Health Benefits of Owning a Pet
Owning a pet is hard work; it takes time, money, and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle for you and your pet. For all of the responsibility it comes with, pet ownership isn't without its rewards. Pet owners enjoy a special bond with their pet as well as health benefits that are often associated with taking care of and nurturing an animal. Pets have been known to reduce stress, help to lessen depression, and alleviate anxiety in their owners.
General Benefits of Pet Ownership
Pets improve our health and mood every day. They show us unconditional love and affection and provide us with a sense of purpose. Through their expressions of affection, like purring, tail-wagging, etc., owners feel validated and valued. Those feelings of worth can then translate into better social interactions with their peers and reduced anxiety and depression. Stress, frequently associated with anxiety and depression, can be eased by the presence of a pet. For example, petting a dog is a sensory experience that can ease stress and help a pet owner to feel calmer. Pets also provide a level of stability and routine to which many people respond in a positive manner.
Pets can also motivate us to take better care of our bodies through exercise and socialization. These activities are pleasurable and release endorphins into our bodies, which make us feel good and happy. Pets depend on their owners to take care of them, including exercising them, taking them to the veterinary clinic, and giving them daily care through basic necessities like food, water, and shelter. Dogs especially can help their owners to lead a more active lifestyle. By getting outside and walking a dog, owners are taking steps to improve their own health and may benefit by decreasing their odds of heart disease and lowering their blood pressure. It's been reported that heart attack survivors who own dogs live longer than those with the same conditions who do not own dogs.
Dog-walking also creates opportunities for healthy social interaction. Reports have cited dogs as a social lubricant, helping pet owners connect with others. Many people are comfortable engaging with a pet owner versus a person without a pet because there may be a certain level of acceptability in that act of engagement. Pets can act as a shared interest and be the basis for friendly conversation with new people that might not have otherwise been acceptable.
Benefits of Seniors Owning a Pet
All demographics, but especially seniors, can benefit from pet ownership. The lowering of one's blood pressure and cholesterol and fewer minor health problems are just some of the benefits senior pet owners can enjoy. Having a pet can also reinforce a sense of purpose. This is extremely important to a senior's quality of life and overall well-being. Pets can also provide comfort to those who may be experiencing poor health, and it's been said that animals may have senses that people cannot tap into that allow them to alert others of possible or occurring health problems.
Kids and Pets
Children, and subsequently their parents, also experience unique benefits when family pets are in the picture. These animals naturally cultivate responsibility and kindness in children. For example, a trip to the veterinary clinic might be an opportunity to teach children about the importance of proper pet care and compassion for animals. Children with pets may be encouraged to develop an active lifestyle early on and be at less risk for developing asthma and allergies. Pets also provide a safe audience for which to learn and develop new skills, such as reading or public speaking.
Special bonds are formed with pets, and their calming nature may help to soothe children, especially those with certain disabilities. It is through these bonds that children can learn how to care for and connect with others. Pet ownership also creates an opportunity for children with different disabilities, including autism, to be soothed by the unconditional love of a pet. The calming nature of a pet may also curb frustration and outbursts in children.
- Health Benefits of Pets
- Can Pets Keep You Healthy?
- The Health Benefits of Companion Animals (PDF)
- Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
- Therapeutic Benefits of Animals
- A Dog Could Be Your Heart's Best Friend
- The Effects of Pet Ownership on Physical Well-Being in Older Adults (PDF)
- The Risks and Rewards of Exposing Children to Pets
- Pets Fill a Special Role in Seniors' Lives
- Did You Know That Living with a Pet is Good for You?