Your pet means so much to you. He’s your best friend, your confidante, and your playmate, all wrapped into one. There’s nothing the two of you love more than snuggling up or enjoying a bit of playtime together. Whether it’s a lazy couch potato night or a hike through the woods, you’ve probably already noticed how spending time with your pooch can quickly improve your mood and reduce stress.
But did you know that curling up and spending time with animals may actually improve your physical health, too? In what can only be a sign that science is “going to the dogs,” new research identifies exactly how your dog benefits your overall health.
Lower Blood Pressure
Most people live a highly stressful life in today’s modern, fast-paced world. Between work and play, there’s little time for relaxation and restoration, and that can lead to hasty decisions about diet, exercise and sleep. Unfortunately, many people experience high blood pressure because of these decisions.
Though doctors can treat high blood pressure with medication, there is scientific evidence to show that petting or snuggling your dog or cat may, in fact, reduce your blood pressure as well. Though it certainly won’t cure a chronic or acute issue, enough research confirms that it’s an excellent adjunct to an existing program. Most medical professionals agree that blood pressure lowers when petting an animal simply because the activity is relaxing; however, some evidence shows that a cat’s vibratory purring may have additional effects.
Several decades ago, the main school of thought on pets and allergies was that they significantly increased the risk of allergies, especially in childhood. Researchers now know that this may be false and an overstatement. While some children really do develop serious allergies to pets, several studies highlight how owning a pet early in life may prevent allergies from taking hold in the first place. Unfortunately, more research is needed; it isn’t clear if exposure to pets somehow desensitizes children, or if some other mechanism is at work.
Increased Active Living
Healthy living is important, both for you and your canine friend, so don’t forget to keep a close eye on Fido’s health, too. If you notice any of the standard signs of pain in dogs, contact your vet immediately. Your dog relies on you to keep him healthy, happy, and safe; keeping him well is just one way you can pay him back for improving your health.
If you’re the type of person who spends hours locked away in a home office or on a computer, owning a pet can help you to change your lifestyle and stick with it. Dogs demand to be walked, (sometimes multiple times per day) and simply ignoring them isn’t really an option. Whether just venturing out to go potty or heading out for a hike, owning a dog will encourage you to be loyal to your furry friend and get outside. For your dog, that means exercise and fun with his favorite friend; for you, it means more exercise, better cardiovascular health, and more fresh air.
Some organizations even pair service dogs with people who experience chronic pain, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and depression simply because they motivate their handlers to get up and get moving when it may otherwise be too difficult.