Posted on by Paula Gallagher
We added Daisy to our family 2½ years ago and although it has been a lot of work, the joy she has brought us so has far outweighed the missing socks and the chewed shoes. In fact, in most cases having a pet brings not only joy and love, but also health benefits. From weight loss to smoking cessation, lower blood pressure to a more positive mental outlook, having pets in our lives offers many surprising health benefits.
Exercise and Heart Health
Research shows that pet ownership can moderate the imbalance caused by diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels on our body’s cardiac autonomic nervous activity, possibly because pets improve our emotional state. Research also shows that pet owners who have coronary artery disease show a greater 1-year survival rate than non-owners, regardless of their heart attack’s severity. Studies have shown that dog ownership promotes physical activity in that dog owners were 57% to 77% more likely to achieve sufficient physical activity than people who didn’t own dogs.
Along with being more active, people who walked their dogs had a lower body mass and were less likely to report having diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression.
Using therapy dogs in medical settings or pets at home have shown:
- To help lower pain levels, as well as an increased satisfaction with hospital stays among patients getting total joint replacements.
- Significant improvement for pain, mood, and other measures of distress among outpatients with fibromyalgia.
- Willingness to walk earlier among patients hospitalized with chronic heart failure, resulting in shorter hospital stays and improved outcomes.
- Increased wound healing and immune health.
Having a pet helps children become more responsible – but that is not the only benefit for kids. Studies show the benefits extend to mental, cognitive, emotional and physical aspects, as well.
- As with adults, children who have dogs are less likely to be obese, especially if encouraged to play with and walk their dogs.
- The more contact children had with dogs and cats during their first year of life, the less likely they are to have respiratory illness or ear infections, or to require antibiotics. Researchers believe this resistance to respiratory illnesses might continue during childhood. They are also less likely to develop asthma and allergies.
- Having dogs in an educational setting reduces stress while promoting concentration, attention and motivation.
- Having a pet gives children a source of comfort and helps them develop empathy. This is also true for children with autism, who are sometimes better able to interact with pets, which may in turn help them interact with people. In several studies, simply the presence of a dog during occupational therapy resulted in greater use of language and social interaction.
Elderly and Pets
Older people also benefit from being around pets.
- Pet ownership or contact with animals among the elderly, who are often isolated, promotes social interaction and decreases loneliness.
- Older people who walk their dogs enjoy greater mobility inside their homes.
Getting your first pet can be an exciting time and the benefits are many. But before rushing out, there are also many things to consider including cost, your lifestyle, and even the type of pet best suited for you. For us, adopting our little Daisy has brought us endless joy. She is a part of our family and we are better for it.
Humanized Health - NEW!
Learn about personalized health from top experts! Check out our fascinating new shows every week, available as videos, podcasts and transcripts.:
Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
Margo's impressive knowledge base is the result of a unique blend of educational and professional experience.
Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, ND is a pioneer of integrative medicine and a leading authority on science-based natural medicine.
Debi is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition, a personal trainer, and whole health coach.
Teri is a is a Certified Coach Practitioner with extensive certifications and experience in holistic medicinal practices.
Dr. Rav Ivker
Dr. Rav Ivker is a holistic family physician, health educator, and best-selling author.
Susan writes about the connection between plant-based diets and a reduced risk of chronic diseases.
Dr. Rob Brown
Dr. Brown's blended perspective of healthcare includes a deeply rooted passion for wellness and spiritual exploration.