From reducing stress to living longer, our animals help us in many ways. Here’s just six:
#1 Less stress
“We definitely see stress reduction in both pet ownership and animal-assisted therapy,” notes Megan Mueller, PhD, who pursues research on animal-human interactions at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. It’s been shown that pet owners have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
#2 Better heart health
Owning pets is consistently associated with a lower risk of obesity, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. One study found that by providing therapy dogs for patients hospitalized with heart failure, after a 12-minute visit, they exhibited healthier neurohormone levels, improved cardiopulmonary pressure and less anxiety. Furthermore, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota, having a cat reduces stress and may reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly a third.
#3 Oxytocin boost
There are documented physiological changes in people who spend as little as 15 minutes with a dog, petting a cat or participate in equine therapy. Their oxytocin levels increase. Dubbed the love or hug hormone, Oxytocin creates a profound sense of peace and comfort, slows the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure and reduces stress hormones.
#4 Lower cholesterol levels
It’s been shown that compared to non-pet owners, those with pets typically have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels (indicators of heart disease). As well, heart attack patients who also own dogs survive longer than those without.
#5 Encourages more exercise
Knowing how important it is to give our canine friends daily exercise, this “chore” is something that we can’t ignore or put off. So, in a way it forces us (in a good way) to meet our daily exercise requirements. Whether it’s going for a walk, hike or run, it’s outside, in fresh air and it’s movement – which all benefit our health. One study found that dog owners are 54 percent more likely than non-dog owners to get the recommended amount of daily exercise.
#6 Alert to health issues
Some dogs can sense the onset of a seizure before their owner can. Our canine friends can be specially trained to signal the owner of an imminent seizure. Psychiatric service dogs can be trained for a variety of brain-based disorders including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD and autism. Some animals can also alert their owners to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which allows the person to rectify the level before serious symptoms appear.
sources: “Psychological effects of pets are profound,” bostonglobe.com
“Mood-boosting Power of Dogs,” helpguide.org
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