The holidays are such a wonderful time of year.
Most people can attest to this statement. But the truth is, the holidays can also be a very difficult time of year for some. The typical holiday frenzie alone can be stressful - hosting friends and family, having enough money for gifts, family tensions, remembering loved ones who’ve passed away…. There are a variety of stressors that can affect our mood this time of year.
Did you know that having a dog can help curb these stressors?
Owning a pet is statistically proven to not only bring you abundant happiness, but people with pets live longer and healthier lives too. If you’ve been on the fence about adopting a pet in need, maybe consider these benefits to help you in your decision.
Dogs are known to improve your overall heart health. Dogs don’t just fill our hearts, they actually make them stronger! Studies have shown that having a canine companion is linked to lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and decreased triglyceride levels - which contribute to better overall cardiovascular health and fewer heart attacks. What’s more, dog owners who have had heart attacks have better survival rates following the events! Crazy right?!
Having a dog helps reduce stress. There is a reason therapy dogs are so effective! Spending just a few minutes with a dog can lower anxiety and blood pressure, and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine - two neurochemicals that play a big role in our overall calm and wellbeing. Studies also show that dogs ease tension both at work and between married couples as well.
Pets help ward off depression. It is widely believed that dog owners are less prone to depression than those whom are dog-less, largely because they seem to help in so many other areas of our wellbeing.
Having a dog can help reduce the number of doctors visits. If you are over the age of 65 and own a pet, odds are you seek medical help about 30% less often than people who don’t have a pet. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology established that animal-owning seniors on Medicare “reported fewer doctors visits over a one-year period than respondents who did not own pets.” And while cats, birds, and other animals were certainly helpful, “owners of dogs, in particular, were buffered from the impact of stressful life events on physician utilization.”
They also help to battle disease and injury. It is believed that owning a dog can help detect, treat, and manage a variety of illnesses and debilitations. A few examples:
- Some dogs have been trained to sniff out skin, kidney, bladder and prostate cancer, among others.
- Service dogs are known to benefit people with everything from traumatic brain injury to autism to rheumatoid arthritis, increasing mobility and promoting independence.
- Alzheimer’s patients are soothed by dogs, whose companionship also seems to mitigate emotional flare-ups and aggression.
In turn, that activity helps us remain mobile into our 70’s and 80’s. A study in the Journal Gerontologist found that older adults who walked dogs experienced, “lower body mass index, fewer activities of daily living limitations, fewer doctor’s visits and more frequent to moderate and vigorous exercise.”
Above all else, having a dog gives our life meaning and purpose. As we grow older - especially after we retire - it can be difficult to find structure and meaning in each day. And even if you’re not elderly, but suffer the same limitations; dogs help with that. They force us to continue to do things from day to day. Even if you’re not feeling well emotionally or physically, the dog’s care comes first. We still have to feed them, walk them and be there for them.
Dogs help prevent loneliness and isolation as well; which is key in staving off cognitive decline and disease. Having a pet means we must focus on something other than just our own needs. They give us a reason to get up in the morning.
The list of overall, health benefits to owning a pet is on-going. And we could talk about this all day. But the truth is owning a pet is symbiotic for both parties. A dog will keep you happy and healthy for years to come and in turn, you’ll be saving a life. Wishing you and your future furr-baby, a wonderful life together.