How Pets Improve Your Health
By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a dog health insurance and cat health insurance agency.
With so much love in the air this time of year, it’s a great time to reflect on the love we have for our pets. While we no doubt love our furry babies, the heart of the matter is that they love us just as much! The news is full of pets performing heroic acts to save their owners, as well as cute videos of puppies curling up with human babies and cats adopting other species as their own.
It’s no secret that animals and humans share a special bond. It’s also well known that being around pets can positively impact your health too! In fact, there are numerous studies on the health benefits associated with being around animals, specifically involving touch. The healing power of touch doesn’t just apply to humans. Pets can benefit from human touch including petting and massage as well. Take this to heart: A study from Vanderbilt University found that therapy dogs had a major positive effect on children undergoing chemotherapy. Pediatric cancer patients who were exposed to therapy dogs had decreased anxiety and were able to adapt better socially after their chemotherapy treatments. Pets aren’t just good for our physical health, they also improve mental health! A study by the American Psychological Association found that pet owners tended to be less lonely, more physically fit, less fearful and possess greater self-esteem than non-pet owners. Pets help ward off loneliness and counter feelings of rejection that can occur in everyday life. According to the APA study, pets also give people a meaningful existence.
As a subset of the human-animal bond, therapy pets are making a difference in the lives of many people. Therapy pets truly are the heart and soul of wellness. Therapy pets (which includes mainly dogs but also cats, horses, pigs, rabbits, goats and more) have changed lives for people struggling with physical, mental and emotional issues. Therapy pets are being used to help rehabilitate inmates, decrease PTSD in soldiers returning from war, help autistic children cope with new environments and increase immune function in people with illnesses. Therapy dogs are becoming common in classrooms across the nation as they help students feel more at ease which translates into better grades. In fact, Pets Best recognizes superb therapy dogs, those who put their heart into working with children, every March with their “Books & Barks” contest.
In addition to the social and emotional healing capabilities of pets, therapy dogs can lower blood pressure in humans. A study published by the American Heart Association found that therapy dogs were beneficial in improving the health of human patients that were hospitalized with congestive heart failure. After spending just 12 minutes with a therapy dog, patients in congestive heart failure had significantly reduced stress hormones, anxiety and blood pressure which all positively affected their outcomes. Next time you get sick, have a “heart to heart” conversation with your doctor and increase your daily dose of animal interaction. This month, let’s take time to show them our love with a heartfelt hug and kiss!
Photo above: One of the Pets Best “Books & Barks” contest winners, Ellie Rose, a Bernese mountain dog and the students she reads to at Peterson Elementary in Naperville, Illinois.
Our Best Content, Delivered Monthly