6 strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of your pet

6 strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of your pet

After a long, stressful day at work, a giddy four-legged companion greets you at the door. You can’t help but smile when you see it. Owning a pet is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures, offering friendship and endless laughter. But, your pet can also be doing wonders for your health and general wellbeing. More than 65 percent of families in the United States have a pet, with dogs and cats being the most common breeds.

It is not surprising that so many of us have a pet because they make wonderful companions, teach us compassion, and provide unconditional affection. Animals are such amiable friends – they ask no questions and pass no judgments, as British author George Eliot famously stated. The numerous advantages pets provide for human health and wellbeing only serve to enhance their undeniable appeal. We examine these in greater detail.


1. Decreased allergy risk

Pet dander is one of the most common causes of nasal allergies, which affect about 50 million Americans. Given this, it might surprise you to learn that having a pet may actually reduce your risk of acquiring allergies. One study linked early exposure to dogs and farm animals with a lower risk of developing asthma by the time children reach school age, as reported by Medical News Today in 2015.

The gut flora of children who were exposed to household pets before birth and for up to three months afterward showed changes linked to childhood allergies, according to more recent research published in the journal Microbiome. These results back with the “hygiene hypothesis,” which holds that earlier exposure to allergens and pathogens can strengthen the immune system and lead to a greater tolerance to allergies later in life.


2. Decreased stress and anxiety

The fact that animals can make humans feel less nervous and anxious shouldn’t be a surprise because just hearing a cat purr or feeling “man’s best friend” cuddled up next to your feet can make one feel at rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered in a 2015 study that kids who lived with pets dogs were considerably less likely to test positive on an anxiety screening test.

Another study released last month discovered that kids with dogs had lower cortisol levels when they interacted with their canine friends than kids who did not actively contact with their dog. According to study leader Darlene Kertes of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida in Gainesville, children who actively invited their dogs to come and be petted or stroked had lower cortisol levels than children who engaged their dogs less. Yet, children’s cortisol levels tended to be higher when dogs hovered or approached them alone.

The benefits of pets for reducing stress, however, are not just restricted to canine companions. Teenagers’ cortisol levels and stress were found to be reduced by riding and caring for horses, according to 2014 research.


3. Improved cardiac health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, contributing to about 610,000 fatalities each year Trusted Source. Many of us are aware that making healthy lifestyle decisions, such eating a balanced diet and exercising frequently, is essential to lowering risk factors for heart disease. But did you realize that your pet can also be safeguarding your cardiovascular health?

According to a Reliable Source from the American Heart Association, having a pet, especially a dog, may lower your chance of developing cardiovascular disease. This finding may be partially explained by greater exercise, according to research co-author Glenn Levine of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas; studies reveal that dog owners are 54 percent more active than non-dog owners.


The statement also cites research showing that having a pet tends to lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and obesity rates, all of which may be advantageous to heart health.

4. Improved social skills and relationships

In fact, data reveal that more than 66 percent of dog owners and 56 percent of cat owners consider their pet to be a family member. Most pet owners have a special affinity with their furry pets. Recent research suggests that this pet-owner attachment may also have positive effects on our other relationships. Those who own pets report stronger romantic relationships than those who don’t; pet owners also reported higher relationship quality and investment overall, according to research released last year.


Taking care of a pet can enhance social abilities. According to a 2014 study in the journal Applied Developmental Science, people who said they cared more for animals were more involved in their communities and were more likely to hold leadership positions. In addition, the study discovered that those who said they had a stronger bond with animals as children showed more empathy and self-assurance as adults. Research indicates that a home pet may be advantageous for autistic kids who frequently struggle with social interactions. Researchers at the University of Missouri in Columbia discovered that having a dog in the home increased the assertiveness of autistic children, according to a 2015 study.

Gretchen Carlisle, a research co-author, notes that the data showed that youngsters with any kind of pet in the home reported being more inclined to engage in behaviors like introducing oneself, asking for information, or answering questions posed by others. These kinds of social skills are often challenging for children with autism, but this study found that having a pet in the home increased children’s assertiveness.


5. Elevated mental state

According to estimates, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness each year, with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression ranking among the most prevalent. Despite the fact that having a pet won’t make mental illness go away, research indicate that it might. 60 percent of pet owners who had been diagnosed with serious mental illness claimed that their pet was “most vital” for controlling their condition, according to research cited by MNT last year.

The study also discovered that participants who had dogs reported feeling more in control, secure, and used to their lives. Many organizations now accept animal-assisted therapy as a successful treatment for depression and other mental diseases as a result of studies Trusted Source demonstrating that our favorite animal friends can also help to lessen depression. Social worker Kathryn Oda wrote about how her dog Buddy helped her to manage her anxiety and sadness in a blog post for the Huffington Post that was published last year.

“A dog inspires you to leave the house for some exercise and fresh air, even when you don’t feel like it. With their distinctive personalities and humorous quirks, dogs bring you so much laughter and delight, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before,” she adds. “And last, having a dog gives you unwavering affection that never ends. You can experience anxiety and depression if you have these three items in your life, just like they did for me.


6. Higher caliber of sleep

Dog owners will understand the frustration of their four-legged friend claiming the covers at bedtime all too well. Yet, before you push them off the bed, consider the fact that some research suggest that sleeping in the same bed as your pet may actually improve your quality of sleep.

MNT reported on one such study in 2015. According to a study that was published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, 41 percent of pet owners who allowed their animals to sleep in their bedrooms or on beds said that they did not find the animals to be disruptive and that they even slept better as a result of the comfort, companionship, and relaxation that their animals provide. You can rest easy knowing all the amazing ways your pet may be enhancing your health and wellbeing after reading this article.


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