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Educational health information to improve your well-being.

5 Reasons Owning a Pet Helps You Stay Healthier

June 6, 2017
Published in: Heart, Mental Health

Pets can help you live a longer and healthier life.

While an apple a day might or might not keep the doctor away, your pet can also help keep you healthy. In fact, when it comes to owning a pet, there are several proven benefits to your health. For instance, you can decrease your risk of having a heart attack by owning a pet. Pet ownership has also helped people improve their emotional and mental health. Yes, being a pet guardian can even help lower your blood pressure. So, if you're looking for a reason to take the plunge into pet ownership, here are five reasons why making a new furry friend might be just what the doctor ordered.

Lovable Fur Babies Keep Allergies at Bay

If allergies run in your family and you're thinking about having kids, you may be a little hesitant about getting a pet. You might be wondering if having an animal inside your home could cause your child to be sick. This couldn't be further from the truth. Cuddling a pet can help your babies avoid allergies. In fact, studies performed by pediatrician James E. Gern indicate that exposing infants to animals helps them develop stronger immune systems. His study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggests that pet ownership can decrease the likelihood a child develops allergies by as much as 33 percent.

Your Pet Can Help You Stave off Feelings of Isolation

A pet therapist visiting a patient at the bedsidePet ownership comes with a few fringe benefits, one of which is being an instant icebreaker. A cute furry animal can be an excellent conversation starter. Of course, getting a pet just for this reason wouldn't be a superb idea, but if you have a hard time making friends, your pet can be the common denominator to help you connect with others. Having friends and pets can help you avoid feelings of loneliness and enhance your mental health. If you'd like to mix and mingle and make new friends with your lovable pet as your wing man or wing lady, here are a few ideas for making those connections:

Dog Training Classes

Group dog training or puppy kindergarten classes are extremely popular. Learn to master pet parenting skills while meeting other people who love their pets.

Pet Social Media Sites

There are pet social networking sites where you can make connections with other pet owners. Dogster.com, Catster.com, and Petpop.com are just a few examples of sites where you can trade pet tips and follow the latest pet trends.

Dog Parks

If you're an active person, a dog park offers you the ability to get out and get some fresh air with your pet. You'll also find other individuals who like to get out and do things with their beloved fur babies.

Pets Help Owners Improve Their Heart Health

Your pet fills your heart with love, but your pet can also help protect that organ as well. The National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have conducted heart-related studies on people with pets. Findings from these studies show that pet owners have decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels—all of which has been known to minimize heart attack risks. Individuals who have already experienced a heart attack also have better recovery rates when they also care for a pet. These benefits are tied to pets' tendencies to help reduce their owner's stress levels.

Fido May Help You Stay in Shape

Woman running with her dogIf you need a little motivation when it comes to exercise, your dog can act as your personal trainer. Most pups need to be walked a few times a day. As long as you're the one holding the leash, you'll also be reaping the rewards of this jolly jaunt. Dog owners who walk their dogs find it's easier to maintain their weight levels. In fact, owners who walk their dogs are less likely to be obese than people who don't own a dog or who pass off those walking duties to someone else. Of course, you don't have to just stick to walking to stay fit with your pet. There are other fun things you can do to stay fit with your dog:

  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Doga (doggy yoga)
  • Agility Training

Beat the Blues with Your Furry Friend

Pets offer owners unconditional love. Pet ownership also gives pet owners a sense of purpose. This can be crucial for people who are feeling down or suffering from depression. Companionship with a pet can help boost your mood and make you feel happier. Individuals who are sick or elderly can benefit the most from interacting with an animal. In fact, animal-assisted therapy or pet-facilitated therapy is often used by hospitals and nursing homes to help people heal.

People own pets because they love animals, but pets can also help you stay healthy. Caring for your pet is certainly beneficial to them and you. It's a give and take relationship with animals often giving the most joy and love to their owners. If you don't own a pet and are looking for reasons to get one, you've got all the reasons you need, right here.

As part of the inpatient therapy program, Augusta Health offers Animal Assisted Therapy to patients at the hospital to aid in their recovery.