There’s almost nothing better than curling up on a rainy day or a stormy night with your favorite furry friend. Our pets become more like friends and then eventually family. I know when I’m away, I miss my normal nighttime routine with my menagerie or that morning wake-up call with two paws to the back. They become essential ingredients to the little moments that make up everyday life, eventually cementing themselves inside your favorite memories. In our home, most of our favorite holiday memories are the ones where the family pets crowd the edges of our mental images - the messier the better! But did you know that there are actually health benefits to pet ownership? Let’s count the ways:
Pet ownership typically means more physical activity.
While this won’t necessarily be true if your new pet is a goldfish, most pets require a fair amount of physical exercise. Even a giant loaf of a cat will chase after the occasional laserbeam, crinkle ball… or an accidentally dropped grape (my cat thinks these are gifts from above, proving the point that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on these goofy babies). But if your favorite furry friend happens to be a dog, then you’re definitely in for increased daily activity. Dogs need to be walked, tend to require jobs, and crave a schedule. This means, that pretty much no matter what, they need to get up and out every day. One study has actually found that older individuals are more likely to take regular walks with dogs than they are with other humans.
Cortisol is the stress hormone we all know and tolerate. When stress levels go up, so do our cortisol production levels, and subsequently, a cascade of stress-related issues ensue. However, lucky us, many studies have found that being around animals can decrease cortisol levels. This is why when I was in undergrad, they would bring petting zoos around during finals. We needed all the snuggles we could get.
High levels of stress tends to go hand-in-hand with high blood pressure (or hypertension). As those fluffy tails, wet noses, and tiny toe-beans make their way into your life, you can feel the stress slip away and along with it, hypertension. In a study designed to assess the role of social support as a heart disease risk factor, several hypertensive stockbrokers were monitored for blood pressure spikes. Half of the group was given a pet, and the other half was given an ACE inhibitor. During tasks that were designed to be stressful, the stockbrokers who were given pets maintained healthier blood pressure, heart rate, and renin activity levels than the participants who were given ACE-inhibitors. Another study of hospitalized heart patients found that dogs decreased the patients’ blood pressure by about 10% of the left side of their hearts. Additionally, there is evidence to support the claim that people with cats are 40% less likely to have fatal heart attacks.
Alleviation of Depression
I think many of us discovered this to be true during the height of the pandemic. In fact, 23 million American households acquired a pet during the Covid-crisis. This is likely due, in large part, to the mood-lifting capabilities pets bring to us. The National Institute of Mental Health actually recognizes animal-assisted therapy as a bonified treatment plan for depression and other mood disorders.
Low Blood Sugar Detection
Low blood sugar can be extremely dangerous if you have diabetes (we’ve all seen Steel Magnolias, right?!) Luckily, there are actually specially trained dogs who have been taught to smell drops in their human’s blood sugar and will alert before the situation becomes dangerous.
Having a pet is rewarding for so many reasons beyond the health benefits they bring us. So join us for Woodside Farms Barkin' at The Barn on Saturday, May 14th from 10 am-2 pm as we celebrate our favorite furry family members. May 14th is also National Dog Mom day. Let’s celebrate all those lovely dog mommas in our lives!