Owning a pet can be rewarding and benefits health. Any animal that gives pleasure, companionship, and is taken care of is considered a pet. While I am not fond of snakes, I do know people that have them and adore them. Heck, I will even include a pet rock if your rock gives you pleasure (I have just aged myself) but you may also want to see a therapist if this rock is a friend.
When I was growing up, our family had a dog named Little Bit. Little Bit was part miniature poodle, part Bichon Frise and all fun-loving. I would come home from school and would be greeted by a wagging tail and non-stop kisses. I could be in an awful mood but once Little Bit nudged me to play with him or when he would snuggle on my lap, I suddenly felt better. His unconditional love was such a comfort.
Having a pet can enrich your life in so many ways while benefiting your health too. Our family has a salt water aquarium. I do enjoy watching the fish and I find it very relaxing; however, I miss having a dog. I once tried taking one of our fish out for a walk and let’s just say it did not go well.
Here is a short list of the many health benefits to owning a pet. Maybe the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” should really read “playing with a pet a day can keep the doctor away”.
- Children growing up with furred animals have a decreased risk for allergies and asthma which is the opposite of what was thought years ago. Having an animal actually boosts the immune system of children due to increased exposure to allergens.
- People with Alzheimer’s tend to eat more and have fewer outbursts just from watching fish in an aquarium.
- Owning a pet decreases blood pressure during stress. Patients on blood pressure medications had higher blood pressure spikes during stress than those who owned a cat or dog.
- Those who own a cat have a lower incidence of heart attacks.
- Those with dogs have a lower mortality rate after a heart attack than those that do not.
- Children with ADHD do better owning a pet. Children learn responsibility by helping to take care of the animal plus can get rid of some pent up energy by playing with their pet.
- Having a dog helps lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Dogs need to be walked which increases the amount of exercise the dog owner’s get. Walking also helps strengthen bones.
- Pets help those with depression. Petting a dog or cat increases serotonin and dopamine which help in the feeling of well-being. Exercise not only helps your dog’s well-being but will also decrease your stress and improve your mental health.
- Visits from a therapy dog help patients recover from a serious medical condition by decreasing stress, improving mood, giving comfort, and showing unconditional love.
My family knows firsthand how important therapy dogs can be during a health crisis. My son had brain surgery last fall due to a brain tumor. His recovery was complicated by seizures and he became depressed. A shelter therapy dog named Finn visited my son in the hospital when my son felt completely helpless. This visit was the turning point to his recovery.
My son’s visit with Finn was filmed for a documentary called Shelter Me. This documentary explains the benefits shelter dogs can have when trained as a therapy pet. Shelter Me is narrated by Jane Lynch and will air in Chicago on April 25th at 9:00 pm on WTTW channel 11. My son’s story is one of many that are highlighted in the show. Here is the link which will tell you more about the show and when it airs in your State. If your State is not listed, call your PBS station to find out when.
If you would like to read about my son’s health crisis through my eyes, here are the links to my previous posts-- My Journey to Clarity, the Beginning, My Journey to Clarity, Brain Surgery, My Journey to Clarity, Recovery. Also, here is the link to my post discussing more in depth about my son’s visit with Finn and how it was the turning point in his recovery--Therapy Shelter Dogs, Rescuing Dogs, Saving People. I am grateful everyday that Finn was saved from the shelter and now helps those in need.
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