It is a well-known fact that pets (particularly dogs) can promote well-being in any human, whether someone is physically ill, elderly, or even affected with a mental disorder or condition. Pets are really amazing, when you think about it. Who else in the world will never hold a grudge against you, be in a perpetual good mood and wait in the rain, snow or dead of night to greet you upon your arrival at home? Not many humans, that's for sure. There is nothing in this life that you can count on that compares to the loyalty of a dog.
So how do dogs and other pets benefit our health and well being? According to http://www.sheknows.com/pets-and-animals, there are 7 benefits to health that pet owners may enjoy.
Here is the short list of benefits you may enjoy if you own a pet.
1. Boost your immune system - While it may sound strange, pets can actually be a great benefit to your immune system. Conditions such as stress, anxiety and high blood pressure can actually affect your health, putting you at risk of illness and disease. Pet owners generally experience less stress and anxiety due to a pet's ability to calm and soothe an owner's emotional state.
In years past, it was thought that eliminating pets from the home would reduce allergies in those who were prone to allergic reactions by taking the hair and dander of a pet out of the equation. Today, it has been shown that children who grow up in homes with pets are less likely to develop asthma and allergies because of their exposure to pets. One study revealed that infants living in households with pets actually had increased levels of some immune system chemicals!
2. Quicker recovery from illness - It has been shown time and time again that pets can help those who are ill enjoy a quicker recovery. Whether the person who is ill is elderly or young, pets can be a wonderful asset when it comes to getting well.
One woman in her thirties recently discussed how she was extremely ill and fighting for her life and fighting severe depression. After several weeks of "dog therapy" with a mini-pinscher used for therapy purposes, the woman began getting back on her feet and described the half-hour sessions that took place several times a week as the highlight of her week, bringing bright times into her life when it seemed most hopeless.
3. A boost in feel-good hormones - Endorphins, or "feel good" hormones such as serotonin, are believed to be boosted in those who have pets or receive therapy with pets. While it was once thought that in general pets brought health benefits to older adults, it is now known that people of every age enjoy the health boost a pet can provide.
The University of Missouri-Columbia is currently researching how pet therapy may help generate and stimulate hormones such as prolactin, serotonin and oxytocin that affect mood in a positive way. It is strongly believed that humans are better able to cope with depression, anxiety and other conditions that are related to stress when a dog is around. The simple act of stroking or petting a pet for only a few minutes has been shown to release "feel good" hormones, and also help to decrease levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone.
4. A reduction in stress hormones - Many people aren't even aware that there is such a thing as stress hormones. Cortisol is one stress hormone that can be responsible for weight gain (especially around the middle); this can contribute to heart disease, especially in women. Can dogs and other pets really help lower health-sabotaging stress hormones? Yes.
Those who suffer from anxiety and depression disorders perhaps benefit most from pet therapy for resolving stress issues. One study that was conducted had individuals in various situations in which they were alone with a spouse, alone with their pet only, and with their spouse and pet. The overall results showed that when those who participated in the study were alone with only their pet, stress levels plummeted and illnesses were short-lived. It is believed this is because a pet has the ability to remove unpleasant thoughts and worries from the mind if only temporarily, which lowers the stress hormone levels that are tied to anxiety and depression.
5. Unconditional love - Anyone who owns a pet knows that pets (especially dogs) offer unconditional love. Unlike humans, pets love you whether you are in a good mood or bad, sick or healthy, attentive or non-attentive. Even if you told your pet you no longer loved them, they would still love you. Pets are the one constant you can count on in life to offer you love and companionship even when perhaps you do not deserve it.
The unconditional love of a pet often means higher self-esteem and better health in those with pets when compared to individuals or families who do not have pets. Those with pets also feel less lonely when other people are not around. As humans, we all need love and affection, even when those feelings come from a pet. Though much of this article has been about the benefits of pets on health, researchers at the American Psychological Association strongly believe that pets offer people social and emotional support as well.
Who knew the unconditional love of a pet could count for so much in a human's life?
6. Detection of disease - Many professionals and experts strongly believe that pets can detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Some dogs are also capable of sensing when someone with diabetes or epilepsy are on the verge of a seizure.
Researchers believe that a dog's keen sense of smell enables it to detect when something is not right with blood sugar levels in those who suffer from diabetes. Particularly, dogs are capable of detecting when glucose levels are dropping when the dog is trained to do this, although it isn't really clear even now what it is that the dog notices that alerts them to the fact that glucose levels in blood are declining.
