Owning a pet, particularly a dog, proves to have great benefits on a person’s overall health. For nearly 25 years now, research has shown that owning a dog can help lower depression and anxiety, stress, blood pressure and even boost the immune system.
There is a unique connection between domestic dog ownership and human well being. Research suggest that domestic dog ownership can help prevent people from getting ill and recover more quickly if they do fall ill. The companionship of a dog alone, can help children who suffer from chronic illnesses, endure more painful treatments. Dogs can also play a therapeutic role in aiding the disabled whether it be in hospitals, prisons or residential settings.
There are a number of reasons for the health benefits of dog ownership, with the more obvious reason being the increase in physical activity. Dog owners typically get out and walk or exercise more often, therefore reducing the chance of developing heart disease or high blood pressure. For the more “active” pet owners, spending quality time with their dog, such as playing fetch in the park, can also greatly reduce stress. For others, just being in the company of their pet gives them that sense of belonging and feeling of unconditional love, which proves to have a positive affect on the body and mind. This is true especially in the heat period, which can last for weeks, where the dog requires attention and empathy.
The more indirect effects of dog ownership are typically brought on by increased social contact. Owning a dog can help pet owners connect with other pet owners, as people with pets are more approachable than people without a pet. It also makes for a great conversation starter, which can be especially helpful for people who suffer from social isolation or shyness. Sometimes the conversation may only relate to the dog, while other times it can become a real social interchange.
It has been said that the human-dog bond can not only provide companionship, but also a psychological shield against stress. People who suffer from stress are more likely to develop heart problems, as studies show a direct link between the chemicals released during “stress mode” and heart disease. Another study shows that people who own a dog and have had heart problems in the past, like an abnormal heart rhythm or heart attack, tend to live longer than people with the same heart problems who do not own a dog.
There is an old myth that raising a child around a “furred pet” can cause allergies later on in life, when in fact, a growing number of studies show that babies who are raised in families with pets, particularly dogs and cats, are less likely to develop allergies or asthma and have fewer colds and ear infections their first year than babies raised in pet-free homes. Early exposure to animals can build stronger immune systems overall.
The mental and physical benefits of dog ownership can make a big difference in yours and your families’ overall health. For many people, owning a dog can be very costly and unaffordable. But, the reality is, there are so many health benefits, can you really afford not to?