Five Ways Companion Animals Boost Your Health

woman-with-dog_mediumMany of us have personal anecdotes about how our pets improved—or even saved—our lives. Numerous studies offer quantitative evidence of the health benefits of pet ownership, which include physical … mental … and emotional improvements. Here are five compelling reasons why everyone should own a pet.

Reason #1: A Daily Dose of Love 

Ask any pet owner, and they’ll wax poetic about the bond between them and their furry (or feathery… or scaly…) loved one. Many look forward to greeting their pet when they return home, even after just a few hours apart. There’s nothing like the pure glee our pets radiate when they greet us.

According to a study published in Science journal, a key element of bond between humans and our pets is eye contact. Animal behaviorist Takefumi Kikusui and a team of researcher at Azabu University in Japan found that the more time dogs spent making eye contact, the higher their oxytocin levels. This suggests that human-pet interactions involve the same oxytocin feedback loop that fosters the deep connection between mothers and their infants. Turns out people who call themselves “pet parents” may be onto something…

Reason #2: Fortify Your Heart Health

Owning a pet not only fills your heart with love, but also fortifies its overall health. Studies carried out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)…National Institute of Health (NIH)…and the American Health Association have studied the heart-health benefits of pet ownership.

According to a statement released by the American Heart Association, there are proven links between pet ownership and heart-health factors such as…

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Obesity

Additional findings cited by the CDC and NIH indicate that, thanks to the connection between owning a pet and lowered blood pressure…cholesterol…and triglyceride levels…pet owners are less likely to suffer heart attacks. For individuals who have already had a heart attack, owning a pet can improve recovery rates. 

Reason #3: Alleviate Loneliness

sleeping-cats_facebookOwning a pet can help lift depression and loneliness. Pets offer companionship, which can improve mood and increase feelings of happiness. Owning a pet can also give their owners a sense of purpose.

These benefits can be especially pronounced for individuals who are more likely to be isolated, such as the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. Consequently, many hospitals and nursing homes have put in place animal-assisted therapy (AAT) or pet-facilitated therapy (PFT) programs.

Reason #4: Relieve Chronic Pain

Studies have shown that conditions such as migraines…arthritis…and other types of chronic pain can be significantly improved using pet therapy. According to data from scientists at Loyola University, pet owners need less pain medication than non-pet owners. Pets can also improve outcomes for patients recovering from surgery.

Reason #5: Lower Stress Levels

Spending time with your pet can also lower levels of cortisol, a stress-producing hormone. According to a study conducted by researchers at the State University of New York – Buffalo, people placed in stressful situations experienced less stress when accompanied by their pet than when accompanied by a friend or family member.