Dogs that are trained for diabetics typically undergo 3 to 4 months of training, and are initially taught to detect low blood sugar scent samples. Once the dog passes this phase, he then learns to find the scent of low blood sugar on actual humans. It has been shown that dogs that complete the training successfully are accurate in detecting low blood glucose levels in people about 90% of the time.
According to many professionals, dogs can be trained to detect certain types of cancer including Melanoma, breast and bladder cancer and prostate cancer. While some dogs are trained to detect certain odors in the breath of those who have cancer, others detect cancer through urine samples. There have been numerous documented cases in which dogs detected cancer in their owners before the results were confirmed by medical experts.
7. A Dog Promotes Exercise - It's easy to see how owning a dog can promote exercise, particularly if you choose a more active breed of dog. Who doesn't enjoy taking their best pal for a walk in the neighborhood or through a community park on a beautiful day? This is healthy both for the dog and its owner, not to mention relaxing and enjoyable.
If you're really energetic, you can really get a workout by playing Frisbee with your dog. Many dogs are naturally playful and energetic by nature, which assists in keeping their owners fit and healthy. According to PetDocs On Call, pets may be just as important in staying fit and losing weight as free weights and other exercise machines.
Unlike friends and family members who pledge to "support" us when we decide to exercise, a pet remains a positive support system when friends and family members have long since forgotten about your goals. People can influence us in negative ways when we are determined to get fit, but dogs bring fun and a unique kind of encouragement because of their love to enjoy physical activity with you.
Another important factor that many people realize is that walking with a dog doesn't seem like exercise as other programs do; instead, it is viewed as a fun, enjoyable experience. This makes dog owners much more likely to exercise, and in fact studies show that dog owners walk nearly twice as much as those who do not own dogs.
Do you need to exercise either to lose weight or simply improve your fitness level and overall health? No form of exercise is as fun or fulfilling as exercising your dog!
Mental and emotional benefits of owning a pet
We touched briefly on stress reduction and anxiety/depression earlier in this article. Pets can have a tremendous impact on the mental and emotional health of people of all ages. While it's true that pets require an investment of your time and attention, they offer many more benefits in return for your efforts. Pets get you out of the house; you take them for walks and engage in other activities, which can lead toward increased exposure to new places and people. The exercise and social benefits of owning a pet can enhance emotional health significantly.
Those who have pets have responsibilities. When you are feeling depressed or sad, you may feel like staying in bed all day. A pet gives you a reason to get up; you must feed him, let him outside, take him for a walk. This in itself can lift mood, which can help when people are feeling sorry for themselves. With a pet, you have something to do, a routine that forces you up and around so that you can't lie in bed all day and slip further in to your depression.
Many people find talking to their pets therapeutic; in fact, studies show that a full 97% of pet owners talk to their pets on occasion. Sound crazy? It isn't. Talking to your pet allows you to voice your feelings of sadness, disappointment or other feelings. Most people find that their mood is lifted, even though they have only talked about their feelings to a pet. A pet is always there to greet you at the end of the day after work. No matter what mood you are in, it's hard to stay mad or in the deep throes of depression when you have a pet that comforts you and greets you with that happy, wagging tail letting you know you've been missed and that your pet is glad you are home.
Nearly everyone experiences a devastating impact to their life at one time or another, whether it is a death in the family, divorce, moving to a new city or some other disruption. These experiences can trigger a wide range of emotions such as anxiety, depression, stress and sadness. Pets provide many relational benefits that include affection, security, comfort, companionship and that unconditional love that only pets can offer. Professionals feel that the value of human-animal bonds are severely under-rated, and that pets are powerful healing partners for those with emotional problems including those who are elderly.
Pets can enrich our lives in every way, providing relaxation and pleasure, undying loyalty and affection, security and devotion that is rare in most people's lives. Shouldn't you treat your pet to a little special love and attention?
In summary, it seems that pets can often be the solution to what ails us as humans, whether those ailments are physical, emotional or mental.
How Pets Promote Well-Being Both Physically and Mentally
Here is the short list of benefits you may enjoy if you own a pet
Sign On San Diego
Carol on Pets
PetDocs on Call
Mental and emotional benefits of owning a pet
The Daily Beast