You have no doubt heard the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Now, researchers studying the health benefit of owning a dog, cat, bird or pocket pet say that “having pets can help keep the doctor away”. One reason for the evidence-supported association between better health and pets involves the brain-body connection, or the ability of emotions to influence your health.
For example, thousands of studies indicate people suffering stress and anxiety are prone to developing high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and many other chronic diseases due to elevated levels of the the stress hormone cortisol. Caring for a pet actually reduces cortisol levels by influencing brain chemicals implicated in mood, relaxation, pain reduction and feelings of well-being.
Pets Improve Mood by Giving Unconditional Love
No matter how bad your day is or how depressed and lonely you feel, pets are always there for you. They always love you without expecting anything from you. They make pet owners smile and laugh just by being their cute, cuddly selves. They are happy to see you when you get home and won’t leave your side when you are ill or sad. Knowing their pet unconditionally loves them , eases loneliness, reduces anxiety and increases release of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for feeling happy and content. In addition, people with anxiety disorders often have a service dog for anxiety that helps them deal with daily stress triggers.
Pets Get Owners Outside and Active
A health benefit of owning a dog is the fact that dogs need to be walked. One of the best physical activities anyone can do to improve their physical and mental health is walking. And what’s more enjoyable than taking a long, pleasant walk with your best friend in the world? Walking your dog in the woods or park provides the added health benefit of being surrounded by nature. Spending time in nature improves mental and emotional health, reduces stress and raises levels of vitamin D, a nutrient important for preventing depression and improving immune system functioning.
Pets as an Early Warning System for Diabetics
Dogs can be trained to detect subtle changes in the way diabetics smell when their blood sugar drops suddenly. These special dogs will nudge, sniff or otherwise get the attention of their owners who may need to eat something to avoid a diabetic emergency.