All owners love their pets, but have you ever wondered what health benefits our furry family members bring to us? Besides being a companion, our pets actually have a positive impact on our well-being.
Per the National Center for Health Research, one study “found that having your dog in the room lowered blood pressure better than taking a popular type of blood pressure medication (ACE inhibitor) when you are under stress. Other research has indicated that the simple act of stroking a pet can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.” Another study done by the National Institute of Health, “looked at 421 adults who’d suffered heart attacks. A year later, the scientists found, dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than were those who did not own dogs, regardless of the severity of the heart attack.” Who knew that by owning a pet, it could also be helping to improve your overall health!
Besides the physiological effects our pets have, they can also help our mental health as well. In an article by Merck, “an animal’s unconditional affection often increases its owner’s ability to cope with personal setbacks and depression. Pets reduce loneliness in a number of ways. Individuals who live ‘alone’ with a pet are actually part of a family; they can look forward to being greeted and recognized when they walk in the door. The simple acts of feeding and caring for a pet can make its owner feel needed and provide another reason for living and staying healthy.”
So, what causes these health effects? According to an article by the Boston Globe, “Oxytocin is not the only neurotransmitter companion animals call forth from our brains. South African researchers showed that when men and women stroked and spoke with their dogs, as well as doubling the people’s blood levels of oxytocin, the interaction boosted levels of beta endorphins — natural painkillers associated with “runners high” — and dopamine, known widely as the “reward” hormone. These neurochemicals, too, are essential to our sense of well-being. A later and larger study by University of Missouri scientists also documented that petting dogs caused a spike in people’s serotonin, the neurotransmitter that most antidepressants attempt to elevate.” Just these basic every day interactions with our pets can create these amazing effects!
No longer should you think of your dog or cat as just as simple pet or companion. Now you can understand that besides providing us with unconditional love, they are helping keep us healthier, too!
Written for Blum Animal Hospital by Jackie Sheppard.