Our pets are good for more than just being plain adorable. Those fur babies you love to snuggle could actually be protecting you and your family from a host of health conditions. Here are five ways your pet could be saving you on a daily basis:
They can prevent allergies
I realize this seems counter-intuitive since many of us are allergic to certain animals, but several studies including one out of the University of Maryland reveal that in children furry pets can help boost the immune system and prevent development of allergies later on in life. If your pets are anything like mine, they are constantly bringing dirt, sticks, bugs, and other sources of germs into our house. This exposure is great for developing immunity in little ones. Not only that, but the exposure to pet dander at an early age teaches the immune system not to over-react when it comes into contact later in life.
They can lower your blood pressure and be generally heart healthy
Our pets do a great job of stealing our hearts, but they’re also good at keeping them healthy. The American Heart Association advocates for the benefits of pet ownership. In a review of recent scientific studies, they found that pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure than non-pet owners. One study even tested the blood pressure of participants before and after pet adoption and showed improvement even two months after adoption date. Must be all the love.
Another study showed a beneficial relationship between pet ownership and your heart’s response to stress. Dog owners in this study had a lower resting heart rate and significantly lower increases in heart rate when exposed to stressors. Improved stress response lowers risk of cardiac events and leads to generally improved quality of life.
They can actually help you survive a heart attack
Scientists call it “a non-human form of social support”, I call it furry snuggles. Whatever it is, research has shown that pet owners have longer survival rates following heart attacks than non-pet owners. It is believed that this is due to increased support and it’s relationship to emotional stress, not to mention all the heart health benefits mentioned earlier.
They get us moving
Dogs in particular have a way of getting us outside and moving. Dog owners are more likely to reach their recommended level of physical activity than non-dog owners. Walking, jogging, playing fetch, and chasing are all great ways to get your body moving. Family dogs also help to get the kiddos outside and playing more often. Studies have also shown that animals may strengthen a weight loss program by providing motivation and removing some barriers to exercise. If you need a good motivational happy cry today, just watch this video of how one dog and his owner got fit together.
They make us happier, science says so
No one needs research to know that our pets can bring unending amounts of joy to our lives, but we have it anyway. Pet ownership has been shown to improve depression, anxiety, and lead to improved general outcomes in nursing homes, with homeless youth, with single women, and countless other groups that have been individually studied. Basically, a furry kiss a day keeps the blues away.
Just in case you need any more reasons to run out and adopt a new family member, here are some shameless pics of my fur baby, rescuer, cardio motivator, and best bud:
Gern, Dr. James E. “Effects of dog ownership and genotype on immune development and atopy in infancy.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 02/11/2004.Effects of dog ownership and genotype on immune development and atopy in infancy. Gern, James E et al. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology , Volume 113 , Issue 2 , 307 – 314
Pets, depression and long term survival in community living patients following myocardial infarction. Friedmann, E et al. Anthrozoos.2011 Sep 1;24(3):273-285
Salo PM, Zeldin DC. Does exposure to cats and dogs decrease the risk of developing allergic sensitization and disease? The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology. 2009;124(4):751-752. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2009.08.012.
Brooks, H. L., Rogers, A., Kapadia, D., Pilgrim, J., Reeves, D., & Vassilev, I. (2012). Creature comforts: Personal communities, pets and the work of managing a long-term condition. Chronic Illness, 9(2), 87-102. doi:10.1177/1742395312452620
Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk. Glenn N. Levine, MD, FAHA, Chair; Karen Allen, PhD; Lynne T. Braun, PhD, CNP, FAHA et al. AHA Scientific Statement. 2013; 127: 2353-2363