Fact or Myth: Can Having Pets Help You Live Longer?

This is a FACT.

We can’t help the love we feel for our cats or dogs but did you know there are actual health benefits of pet ownership?

In the United States, the majority of households have at least one pet. If you’re an animal lover, you consider your pets valuable members of the family.

It makes sense that your animal companions have as much of a positive impact on your physical health as they have on your emotional health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that having pets increases your opportunities for physical activity and greatly improves emotional health.

Emotional Health Benefits of Pets

Stress Relief:

      Researchers at the State University of New York – Buffalo found that participants who experienced a stressful situation actually felt less stress while with their pet than when experiencing the same scenario with a friend or family member.

David Sack, MD and CEO of Promises Treatment Centers – an addiction recovery facility – allows patients to be accompanied by their pets during rehabilitation. “We are committed to making Promises a safe and reassuring homelike environment. And what could be more like home than to have your pet accompany you?”

Inspires Better Mood: Walter Reed Army Medical Center uses pets to help veterans re-acclimate to civilian life and cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Katy Nelson, an associate veterinarian in nearby Alexandria, Virginia explains, “They’re finding the guys who have a pet are showing a decreased suicide rate, one of the biggest health threats [veterans] face.

These guys who have a pet have someone they’re responsible for, someone who cares about them.” Receiving unconditional love from an animal that doesn’t ask questions vets may not be prepared to answer is believed to be one of the greatest benefits.health benefits of pets

People who have pets are able to combat feelings of sadness by focusing on their pet and overcoming potential depression much faster.

Improved Socialization: A study in Austria found that pet owners were more likely to interact with others in their neighborhoods. Those considering moving to a new neighborhood responded more favorably after seeing people walk their dogs. They felt dog-walkers made the environment more friendly and welcoming.

Researchers in Canada found that pet owners talked to people they passed more often than those walking without pets.

Improved Child Development: Children learn freedom of emotional expression from animals in their home. For those children diagnosed with autism, petting a cat or dog can soothe them during times of stress.

Doctors who specialize in patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) suggest regular routines. Taking care of a pet encourages responsibility and focus.

But it goes so much deeper than that! Scientists are now weighing in on the total body wellness that pets have on your daily life.

Physical Health Benefits of Pets

Eases Chronic Pain:

      Pets have a soothing effect that decreases anxiety. Less anxiety and stress means less inflammation. Chronic pain, migraines and conditions such as arthritis have shown significant improvement with pet therapy.

Pets have also helped many patients recover from surgery. Pet owners use less pain medication than non-pet owners according to a Loyola University study.

Immunity Boost and Allergy Prevention: In our modern world of anti-bacterial everything, we are becoming too sensitive to the environment around us. The number of patients diagnosed with allergies increases every year.

Researchers have found that children exposed to pet dander early in life don’t develop as many allergies as children raised in non-pet households do.

They also attended more school days throughout the year than children from non-pet families. Exposure to pet dander strengthens your immune system, enabling you to fight infections more effectively.

Lower Cholesterol, Lower Blood Pressure and Stroke Prevention: The CDC reported that people with pets have lower cholesterol and triglycerides than non-pet owners. This is especially true for males.

There is also significant evidence that having a pet lowers blood pressure and lowers your risk for heart attack or stroke.

Marty Becker, DVM and author of Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, explains, “If you have a dog around, your blood pressure is lower. If you have a cat, you’re 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack, and you’re 40 percent less likely to have a cardiovascular incident like a stroke.” He also pointed out recovery rates for pet owners: “If you have a heart attack and you have a dog, you are [significantly more] likely to be alive a year later.”

Blood Sugar Monitoring: If you are diabetic and a pet owner, your pet’s behavior may change when your sugar drops too low.

The American Diabetes Association published a study in 1992 that discovered one-third of the pets living with diabetics – cats, dogs, rabbits and birds – reacted differently when their owner’s sugar fluctuated too far.

They believe the animals are reacting to the chemical change and it has inspired organizations such as Dogs4Diabetics who specifically train dogs to alert their owners when their glucose falls below a safe level.

Adults who already have pet allergies can’t reverse the problem but if the condition isn’t severe, you might consider owning a pet and taking your regular medication.

You offer a “forever home” to an animal who will love you unconditionally for all its life. In return, the physical and emotional health benefits of pet ownership far outweigh the stress of training an animal or the expense of their upkeep.