We live in a land of animal lovers. We embrace our pets in our family photographs, we let them on our beds, we take them on vacation and we’re filled with concern when they’re ill. Whether they fetch, purr, swim or fly their way into our families, our pets are a huge part of our lives. We initially brought animals into our homes to work, dogs for hunting, cats to catch rodents and horses for transportation and farming. However, the rewards of having a pet go much further than them being just used for farming, hunting and security. Pets are widely accepted as having beneficial an effect on our physical health, but our furry, scaled or feathered friend’s can also have a positive impact on our emotional and mental comfort, also. We have different types of relationships with our pets. One can be the “human” type. This is when pets provide company and an encouraging role. Our dogs or cats would fall under this classification. The second is when we keep a pet/pets for social reasons. Our dogs aren’t the only ones who foster friendships when we take them to the park. The third relationship is when our pet is also our hobby, such as keeping exotic creatures. In this variety, we benefit from the tranquil effect of watching those pets, however we also gain from the social aspect of joining clubs or societies and competitions. Our companions do more than just make us smile; they’re amazing for our health. From reduced frequency of depression, lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction. Our pets are the masters of absolute love. They accept us, for who we are. They don’t care what we look like. They’re not disturbed with our imperfections or frailties. They simply adore us, as is.
The power of the human animal bond has been known for a long time, but scientific substantiation about how it works was first issued years ago when a psychologist measured what happens physically when we pet a welcoming and acquainted dog. Research found that the our blood pressure decreases, our heart rate reduces, our breathing becomes more consistent and our muscle tension is much more relaxed, all of which are badges of reduced stress. Further studies confirmed these effects, and have also shown changes in our blood chemistry revealing reduced amounts of the stress related hormone cortisol. Studies also reviled that these positive emotional effects work a lot faster than many drugs that we take for stress. All of the effects transpired after only minutes of congenially interacting with the dog. The relaxation response has even been shown when we sit still and just watch fish swim. When people at an Alzheimer’s-disease facility ate in front of aquariums with vibrantly colored fish, they ingested more, received better nutrition and wandered less. They were also much more attentive and less lethargic.
Scientists are continuing to discover evidence that animals can also help improve our mental health, even for those of us with challenging conditions. The benefits are extraordinary enough that medical settings are opening their doors to animal-assisted involvements, and pet therapy, used together with orthodox medicine. As a subgroup of the human-animal bond, therapy pets are making a major difference in the lives of many people. Therapy pets are becoming the heart of wellness. The health benefits of pets have become so commonly recognized that many animals are now used in hospitals as part of patient recovery programs. Therapy pets such as, dogs, cats, horses, pigs, rabbits, goats and more, have changed the lives of those among us struggling with physical, mental and emotional issues. Therapy pets are being used to help rehabilitate inmates, decrease PTSD in soldiers returning from war and help autistic children that may need assistance coping with new environments. The animals may be used to help stroke sufferers recover the use of their limbs. The patients want to “pet” the animals, so this inspires them to move their arms or/and hands again. Some animals also work with people suffering from depression. They can sometimes break through the impediments some patients construct that other humans may have failed to penetrate. Most major children’s hospitals have at least some kind of animal therapy program. Animals of many types can help calm stress, fear and anxiety in young children, the elderly and everyone in between.
Pets can serve as important sources of social and emotional support for all of us, not just those among us dealing with meaningful health concerns. Pet ownership, especially having a dog, is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. This doesn’t mean that there’s a sharp cause and effect relationship between the two. Nevertheless it does mean that pet ownership can be a practical part of an overall tactic to lower the risk of heart disease. Several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners, more than likely because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise. When we have a pet, especially a dog, there’s no refuting that we have to get out more. Dogs require routine walks, which means that we get out of the house. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing, or dry, our dogs will need to go out. Getting out more and improving our physical fitness will also help other elements of our physical health. As we exercise more, our blood pressure and cholesterol levels drop. We’re at a lower risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke, as our arteries remain clear and our entire cardiovascular system is supported.
Life’s everyday toil can wear us down. And if we come home to an empty house, we’re more likely to feel it even more. Just having a pet in our home isn’t going to improve our health instantaneously. It’s all about spending quality time with our pets. The health benefits mostly come from the connection that we have with our pets. Animals understand far more than we tend to give them credit for. One of the core benefits of a pet is that they love us unconditionally. They’re always there for us, waiting for us to come home. They know that we care for them, so they’re going to always be there whenever we need them. Many of us treat our pets like family members, and in some instances like our children. And pets, like children, have their own personalities. They find things that they love and learn tricks that they enjoy doing. They not only can become instant sources of entertainment and absolute affection; our pets can also be loyal calming friends and willing, motivated exercise partners.