1. They’re good for your heart, literally. Owning a pet has been proven to decrease stress, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, which all have noticeable effects on the cardiovascular system. Further, heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies.
2. They prevent allergies and colds. Perhaps you should let Fido nuzzle up to your newborn without always reaching for the hand sanitizer. Allergies in babies and children can be reduced by up to fifty percent in pet-owning households, according to a recent study. These children also have overall lower antibody levels and far fewer positive skin test reactions to cat, dog, dust mite, ragweed and grass allergens – due to a stronger immune system fortified by exposure to pet dander. A strong immune system is the first line of defense to prevent colds.
3. They improve your mood. Pets help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, as their optimistic demeanor and devotion to you are natural mood enhancers. One study revealed that AIDS patients with pets were less likely to suffer from depression. Related research has shown similar trends with those who have cancer and other terminal illnesses, such as Alzheimer's.
4. Never mind a treadmill; get a dog. Being a “dog person” can also make you more of an exerciser. Not only are dog owners more likely to take regular walks or hikes, but research shows that adults and children with dogs are more active overall – beyond just dog walking – compared with people without dogs. Further, another study found dogs to be a better influence on their human exercise partners, i.e., they never make excuses not to exercise!
5. They boost your social life. Dogs don’t just fetch balls and Frisbees; they can also fetch good company for you. Simply being in the presence of your pooch naturally puts you at ease, and provides several ways for you to meet new people in the neighborhood, such as at the dog park, the vet and the coffee shop. And, of course, dogs are always a great topic of conversation.
6. They help you practice responsibility and compassion. Several studies have shown how pet ownership positively affects self-esteem and empathy in children. Additionally, caring for pets teaches responsibility for pet owners of all ages. While pet ownership takes time, sacrifice, dedication and compassion, it can also be one of the most rewarding aspects of your life.
7. They can detect and predict health problems. Due to their remarkable sense of smell, some studies show that dogs can perform what often seem like miracles, such as detecting cancer, predicting seizures and warning about low blood sugar.
8. They’re good “medicine” for the elderly. Maintaining a social network isn’t always easy for the elderly, but for seniors who are able, dog ownership is a great way to gain companionship and meet new people. Pets also encourage laughter, playfulness and physical activity, which can help boost the immune system and energy. For caregivers taking care of an elderly patient, cats can provide less of a burden when there is a pet as cats generally require less care than a dog.
9. They provide support and assistance. In the setting of a severe illness or prolonged hospitalization or nursing home placement, service dogs can provide great solace and distraction from unpleasant circumstances. Therapy dogs can assist people with various disabilities in performing everyday activities, thereby greatly reducing their dependence on others.
10. They add structure and meaning to your day. Many pets require a consistent schedule, which in turn encourages you to become more organized and focused on everyday tasks–no matter your mood. For some people, the daily routine of having a companion to care for offers an important sense of purpose and fulfillment.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a pet, there are clearly some great health advantages that come along with it. If you are unable to own a pet at this time, volunteering at an animal shelter or fostering a pet provides many benefits as well. If you are ready to own a pet, consider adoption of a rescue pet. Open up your home and heart to one of them, and invite better health, fitness and joy into your life.
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