Whether they say “meow”, “woof” or “Polly want a cracker”, our pets play such a significant role in our lives. They selflessly provide us with unconditional love, faithful companionship and endless entertainment. One of the biggest benefits of pet ownership however, might be the incredible health benefits that we as pet owners experience.
It doesn’t take a super genius to understand that taking your pup on a daily walk is not only good for him, but good for you as well. A study from the University of California, Berkeley found that pet owners are far less likely to be overweight simply because they move a lot more than those without pets. In fact, it has been shown that dog owners walk nearly twice as much as non-dog owners. All of this walking and moving helps to whittle your middle and is therefore good for your pooch and your pooch.
In addition to the benefits to your mid section that you gain when you take Fido for a daily stroll, you’re also helping out your brain. Research shows mounting evidence that exercising (yes, walking your dog at a brisk pace counts) for 30 minutes a day, five days a week can lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease–even if you have an increased genetic risk. Exercise slows age-related changes in the brain and helps to ensure that you have plenty of healthy neurons and very little of the “sticky” protein that forms troublesome plaque in the brain’s memory center. So, the next time your pup wants to go out for a walk, take him and be grateful for the memories that you’re making and keeping.
We love our animal friends with all of our heart, which is a good thing considering just how good they are for our hearts. According to the American Heart Association, sharing your home with a pet (or pets) drops your risk of heart disease by as much as 30%. This significant decrease in risk is due in large part to the relaxing effects that our pets have on us. I am the owner of three ornery cats and even though their absurd shenanigans keep me laughing on a regular basis, it is their cuddles and purrs that really get to me. This calming effect that our pets have on us is a wonderful safeguard against stress and (according to research from the State University of New York at Buffalo) helps to reduce dangerous blood pressure spikes by nearly 23%. No wonder cuddling with my Daisy girl always feels so good after a long day at work.
Speaking of feeling good…pets have been shown to have therapeutic effects on physical aches and pains too. In fact, surgery patients who cuddle with a pet during recovery, require 50% less pain medication than those without an animal’s companionship. Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, M.D. points out that “when you interact with an animal you love, your body receives a rush of pain-relieving endorphins”. Additionally, a Miami University study shows that “pets reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, while boosting oxytocin (a pain-easing, mood lifting chemical)” which according to psychologist Denee Jordan, also helps to strengthen your immunity and resistance to germs.
While the physical health benefits of pet ownership are significant, the emotional health benefits are no less valuable. As already mentioned, pets are great for reducing stress and increasing joy but did you know that they might even make your marriage stronger? It’s true! Recent research out of Canada shows that couples who have a dog tend to feel closer to each other than couples without a canine companion. Additionally, couples who share a pet tend to resolve arguments more easily and report higher levels of marital satisfaction. According to sociologist, Terri Orbuck, Ph.D., “the unconditional love that you get from a dog rubs off on your relationship” resulting in more loving feelings between spouses. Dog owners also tend to be closer to neighbors and have stronger social connections which can alleviate feelings of depression and isolation.
All of this is great news if you own a pet; but what if you don’t have an animal to call your own? You can still enjoy the benefits of critter companionship by offering to pet-sit for a friend or by volunteering at your local animal shelter where there are plenty of animals in need of your love and affection. Or, if you are ready to take the plunge into pet ownership, you can check out the cool site PawsLikeMe.com to take a quiz and find a compatible dog at nearby shelter based upon your responses to questions about your personality, daily life and habits.
Yes–pets can add so much joy, love and health to our lives without asking for much in return. Make your pet a treasured member of your family by making sure that he/she is spayed/neutered and receives regular vet check ups. Then; how about picking up a new squeak toy or bag of treats on the way home from work tonight? Your pet will love you all the more.