Did you know that adopting a dog (or cat) can improve your health? They say that dogs are man’s (and woman’s) best friend and it turns out it’s true. They give you unconditional love, they bring happiness to your days, and they’re always there to lend an ear when you’re having a bad day. Here’s why adopting a dog from can improve your mental and physical health tremendously.
Studies show that owning a dog has tremendous physical and psychological benefits. Dogs improve ones’ quality of life, boost mental health, and increase immunity. If you’ve ever owned a pet, you already know how much happiness they bring to your life. In fact, dogs can alter your biochemistry for the better!
Individuals who spent time with their dogs more often have also been shown to have higher levels of oxytocin. These same individuals also showed a decrease in blood pressure and increase in beta-endorphins, which help with pain relief, and dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. The best part? The same studies have found that these hormone increases not only occurred in people but in their dogs as well, showing that dog ownership is a mutual benefit for both dogs and their owners.
Are you considering adopting a dog from a shelter? Here are just some of the amazing health benefits backed up by a wealth of studies.
Adopting A Dog & Your Health
- They help fight Stress and Anxiety. Studies show that just having a dog around lowers stress levels, even affecting cardiovascular responses to psychological stress and hypertension. Dogs also have the ability to help with those recovering from addiction to substances or alcohol as well as those that have been through trauma or difficult experiences. The secret to their anti-anxiety powers? The positive feelings that pets can produce, by enhancing our ability to stay calm and react better to life stress. Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. Research also shows that dogs enhance mood and help fight off depression in people who have cancer and other terminal illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s. In fact, Alzheimer’s patients have shown fewer anxious outbursts if there was a pet at home. Even criminals in prison have shown long-term positive changes in their behavior after interacting with dogs. Dogs can also ease loneliness and help children grow up more secure and active. Bottomline, they provide joy and unconditional love, bettering and elongating lifespans!
- They increase productivity. Turns out having a pet is not actually a distraction. Studies show that those with dogs and other pets are more likely and capable of performing tasks quickly and correctly. They help with concentration as well. Many pets require a consistent schedule, which means pet owners are encouraged to become more organized and focused in tasks, also helping with feelings of purpose and fulfillment.
- They can help with social skills and making friends. Dogs make us get up and move around. They want to be outside and exercise in places where there are normally many people. Instead of staying in and being depressed, dog owners are more likely to go outside and socialize with other dogs and their owners, or just dog lovers. Having a pet is a great way to meet new friends and fight off depression. Just another thing that our canine companions add to our lives. Whether at the dog park, the vet or the local coffee shop, they provide ways for you to meet people by being a great topic of conversation.
- They keep us healthy. Every year, pet owners older than 65 are 30 percent less likely to visit the doctor than those without pets in the home. Dogs’ remarkable sense of smell means they can also perform practically miracles by detecting cancer, predicting seizures, and warning about low blood sugar. They’re great medicine for the elderly since they are amazing companions. They also encourage their owners to laugh, be playful, and have some physical activity daily.
- They help improve self-esteem. When you have another creature’s life in your hands, the responsibility and the consistency come instinctively. Just taking care of them, finding the right vet, scheduling their visits, feeding and walking them, you can find confidence and self-esteem in your ability to care for them. A big part of self-esteem is pride in one’s abilities, and taking care of and teaching your pet does just that! When you watch them learn and grow, you enhance your confidence. Adopting and pet ownership has a positive affect not only on self-esteem but also empathy by being a reward aspect of your life.
- They heal the heart, literally. By lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, decreasing stress, and helping the cardiovascular system, their presence is great for your heart. In fact, studies show heart attack patients who have pets survive much longer and have better recovery rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have also shown that pet owners’ lowered levels of cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure minimizes the risk of having a heart attack down the road as well. That’s right! They make us live longer. In fact, one study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
- They prevent allergies and colds. You heard that right. Allergies in babies and young children can be reduced up to 50% by owning a dog. They also have lower antibody levels and fewer positive skin test reactions to allergens such as dust mites, ragweed, and grass. The reason? The stronger immune system is fortified by their exposure to pet dander. A strong immune system is our first line of defense to prevent colds. Owning a dog during infancy increases immunity for colds, ear infections, and respiratory problems. A University of Wisconsin-Madison study also showed that children have less of a risk of allergies and asthma by as much as 33 percent. The study compared the blood of babies immediately after birth and at one year. Infants in a home with a dog were less likely to have pet allergies, eczema, and had higher levels of immune system chemicals.
- They increase exercise. We take dogs for walks or runs, which help us fit healthy daily exercises into our schedules. Dog owners are more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements (and it’s great for the animal too!). Need a little extra motivation? Your dog can be your perfect personal trainer. Researchers at the National Institute of Health studied more than 2,000 adults and found dog owners who walked their dogs were less likely to be obese. Dog owners are more likely to take regular walks or hikes, and be much more active. Walking your dog keeps both you and your pet fit!
- They make you feel understood. There’s a reason why dogs are emotional support. It isn’t just for people suffering from depression and other emotional or physical illnesses. Dogs, more than any animal, have evolved to be acutely attuned to humans (and our behaviors or emotions). They are able to understand many words, can interpret our tones, read our body langue and gestures, and overall gauge our emotional states. This is why dogs look straight into your eyes; to read what you’re thinking and feeling and act accordingly.
- They provide support and assistance during hard times. During severe illness or prolonged hospitalization or nursing home placement, dogs provide tremendous distraction. In fact, therapy dogs can assist people with various disabilities in performing everyday activities.
Thinking of adopting? Rescue, don’t shop! When you rescue, you’re saving a life. Every year, millions of innocent dogs (and cats) are neglected, abandoned and abused without love, companionship, or care. Many of them end up in shelters, waiting for the perfect home. When you rescue, you are finding the perfect addition to your family and not supporting puppy mills. Pet stores get their animals from thousands of breeding facilities (or backyard breeders) known as puppy and kitten mills, that have extremely inhumane practices. Adopting from a shelter means you don’t support such cruel practices. Dogs depend on human beings for their care and well-being. In exchange, they offer trust, loyalty, love, and all the kisses. There are millions of potential pets just waiting at shelters all across the United States right now. Dogs in shelters also tend to be mixed-breeds, which live longer and cost less in vet bills than pure breeds. Many purebred dogs are more prone to developing health problems due to inbreeding.
Can’t adopt right this moment? That’s ok! Living situations, jobs and economic hardship means many of us just can’t afford to be adopting right now. You can still help by volunteering at your local animal shelter or donating to The Humane Society or the ASPCA