Pets Make Our Lives Paw-some

Senior with his dog

“No one loves you as unconditionally as your beloved pet” – Cynthia S. Dobesh.

Pet owners will often tell you what a delight it is to have a pet in their life. But did you know that owning a pet is actually hugely beneficial to your health?

Along with providing companionship, owning a pet has been shown to reduce stress, improve socialisation, increase activity, and even improve overall health and wellness. In fact, studies show that pets can even reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, and improve your level of immunity. It just so happens that being loved by a pet is more than just cuddles; they actually help improve your life in general.

Pets = Happiness

Cat being petted

There have been multiple studies that show that individuals experience significantly less stress when performing tasks when their pets are with them, even more so than with family or close friends.

The effect is so positive that treatment centres specialising in addiction, depression, and anxiety recommend that their patients consider getting a pet or may utilise pets as an active part of treatment and rehabilitation.

Pets = Healthy Heart

Some researchers suggest that pet owners have lower blood pressure and that owning a pet has the ability to lower blood pressure in hypertensive and high-risk patients. Another heart-healthy pro of owning a pet is lowered cholesterol. Men in particular experience lower cholesterol when they own a pet than those who do not have a fuzzy friend in their lives. This may be due to the ability animals have to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as the fact that pet owners have been shown to be more active and pursue healthier lifestyles.

There are multiple findings that show how pets, especially cats and dogs, are able to identify when their owner is at risk before they themselves are aware of the fact. Think of your puss or pooch as a fuzzy safety blanket for your health – science seems to show that they know us better than we know ourselves.

Pets = Pain Relief

This one can be hard to grasp, but pets are actually fantastic medicine. We don’t mean that you should be taking a nibble on your beloved fur-baby, but rather that people experience a reduction in pain when their pet is present. In fact, this theory is so significant that many therapists will encourage pet therapy for those recovering from surgery. It’s been found that patients who do have a pet present during recovery need less pain medication than those who do not.

Pets = Friends for Life

Pets are known to have mental and emotional benefits. From being used by soldiers recovering from PTSD, to patients with depression, and even those suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, animals have been shown to greatly improve the mental and emotional state of those who come in contact with them. More and more, we are seeing pets used as therapy animalsvisiting hospitals and retirement homes, being trained as companions, aiding the sick and guiding those who need assistance.

Their positive influence may be due to a few factors, such as offering something to take care of, encouraging social interaction and activity, and offering simple warmth and companionship. They are also creatures who do not need a situation explained to them. Animals have been found to show an innate understanding of emotion, offering comfort to those who are upset and sharing joy with those who are happy. You don’t have to tell them why you’re in a particular mood, they’ll just want to take part in helping improve it regardless.

Pets = Socialisation

Owning a pet increases a person’s opportunities to socialise. This may be due to taking the animal to training, out walking, or simply to the vet. Most pets are social animals, especially dogs, and this seems to translate beautifully to their human friends.

Research shows that pet owners have increased social contact, more positive social interactions, and better socialisation in general. Pet-friendly neighbourhoods are often found to be the happiest overall. It has also been shown that those who own pets are less lonely and more emotionally adaptive.

Pets = Helpful Companion

Dogs and cats have been found to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 30-40% and are suggested to dramatically improve recovery rates. One-third of pets living with diabetics have also been found to change their behaviour when their owner’s blood sugar drops, or if they show signs of a stroke or cardiovascular risk. This is often due to pets being able to detect the chemical changes in our body before we’ve even noticed them. They’re so good at it, many dogs, cats, and even miniature horses (for those allergic to dogs and cats) are being trained as assistance animals.

Pets = Greater Quality of Life

Owning a pet has the potential to improve immunity and allergy symptoms. Studies have found that those living in pet-owning households have fewer sick days and are less likely to experience bad allergy symptoms. They have even been found to improve the mental state of those with mental disorders such as autism, Asperger’s, OCD, and anxiety.

Our animal friends are not just there to look cute or provide us with companionship. We may have purchased them to love and cuddle, but they come to us offering so much more than that.

Even if you are not able to own a pet yourself, coming into contact with therapy animals, or those pets owned by friends can be of great benefit to your health. Responsible pet ownership is key to having a successful and positive relationship with your animals. Give them lots of love and cuddles, and enjoy all the amazing benefits they have to off-fur!

Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide

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