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The Pawsitive Impact of Pets on Your Health

We all love our pets and we know they love us back in their own little way. Being surrounded by pets always made me feel better. I always thought it was just that they’re furry little faces were too cute and overwhelmed any other feeling. While that is most likely untrue, it is true that having a pet is linked with better physical, emotional, and mental health!

One prime example of how pets help our health is during this pandemic. While pets can’t cure COVID-19 or stop the spread of the virus, they actually can have an impact on improving our health during this time. Research published in the National Institute of Health found that “the bonds that individuals create with companion animals are important for security, safety, and decreased loneliness.  A growing body of research supports the premise that companion animals offer numerous benefits and that humans bond with animals in ways that are comparable to human–human attachment.” This also explains why so many people consider their pets part of their family because, in their eyes, they are family members and they provide the same comfort and love that a healthy familydoes

Unfortunately, while having a pet certainly helped during the pandemic, there were also some downfalls, including the fact that many veterinary clinics were closed or people could not always get the extra help they needed for their pets. COVID could also have led to an owner’s job loss which meant they struggled financially and maybe could not afford all of their pets' needs. This could lead to more stress and could negatively impact certain people. 

Pets help outside the parameters of the pandemic as well, helping boost their owners’ physical and mental health in more ways than one. According to the CDC, people who share a bond with their pets are seen to have decreased levels of cholesterol, low blood pressure, and lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, as well as providing an increase in adults’ cognitive function and an increase in outdoor exercise or activities. Increased exposure to pets at a young age can also help build up a child’s immunity and lower the chance of developing allergies or asthma, though this exposure should be donecarefully!

Not only do pets help lower our health risks, but they can also lower our risk of death entirely. In a study published in the American Health Association journals, they found that “dog ownership was associated with a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality as compared tononownership.” Thus, our relationships with our pups not only keep us healthy, but they keep us healthy and alive for longer!

Having pets has also led to better mental health. Studies have shown that dogs have an actual impact on their owners’ mental health; besides simply providing a fuzzy friend to hug or cuddle with when you are feeling down, people with pets have seen a decrease in mental illnesses such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. In a Medical News Today study, researchers determined that 60 percent of the pet owners they studied--all of whom were diagnosed with a severe mental illness--stated that having a pet and having a relationship with their pet had a major impact on improving their mental health. 

In another study, they found that when children actively sought out and interacted with their dog, they had a lower cortisol level than the children who did not interact with their dogs or who interacted substantially less. Additionally, if the dogs went towards the children on their own, the childrens’ cortisol levels tended to behigher. Having a pet was also found to help people as it provided a non-judgemental, almost always available companion. They provided a ‘person’ to talk to, which can actually reduce your stress levels even though your pet may not have a solution to your problems. 

Owning a pet can be a lot of work and if you aren’t prepared you could have a lot of problems that are detrimental to both you and your pet, so do your research and make sure you are ready for the responsibilities that come with pet care. Having a pet isn’t a cure all for any physical or mental illness, but they can certainly help make us healthier and happier in the long run; maybe that’s just so they have more people to love and to play with for longer!

Photo by Jonathan Borba

Written by Dani Forte