Owning a dog or a cat isn’t always easy, and it certainly isn’t convenient. There’s the poop you need to scoop, the vet trips you need to take, the baths you have to give—not to mention the effort you have to take in cajoling, tricking or forcing that pet come bath time.
There’s a lot of you to give emotionally, financially, and time-wise, since caring for a pet is, in many ways, a bit like having a child. But we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world! Especially when you factor in the reasons owning a pet makes us healthier individuals.
1. Walking your dog regularly improves your fitness levels as well as your pet’s.
Dogs require exercise, so whether you like it or not, you’ll find yourself having to walk your dog, and even just a 30-minute walk daily can do wonders for your health. It’ll even have you meeting the minimum recommended amount of physical activity in a day. For dogs, two 30-minute sessions of walking in a day is ideal, not to mention a mean game of fetch.
2. Petting your fur baby can help lower blood pressure, thus lowering risk of cardiovascular disease.
Studies have shown that petting your dog or cat can lower blood pressure in those with hypertension—possibly in general. This in turn reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It’s also a soothing way to give and receive love from someone warm, cute, and absolutely devoted to you.
3. Dogs may serve as early warning systems for disease.
There have been dogs that can detect cancer, as well as predict epileptic seizures. Due to their ability to smell chemical changes in a person’s body, there are also dogs that help detect drops in blood glucose in diabetics. Warnings from dogs trained to indicate when they detect these things can save a lives. For example, in the case of diabetics, a dog might remind its owner to grab a snack before his or her blood sugar levels get too low.
4. Pets improve your mood and help fight depression.
Aside from the fact that dogs and cats are naturally cute so it’s easy for them to cheer their owners up, having pets around can lower your cortisol levels and boost serotonin levels. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress, while serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical closely associated with happiness and general well-being. Taking care of another creature who loves you back unconditionally has also been said to help fight depression. Therapy dogs have been used to treat mental illness, but also to help people overcome traumatic experiences.
5. Having a pet around is good for the heart.
A study spanning 20 years found that people who owned cats were 40% more likely to die from heart attacks than those who didn’t, while another study found that dog owners had a better survival rate one year following a heart attack than people who didn’t own dogs. Overall, dog owners also recover faster from illnesses.
6. Pet ownership also helps lessen risk of stroke.
This is especially true for cat owners. Studies indicate that learning to focus on cats may help distract you from your worries. Cats may also have a more calming effect on their owners than other animals do.
Convinced? If you’re a pet owner, make a mental note to give your dog or cat a hug when you get home today!