9 Important Health Benefits of Having a Dog or Cat

benefits of having a dog

Looking to bring in a new member to your family and improve your health in the process?

While the thought of having a child might be terrifying, adopting a pet might just do the trick!

Over 40% of households own a pet. This breaks down to around 78 million dogs and 86 million cats kept as household pets.

Wonder exactly what the benefits of having a dog or cat are? You are in luck. Keep reading to find out the top nine ways pets can benefit your health.

1. Decrease Stress

Although taking care of an animal at times can be stressful, overall, owning a cat or a dog has been shown to lower amounts of stress.

It is this reason that dogs are frequently used when working with people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety. Many colleges will bring in therapy dogs during finals week to help students relax.

One study also found that when workers are able to bring pets to work, they experienced less stress than those who left their pets at home.

2. Eases Pain

Next time you notice a pain in your back or your leg, don’t automatically reach for the ibuprofen. People have found that pets can often decrease pain, migraines, and arthritis.

Pets have also been shown to help deal with chronic pain. One of the greatest benefits of having a dog is managing this pervasive pain. Some people have also used pets to recover from post-surgery pain in lieu of high doses of medication.

3. Lowers Cholesterol

In addition to lowering amounts of pain, owning a cat or dog is also correlated to lower cholesterol levels. This is likely due to many factors like less stress and leading a healthier life due to the pet.

It is important to monitor high cholesterol and work to lower it, as left untreated, it can cause serious complications. These include heart attacks and strokes.

Focus on a low-salt diet and adequate exercise. Grab your four-legged friend and take a stroll around your neighborhood to lower your risk.

4. Lower Blood Pressure

Along the lines of lowering cholesterol, owning a pet can lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension can be caused by obesity, poor diet, or a sedentary lifestyle.

Left untreated, consequence includes weaker blood vessels, strokes, blood clots, and even death.

In addition to diet and exercise changes, owning a pet can lower one’s blood pressure by encouraging healthy habits like daily walks.

5. Benefits of Having a Dog: Better Mood

Many of the health benefits of cats and dogs circle back to happiness. Pet owners typically have better emotional and mental states.

Improved emotional health is key, as this leads to confidence, resilience, and improved ability to develop and maintain relationships. Pet owners have been found to be less lonely and more outgoing.

6. Be More Social

You may initially think having a dog or cat would give you more chores at home and thus keep you from interacting with others around you. This is actually false.

Owning a pet, specifically a dog leads to significantly more opportunities to socialize.

Think about it. You likely are taking your dog for one or two walks a day. On even a short walk, you are likely to run into other people. If you visit a dog park regularly, you will automatically meet many fellow pet owners that you can get to know.

Other benefits of owning a dog include getting to know your neighbors as you care for your animal in your yard.

7. Decrease Chances of Stroke

While many of the benefits of pet ownership relate to dogs and being physically active, cat owners experience health benefits as well. Studies have shown those with cats are less likely to have a heart attack or a stroke.

Cats and dogs have also been shown to be helpful for those recovering from a cardiac event. Caring for an animal gives people something to focus on and feel responsible for.

8. Encourages Physical Activity

Every breed of dog requires some level of exercise. No matter if you choose a walk around the block or a few throws of a frisbee, owning a dog leads you yourself to be more active.

Being outdoors and getting at least a little exercise each day has immense benefits to your health. Beyond decreasing the risk of obesity, time in nature leads to improved mental health and vitamin D.

Vitamin D is important for keeping a healthy immune system.

9. Help Children Learn Responsibility

Parents may shy away from adding a dog, cat, bunny or some other animal to the mix if they already have small children, but pets can actually greatly benefit children.

Pets can teach children and even teens the importance of responsibility. By giving your child age-appropriate chores related to your pet, they will understand better how to care for another living thing.

Taking care of a pet has also been shown to be helpful for children with ADHD.

In addition to responsibility, owning a pet can help a child develop their emotions. Growing attached to a pet can help them learn to express how they are feeling.

Some studies also reported that children who grew up with a pet experience less severe allergies as an adult. Being exposed to the pet dander exposes your immune system early on. This lets it develop a tolerance to typical allergens.

Let Your Furry Friend Improve Your Health

If someone ever questions why you love having pets so much, you can now point them to some of the health benefits of having a dog or cat. No matter your age, living life with a furry friend will help you become or remain healthy.

Do you already have a beloved cat or dog? What do you find is the best part of owning a pet? Let us know in the comments!

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