The positive power of pets

A white fluffy dog looking into the camera

The positive power of pets

Pet owners don’t need much prodding to tell you just how wonderful, intelligent, and adorable their pets are. In addition to being cute and fuzzy, pets are good for your health. Just take a look at Welia Health’s staff’s pets!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the tangible health benefits of owning a pet include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol levels
  • Decreased triglyceride levels
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
  • Increased opportunities to be social

Looking to lift your mood? Spend a few minutes with a puppy or kitten, and you’re likely to feel calmer, more peaceful and definately happier. After just a few minutes, the body’s stress hormone, called cortisol, lowers, while at the same time serotonin and dopamine, the body’s feel-good chemicals, increase.

A special health report from Harvard Medical School, Get Healthy, Get a Dog, suggests that dog owners have lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, and are at lower risk of heart disease than non-owners. One study suggests dog owners live longer, healthier lives, perhaps because taking care of a dog nudges people to get more physical activity. Other explanations relate to the immune-boosting effects on the owner’s microbiome — in some cases, growing up with a dog in the house can decrease allergies and asthma in children and those benefits can carry over into adulthood.

Cat lovers, this applies to you too. Researchers right here at the University of Minnesota have found a strong correlation between owning a cat and reduced stress levels. And, cat owners have been shown to have an overall 30% lower risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke compared to those who did not own a cat.

It’s not just dogs and cats that do a body good. Have you ever been mesmerized watching fish swim in an aquarium? If so, you know firsthand the benefits of reduced anxiety and physiological stress provided by our finned friends. Those dentist offices have known this all along. The calming effects are so substantial that aquariums have been shown to be beneficial for Alheimer’s patients. Researchers at Purdue University have found that displaying tanks of brightly colored fish may curtail disruptive behaviors and improve eating habits of people with the disease of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Pets of all sorts have been shown to improve our psychological health. The American Psychological Association concludes that pets are good for our mental health. Their studies show pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.

With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that so many of us gladly welcome some sort of critter into our homes as pets. In fact, sixty-seven percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Whether it’s a dog, cat, rabbit, pig, fish, horse, donkey or ferret — here’s to your health!