All owners know that our pets are our family, our confidants and our friends but what we don’t often realise that for all the care we give to them, they give us just as much, if not more, in return!
1) A healthy heart
Pet owners have been shown to have lower blood pressures, a reduced chance of heart disease and a quicker recovery from heart attacks compared to non-pet owners. This can partly be explained by the extra exercise dog owners take but even cat owners benefit from these advantages!
2) A healthy mind
We all know pets make wonderful companions but for people with mental health issues they are more than that. They are confidants, provide unconditional love, reduce anxiety and help lift depression. Having a living being relying on you for care and attention can provide a focus away from the anxieties and stressors that some struggle to cope with.
3) They’re good for kids…
Children brought up with pets have been shown to have a reduced chance of developing both asthma and eczema. They also have stronger immune systems and the effects last into adulthood.
4) … And for the elderly!
Older people benefit hugely from owning or having regular access to animals. Elderly pet owners are discharged more quickly from hospitals, Alzheimer’s sufferers have been shown to have fewer anxiety attacks and the companionship can combat the crippling loneliness and confusion some pensioners face.
5) Get fit and drop a dress size!
All dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, and you have to go with them! Walking is an excellent way to keep fit and lose weight, and if you are feeling adventurous there are other ways of getting physical with your pets! Why not try Doga (doggy yoga) or, for the more adventurous, you could try CaniX!
6) Stronger bones
Osteoporosis affects 3 million people in the UK. Prevention can be as simple as taking regular, weight bearing exercise and also ensuring you get enough vitamin D, which is created when your skin is exposed to sunlight. So you need to be outside and active regularly, like walking the dog!
7) Being sociable
Humans are sociable creatures; solitude can make us depressed and withdrawn. Owning a pet means you always have something to talk about and often something in common with the people around you. Dog walkers will regularly meet people when out and their pets are natural conversation starters.
8) Medical support dogs
Many people suffer with chronic illnesses that leave them housebound or reliant on help but medical support dogs can offer the lifeline of independent living. They can, amongst other things, detect the onset of epileptic fits, warn those with diabetes of hypoglycaemic episodes and aid the physically disabled with household tasks.
9) Support for young mental health sufferers
Dogs and other pets have been shown to aid greatly in the care and development of young people with mental health issues. ADHD sufferers can be calmed and helped to focus with a canine companion and many autistic children benefit greatly from pets and animal therapy.
10) Less pain
Pet ownership has been shown to reduce the discomfort experienced by those suffering with chronic pain. Even just spending time with animals can be extremely effective. It is believed to be related to the reduced anxiety a pet brings.
Cat Henstridge, BVSc MRCVS, is a vet specialising in pets and is based in Sheffield, UK.
She is passionate about her job and healing the animals in her care. She also loves to write about her experiences and pet health issues at catthevet.com.