Pets aren’t for everyone, but chances are they can help just about anyone. Dogs are loyal companions and can be trained as therapy animals to assist with a variety of ailments and stress. Cats, rabbits and other household pets also provide emotional support. If you are on the fence about adopting a pet, these benefits could change your mind.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following health benefits of pet ownership.
1. Decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness
2. Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
3. Increased opportunities for socialization
With that in mind, the American Kennel Club recently took a look at a number of studies to compile some of the benefits of pet ownership that make furry companions look like super heroes.
Here’s what they found:
Pets can help lower stress. While the idea of raising a dog or a cat sounds like more responsibility, multiple studies have shown that petting an animal can release oxytocin (the love hormone) and decrease cortisol (the stress hormone) in the brain. A similar effect is even had on dogs that are being petted.
Pets can give their owner a healthier heart. Several studies suggest that people with pets have lower blood pressure including a 2003 report by the American Journal of Cardiology that claimed heart attack survivors who own pets are eight times more likely to live another year.
Being exposed to pets at a young age can lead to fewer allergies. It is often thought that having a pet can increase a child’s risk for developing allergies, but a report by the Department of Pediatrics says otherwise. According to the department, children who were around dogs at home as newborns were less likely to have allergic dermatitis and wheezing by their third birthday.
Pets can make their owners feel less lonely. There’s no doubt about it — a pet needs its owner. Not just for love and cuddles, but also for food, water, walks and bathroom breaks. This reliance from the pet, as well as the attention attracted by the presence of a dog, gives owners fewer feelings of loneliness. A 1993 study published that dog owners reported less dissatisfaction with their social, physical and emotional states, while researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada found that homesick college students benefitted from dog therapy.
Pets motivate their owners to get active. Just like humans, pets need exercise to stay healthy. Not to mention, they need it to burn off energy. A 2011 study performed by researchers at Michigan State University found that 60 percent of dog owners met the recommended criteria for regular exercise, given they walked their pets on a regular basis. Not only did the dog owners get the added exercise from walking their pet, but the same group was more likely to engage in other forms physical activity too.
5 Tips for Pet Owners
Brighten your animal’s life just as they brighten your own. Here are some things to avoid so you can keep them happy and healthy for years to come.
1. You should definitely keep your dog away from chocolate. But did you know that grapes, raisins, avocados, onions and garlic can also be toxic to man’s best friend? If you must give your pet a treat from the table, go for options that are better for their digestive system like cooked eggs or salmon, peanut butter, yogurt or plain air-popped popcorn.
2. Dogs can eat apples just like you, but make sure you prepare the treat properly for them by removing stems and seeds, which contain trace amounts of cyanide.
3. Does your pup have an upset stomach? White or instant rice is easily digestible, more so than brown rice, and is the perfect bland meal to settle his or her tummy.
4. You may be tempted to give your pet an over-the-counter medication when they aren’t feeling well to get them back on their feet quickly, but the dosage for them isn’t the same as it is for you. Before you give your pet any OTC medication, be sure to first consult with your vet to make sure it’s OK.
5. Watch your pets in the garden as well as with household plants. Daffodil bulbs, holly berries, hyacinth bulbs, morning glory seeds and more are potentially toxic to both dogs and cats while entire day lily and Easter lily plants are toxic to cats.