.
The French novelist Anatole France once wrote, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Of course, for those of us who have pets, we understand and agree with that statement completely. But, there’s more to our relationship with our pets than mere comfort and enjoyment. Our pets are actually good for our emotional, physical and mental health.
As a survivor of three different cancers, I can fully attest to this. My beloved dog Lady was instrumental in helping me through my first two cancers. And, my sweet Angel not only helped me through my third cancer, but continues to inspire me every day to do more, feel more and remain positive no matter what may come next. And, as a registered Therapy Dog, she does the same for so many individuals in our nearby hospitals and assisted living facilities.
Now, modern Pet Therapy actually dates back to the 1860s and the famed nurse Florence Nightingale. Through her work with the ill and disabled, she recognized the social support animals provided for her institutionalized and mentally ill patients.
The American Red Cross later followed her example and deployed dogs to convalescent and military hospitals after World War II – and other relief organizations utilized dogs, cats and rabbits to help victims of Hurricane Katrina recover. And, once again in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook tragedy dogs were used to calm and reassure the survivors.
Indeed, oncologist Edward Creagan of the Mayo Clinic stated, “If pet ownership was a medication, it would be patented tomorrow. Having a pet around is like an effective drug – but without any side effects. I can’t always explain it.”
No, we can’t always explain it. But, we can objectively verify it. Based on findings from several studies, here are 5 GREAT HEALTH BENEFITS OF PET OWNERSHIP:
- DECREASED DEPRESSION. Petting, playing with and talking to our pet increases the levels of our “feel good” chemical dopamine. This is turn relaxes our nervous system, decreases mental anxiety and improves our emotional outlook.
- REDUCTION IN STRESS. On a chemical level, owning and interacting with your pet appears to decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood, which can damage the body. As a result, we become more physically relaxed and mentally alert.
- LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE. Focusing on our pets can shift our attention away from our problems and worries. This interaction can increase our body’s level of oxytocin, the hormone that promotes love and trust and is linked to a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate. And, this can provide us with a lower risk for developing heart disease and an increased chance for surviving it.
- IMPROVED IMMUNE SYSTEM. Maximize the healing powers of your pet not just by talking, but by reaching out and petting her or him. The importance of touch in our relationships with our pets cannot be overemphasized. People who pet dogs, for example, experience an increase in immunoglobulin A, an antibody that supports and improves the immune system.
- ELEVATED MOOD & FEELINGS OF WELL-BEING. The physical contact we have with our pet decreases feelings of isolation and loneliness. The increase in our “feel good” chemicals of dopamine and serotonin just make us feel better — and allow us to remain happy and relaxed while maintaining a stronger and more positive self-image.
So, perhaps it’s not really important that we understand all the “whys” of pet ownership and the resulting health benefits. Maybe it’s just enough that we simply recognize the result J
As psychologist Debbie Custance of Goldsmiths College, University of London says, “When humans show us affection, it’s quite a complicated thing that involves expectations and judgments. But, with a [pet] it’s a very uncomplicated, non-challenging interaction with no consequences.”
However you look at it, pets can greatly influence the way our body functions – and as a result, the way we feel about ourselves and the world around us. They are our friends, teachers and healers – and wonderful conduits to a world of trust and empathy.
Thanks so much for joining me again everyone! Until next time, stay in GOOD HEALTH and . . .