The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
When you add a wriggling little fluff ball to your family, you’re probably not thinking much beyond puppy kisses or kitten snuggles. But, if you invest time and dedication into your pet’s training and health, they will repay you with a lifetime of benefits. While you are enjoying your four-legged friend’s companionship and goofy antics, the happiness they add to your days can improve your overall health, and add years to your life.
Benefits of Pet Ownership
Although the anxiety your pet causes when they slip through an open gate, or dart in front of a moving car, may seem to take years off your life, studies show that pet owners reap far more benefits than a few snuggles. There’s no doubt pets bring joy to our lives, and they can also bring a number of health benefits, including:
- Increased physical activity — It’s no secret that your pet will have you on your feet more throughout the day. Whether it’s simply to let your dog outside for potty breaks, and fill their food bowl, or to head out for a daily jog, pets encourage activity. In fact, the American Heart Association found that dog owners are 54% more likely to meet the recommended amount of physical activity than people who do not own a dog. Walking or jogging alone can be boring, but if you share the sidewalk with a canine companion, they will make the activity more enjoyable. As an added bonus, your dog is a great accountability partner, and won’t let you skip your daily exercise. If you have a feline friend, maybe you’re not taking them for walks, but they also need daily activity to prevent obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Simply playing on the floor with your cat, or casting a fishing pole toy for them to chase, is healthier than sitting on the couch.
- Improved cardiovascular health — In addition to helping you become more active overall, pet ownership can improve your cardiovascular health. Increased activity, paired with the lowered stress and anxiety pet owners enjoy, can also reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A 2019 study published by the American Heart Association showed that dog owners experienced a 61% reduced mortality risk after having a heart attack, 31% reduced mortality risk due to cardiovascular-related issues, and an overall 24% reduced risk of early death from all causes. But, not only dogs can protect your heart. A study of more than 2,400 cat owners demonstrated similar findings—feline ownership correlates with a significantly lower risk of death due to cardiovascular conditions, including heart attack and stroke.
- Improved mental health — Pets can make your darkest days seem brighter, and can instantly lift your bad mood with a few sloppy kisses. Having a pet in your home can lower stress and anxiety for all family members, from kids to elderly adults. A pet’s unconditional love and non-judgmental support can help kids navigate stressful social entanglements, and adults to work through career and personal anxieties. A Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) study of more than 600 children showed that dog ownership lowered the probability of childhood anxiety. Another study of high school students, ages 13 to 19, showed that pet owners reported less loneliness than non-pet owners. Research has also demonstrated that human-animal interactions can improve stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults.
- Fewer allergies — Children who are exposed to pets early in life have a reduced risk for developing allergies, eczema, and asthma. Exposure to pets during a child’s first years can help strengthen their immune system to prevent an overreaction to normal substances, such as pet dander or pollen, and an allergic reaction.
Repaying Your Pet
Your pet asks for little in return for their lifelong contribution to your health, but you can health, as well. When you adopt that cute little fluff ball, be prepared to provide for their basic needs, as well as routine and emergency health care. Your new pet will need life-long health care, including:
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- Puppy or kitten visits — Starting at 6 weeks of age, your puppy or kitten should visit your family veterinarian every few weeks for critical check-ups, vaccines, and deworming. Your veterinarian will help you make decisions about diet, exercise, and training that will benefit your pet throughout their life.
- Routine wellness visits — During your pet’s adult years, they should visit your family veterinarian annually for a wellness exam and vaccine boosters. As your pet ages, and becomes a senior companion, their visits should increase to every three to six months, to closely monitor their health, and screen for diseases that may be untreatable if not detected early.
- Emergency care — Almost every pet will run into an emergency at some point during their life, with some finding trouble more than others. Animal Emergency Referral Associates’ (AERA) emergency service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to help your pet through emergencies that arise when your family veterinarian is closed.
- Specialty care — Your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist, such as a dermatologist or orthopedist, and likewise, your family veterinarian may refer your pet to an AERA veterinary specialist for specific care. Animals can develop many complex medical conditions that require a specialist’s expertise for resolution or management.
Whether you are thinking about adopting a new companion, or have enjoyed the health benefits of pet ownership for years, AERA is here for your pet’s emergency and specialty care needs. Contact us if your pet needs after-hours care, or the expertise of our veterinary specialist team.