Many pet owners want companion animals to make their lives more joyful and enjoyable than ever. What most of them might not be aware of are the physical and mental health benefits owning a pet can bring into their households. Some studies found that caring for pets can help your loving family members cope with various health issues.
Pets, especially dogs, can reduce stress, anxiety, loneliness, and even depression. Because they can understand many of the words we use and interpret our tone and body language, dogs can gauge our emotional state. They can also encourage physical exercise and improve our cardiovascular health. Teresa Paterson, LPC, LCPC, RPT, CCTP explains that “Therapy Dogs are a type of service dog, although Therapy Dogs training is specific to meet the needs of multiple people in an intimate setting.”
The Health Benefits For Adults And The Elderly
Being a pet owner plays a vital role in healthy aging. It can help the older adults in our family boost their morale, optimism, self-worth, and sense of fulfillment even after retirement. Caring for a pet also lets our elders maintain a social network. Anyone can spark up a conversation about a favorite animal, which can be a great start in meeting new people.
Meanwhile, facing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is inevitable as we age. Patients with the said disease may exhibit various behavioral problems, with many related to their inability to deal with stress. In line with this, a University of California at Davis research concluded patients who own a pet at home become less stressed and deal with fewer anxious outbursts.
The Health Benefits For Children
Studies suggest that children who grow up with pets have less risk of having health issues such as allergies and asthma. They also learn how to be responsible and compassionate at a young age. The mere presence of pets at home can contribute to children having a sense of security, especially when their parents are not around.
Melissa Burns, LCPC, LLC said: “Animals offer support and nonjudgmental healing opportunities and can serve as a bridge for patients to bond with their healthcare providers.” Research has also shown that kids who are emotionally attached to their pets can better build relationships with other people. They can also help calm overly aggressive children. Playing with their cats or dogs can serve as a source of relaxation and stimulation for the brain and body.
It has also been found that some children with autism or other learning difficulties can interact with pets better than they do with people. Now it is yet to be determined whether learning to connect with a pet first may help children on the spectrum interact better with other people.
The Right Pets
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the following to more likely get communicable zoonotic diseases from animals:
- Children aged five and below
- People with weak immune systems
Pregnant women also face a higher risk of suffering from animal-related diseases. Here are some essential things to remember in choosing your family pet:
- Households with children aged five and below should not own pet reptiles and amphibians such as turtles, lizards, snakes, and frogs. We also do not recommend backyard poultry, which can pose a risk of serious illness from harmful germs.
- Pregnant women should avoid owning a new cat or touching stray cats, especially kittens. Cats can carry a parasite that causes a disease which can lead to congenital disabilities. If you are pregnant and already own a cat, you do not need to give it up. However, you should refrain from changing cat litter. You must also avoid direct contact with a pet rodent.
According to Phyllis Laughlin, LCPC, “Some people benefit from anti-depressants for symptom relief. Pet therapy is often beneficial, whether it’s an animal at home or a therapy service dog.” However, it is best to talk to a veterinarian before making pet ownership decisions for your family’s healthier and stress-free life.