5 Ways Owning a Pet Is Good for Your Health

We have a dog named Rocky. He’s a 1-year-old maltipoo who will cuddle us whenever we want, can jump his entire height, and runs faster than any little dog we’ve seen. (He also still pees on the floor, but that’s another story.)

Since bringing Rocky home, I’ve noticed the benefits this fuzzy addition has brought to my family. Now, experts are discovering that owning a pet is not only good for our mood; pets are good for our health.

If you are considering adopting a pet, here are five ways your health would benefit.

  1. Pets provide constant companionship

With loneliness being a leading contributor to depression in the elderly, many find pet ownership as an effective way to add enthusiasm and purpose to life. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that 18 percent of seniors currently live alone, and 43 percent feel lonely on a regular basis.

“We believe social and emotional health plays an important role in maintaining overall physical health,” Shiloh Sorensen, activity director at Parke View Rehabilitation and Care Center says.

The companionship of a trusted pet often motivates owners to get outside and socialize with other pet owners.

  1. Pets relieve stress.

If there is one thing a pet owner can count on it’s returning home to an engaged and enthusiastic companion.

“The benefits of de-stressing don’t end there,” Dr. Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., LAc in Geriatric Medicine, says. “Interaction with pets reduces overall levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”

Ni referred to a study that recorded the neural activity in seniors while they walked with a pooch. This study found that seniors experienced a boost in parasympathetic nervous system activity, the system responsible for providing calm and rests the body.

  1. Pets encourage exercise.

Come rain or shine; your pet needs regular exercise. While it may be annoying when you’ve had a busy day, your pet is doing you a favor by encouraging you to be active.

“Pet owners get more exercise and have more social contact than those without a pet,” experts at University of Utah Health Care say. “A pet can be a wonderful companion.”

When selecting a pet, keep in mind that different breeds are better suited for higher exercise levels than others.

  1. Pets decrease depression.

The process of stroking the fur of a friendly dog or cat has been a successful component to treating depression in a variety of groups.

“Therapy dogs have been used to visit nursing homes, calm traumatized children and help ease pain in people undergoing physical rehabilitation,” Jane Weaver says. “Researchers are trying to determine which types of people would best benefit from being with pet animals and how often they need to interact with them to get results.”

It’s hard to resist the patient and loving demeanor of a trusting pet.

  1. Pets may reduce cardiovascular disease.

A loving pet is certain to steal your heart, but owning one may also improve your heart health.

“Over the last decade or so there have been periodic reports on the association between pet ownership and cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, a cardiologist with the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Administration Medical Center in Houston.

The American Heart Association also recognizes that owning a pet can provide healthy social support, which helps owners stick to new healthy habits and lifestyles.

Public figure Michael Nutter once said, “If you have a deep-seated need to be loved and admired every day, you shouldn’t be in politics. You should go work at a pet store.”

The benefit of inviting a pet into your home is a proven boost to your heart and well-being.

This article was previously published by the Daily Herald and republished here with permission.