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Pets and Your Health

February 25, 2019

 

Nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Pets may also decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills. An estimated 68% of U.S. households have a pet. But who benefits from an animal? And which type of pet brings health benefits?

Mood Booster

It only takes a few minutes with a dog or cat or watching fish swim to feel calmer and less stressed. Your body actually goes through physical changes in that time that make a difference in your mood. The level of cortisol, a stress hormone, lowers. And serotonin, a feel-good chemical your body makes, rises.

 

Better Blood Pressure

 

You still have to watch your weight and exercise. But having a pet can help you manage your blood pressure. In one study of 240 married couples, pet owners had lower blood pressure and lower heart rates during rest than people who didn’t have a pet. Another study showed that when children with high blood pressure petted their dog, their numbers improved.  

 

Lower Cholesterol

 

You still have to watch your weight and exercise. But having a pet can help you manage your blood pressure. In one study of 240 married couples, pet owners had lower blood pressure and lower heart rates during rest than people who didn’t have a pet. Another study showed that when children with high blood pressure petted their dog, their numbers improved.  

 

Ease Depression

 

No one loves you more unconditionally than your pet. It could even help you deal with and recover from depression. Your pet will listen to you talk for as long as you want to talk. You’ll probably feel calmer when you pet a cat or dog. And taking care of an animal -- walk with it, groom it, play with it -- takes you out of yourself and helps you feel better about the way you spend your time.

 

Boost Your Fitness

 

If you have a dog, you’re probably more active than someone who doesn’t have one. A daily 30-minute walk with your pooch helps keep you moving. Two 15-minute walks, one in the morning and one in the evening, do the same thing. Add in a game of fetch in the back yard with your dog and you’ll be even more fit.

 

Fewer Allergies, Stronger Immunity

 

When children grow up in a home with a dog or cat they are less likely to develop allergies. The same is true for kids who live on a farm with large animals. Higher levels of certain immune system chemicals show a stronger immune system, which will help keep them healthy as they get older.

 

Autism: Addressing the Senses

 

Sensory issues are common among children with Autism Sensory Disorder. Sensory integration activities help them get used to the way something feels against their skin, and to certain smells or sounds. Dogs and horses have both sometimes been used in these activities. The children usually find it calming to work with animals. And animals can hold their attention.

 

Sources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-having-a-pet-is-good-for-your-health

https://pets.webmd.com/ss/slideshow-pets-improve-your-health

 

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