The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

The bond between humans and animals is well documented over thousands of years. A twelve thousand year old human skeleton found in Israel within recent years had its hand resting on the skeleton of an adolescent wolf pup. The bond we share with companion animals has always been very powerful.

Most animal lovers adore their pets and love them as if they are any other member of the family. Contrary to popular belief, pets are not just takers in the balance with their human. Pets protects, you, cuddle with you, get excited to see you, and love you unconditionally. Research proves that pet ownership can even benefit your overall health.

Here are some scientifically proven benefits to health and wellbeing for pet owners:

• A stronger immune system – studies show that exposure to pets, rather than exacerbating allergies, can lower risk in children of developing allergies by up to 33%. Their immune system develops to be stronger overall than that of kids who do not grow up living with pets.

• Reduced stress, anxiety and depression – unconditional love, touch and cuddling, a sense of purpose, a focus outward instead of inward, companionship – pets offer all of these anxiety, stress, and depression-busting qualities. Spending time with pets raises serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain – these are “feel-good” chemicals. There is a good reason animals are used as therapy in aged care facilities, disability support programs, and hospices.

• Development of empathy – children who have pets tend to demonstrate higher levels of empathy than those who do not have a pet at home. Pets also provide a non-human source of love and comfort, which is so important in childhood. Pets equal security to kids.

• Better heart health – studies show pet ownership equates to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and, in people who have had a heart attack, a better recovery rate. This may relate to lower stress levels afforded by pet ownership

• Social interaction – walking your dog is a great way to meet others – a dog is a wonderful conversation starter, an instant icebreaker, and socialising your dog can mean also socialising yourself. People with better social connections live longer and are more likely to retain optimal physical and mental wellbeing as they age. Visit dog parks, training classes, outdoor cafes, and pet-related social networking sites to connect.

• Increased physical activity – dog owners tend to get more exercise than non-dog owners – simply because a good and loving dog owner takes their dog for walks. These owners are less likely to be obese, and have better mobility as they enter old age. Enjoy running, walking, hiking, and agility training with your dog.

Owning a pet can enhance your life and wellbeing physically, mentally, and emotionally. If actual pet ownership isn’t for you, perhaps try:

• Volunteering at an animal shelter
• Walking a friend or neighbour’s dog
• Visiting with a friend’s pet and just spending time
• Playing with a neighbour’s dog
• Volunteer to care for a “class” pet over weekends

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