How Animal Companions Can Make Us Healthier

pHion Balance  |  0 Comment

Every pet owner can tell you that caring for an animal enriches his or her life, whether it is a lizard, a dog, a cat, or even a goldfish. A pet is not just a companion, but a friend, a therapist and for some people, help in living independently with a serious illness or physical disability. Our animal friends give us significant health benefits in three categories: physical, mental and special needs assistance.

Studies show that pets help significantly reduce blood pressure, heart rates and hypertension, leading to improved heart health. The act of simply petting a dog a calming effect that lowers stress and anxiety, both of which, over time, can cause significant wear and tear on the cardiovascular system. Cat owners have been found to have a 40% decreased risk for heart attacks and dog owners have a better survival rate one year after a heart attack than non-dog owners. Overall, pet owners have a decreased risk of dying from all heart diseases, including heart failure.

Dog owners who walk their dog at least 30 minutes a day have lower cholesterol, a higher physical fitness level, less chance of being obese and an easier time maintaining a healthy weight. Some infants who are exposed to pet hair at any early age are less likely to develop allergies, asthma and eczema, a skin allergy. This early exposure combined with contact with dirt carried on pet increases levels of certain immune chemicals, resulting in a strong immune system.

Stroking a pet causes the release of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that cause us to feel as sense of well-being. Animals are natural mood enhancers; spending only a few minutes with your pet decreases your cortisol levels, decreasing stress. Because pets offer unconditional love, caring for them can help fight depression by diverting your attention away from yourself and on to playing, grooming and walking your pet. Pets also help individuals become more social. A photo of your pet on the desk at work is a great icebreaker. Dog parks and beaches or clubs for cat, horse or reptile enthusiasts are ideal places to socialize.

Seeing eye dogs have been used since the mid-16th century. Today’s therapy dogs continue to help people by detecting whether a diabetic’s blood sugar level is too low, sensing the chemical change indicating a seizure is about to occur in an epileptic and assisting individuals who are limited due to disabilities by picking up objects, acting as balance and support for the individual, turning lights on and off, and so on. Therapy cats and dogs are regular visitors to hospitals and nursing homes and provide the gift of cuddling and gentle affection. Horses, dogs and dolphins have provided autistic children a whole world to explore that offers no judgment, only patience. Long ago, our ancestors invited animals to share our fire. In return, we were gifted beyond measure.

Here's to your wellness,


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