Companion pets do more than make us smile; they are actually good for our health.
From reduced incidence of depression, lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction, a four-legged friend might be the best health plan money cannot buy.
At Pets for Patriots we advocate for the adoption of the most overlooked pets who face near-certain death if not adopted. Dogs and cats who are adult, special needs, or chronically homeless, and larger breed dogs.
Collectively these are animals that are most often overlooked in shelters, but that have many years of love and life to give. And because most are beyond the puppy or kitten stage and may already have some basic training, they are often easier to integrate into family life.
So how exactly do companion pets improve our health? Let us count the ways.
Physical benefits of pet ownership
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the average companion animal can deliver extraordinary physical health results. In some cases, having a pet can improve your health more than medication alone – or at all.
While studies by different organizations vary widely, all point to a plurality of households including pets as part of the family.
- Lower cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels
- Increased physical activity and motility
- Lower cardiovascular stress in the presence of a dog than when among family members or spouses
- Improved recovery after a heart attack or stroke
- Fewer annual doctor visits for elderly people who have dogs
- Lower incidence of allergies and asthma for children exposed to pets at a young age
Many veterans who adopt through our program tell us that their motivation for getting a pet is to help get out of the house more and to be more physically active. After all, the dog is not going to walk himself.
But pets get us out in other ways.
They are natural social catalysts, helping us relate more easily to others. Maybe that is why dogs and cats are associated with improved mental health, too.
Pets brighten the day
We believe in the healing power of “ordinary” dogs and cats.
After all, pets are the masters of unconditional love. They accept us for who we are, not who we wish we were. They do not care what we look like. They do not see our failings or disabilities. They see our invisible wounds and look beyond them.
Here are just some of the amazing ways they boost our spirits:
- Reduced stress and incidence of depression; elderly people are less depressed if they have a pet
- Fewer feelings of loneliness
- Recent widows who have pets use less medication and have fewer symptoms of any type of illness than those that do not have a pet
- Dog guardians report being as emotionally connected to their pet as to their closest family members
- Just a half hour in the company of a dog improves feelings of happiness and well-being
- Positive impact on children’s attitudes about themselves, boosting their ability to relate to others
Perhaps it is the veterans who adopt through our program that sum it up best: pets give us a purpose in life and another reason to live.