I have been surrounded by animals since birth. My mom is a true animal lover and has instilled that love into me, her child. I can’t remember a moment in my life that I didn’t have a pet. Even in college, I had our family pet bunny in my apartment because my life just didn’t feel whole without a furry friend living with me. At the time, I had no idea that not only were my pets giving me unconditional love, but they were also keeping me healthy in a variety of ways.
There is more to the saying “man’s best friend”, than you think. Studies, done all over the world, have shown that pets can actually help or change your mental and physical health. This fact is so widely known that many professionals in the health field will recommend pet ownership as treatment for their patients. Treatment can vary, but the one thing that is consistent is that it involves being exposed to a pet in some way, shape or form.
At Universuty of Buffalo, a study was conducted which proved that a pet cat or dog can actually control blood pressure better than an ACE inhibitor. The study focused on a group of hypertensive New York City stockbrokers, who were being treated with an ACE inhibitor. Half of the stock brokers added a dog or cat to their treatment regimen, and that half’s health was found to be more stable during stressful situations than the participants who did not have a pet. After sharing these results with the study participants, many went out and got a pet.
Not only do pets help your blood pressure, but they have also been found to be allergy fighters. Research pediatrician, Dr. James Gern, found in a recent study that infants having a pet living with them were less likely to show pet allergies. They were also less likely to have eczema. In addition, they were found to have higher levels of some immune system chemicals, which is a sign of a stronger immune system overall. Because pets (especially dogs) can be dirty, babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have been found to have a stronger immune system.
In addition to physical benefits, pets also have emotional and social benefits. Pets can help with loneliness by providing companionship and unconditional love. They never have a negative thing to say and they are always happy to see you. What better friend exists than one with those qualities? And because so many of us take an interest in our pets, they can also help as social lubricant. When out walking your dog, or at the vet with your cat, pets make us more approachable and give people a reason to start up a conversation. Pets can even be the support system a shy person needs to allow them to engage in a conversation with a stranger.
Although pets can truly enhance our lives in many ways for the better, pets come with added responsibility and financial demands. Pet ownership is not for everyone and should not be taken lightly. However, if you are able to provide a safe and loving environment for a furry friend, the benefits you will experience from them seem to outweigh what they actually need from you. So, when you go home today, give them an extra kiss, treat or snuggle…they deserve it!