Pets: The Secret To A Happier Life
Thu, April 22, 2021

Pets: The Secret To A Happier Life

We treat them like family. We bring them to our homes. We make room for them in our beds. We care for them like a sibling or a child. Pets are an important part of our lives / Photo by: khrystyna boiko via Shutterstock

 

We treat them like family. We bring them to our homes. We make room for them in our beds. We care for them like a sibling or a child. Pets are an important part of our lives. “In sickness and in health,” as most people would say. 

Although many animals are included in the long list of Man’s Best Friend, dogs have a reputation for holding this title. Despite this, dogs and many other animals, are all equally as important in our lives, whether they fly, swim, waddle, or jump into our laps. According to the National Pet Owners Survey, as stated in an article presented in Nation’s Health, the monthly newspaper of the American Public Health Association, two-thirds of United States (US) households own at least one pet. That is, almost 71 million homes that share a dwelling for special pets. But the relationship with these animals are actually two-way and are mutually beneficial. Numerous studies show that having a pet can improve health.

Good Health

In the US, more than 65% of households own a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular choice. This is no surprise as animals and pets, as quoted by British novelist George Eliot, “are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.”

Studies show that our special pets, with wagging tails, those that make purring sounds, and little bundles that go on happily hopping, help reduce stress levels, tame blood pressure, curb depression, reduce feelings of loneliness, and keep you physically fit, which in totality, can help you live longer, as explained by Nation’s Health.

Almost 50 million people in the US have nasal allergies, with common triggers coming from pet dander, microscopic flecks of skin shed by animals. Between 10% and 30% of the worldwide population is affected by allergic rhinitis. According to a study reported by Medical News Today in 2015, associated exposure to dogs and farm animals in early life helps lower the risk of asthma and allergy development by school age. With this in mind, it’s actually quite counter-intuitive. Despite common thinking that animals and furry pets would trigger allergies, exposure from an early age would lower the risk of developing these altogether.  

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, with over 610,000 deaths every year. A 2013 statement from the American Heart Association concluded that owning a pet, more particularly a dog, can help reduce cardiovascular disease. This is related to studies that suggest that those who own dogs are 54% more likely to meet physical activity guidelines compared to the general population, as stated by Glenn Levine, from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. These owners also tend to have lower blood pressure, have lower cholesterol levels, and be less likely to be obese, benefiting health and preventing heart disease.

But looking more closely, animals and pets also positively impact those who have suffered heart attacks. A study reported by the National Institutes of Health mentioned that 420 adults who suffered heart attacks were more likely to be alive and kicking a year later if they had a pet than if they did not. Another study showed that 240 married couples who owned pets had lower heart rates and blood pressure when at rest and under stress compared to those that did not own a pet.

In the US, more than 65% of households own a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular choice / Photo by: Chendongshan via Shutterstock

 

Feel Good Vibes and Stronger Relationships

Pets help alleviate stress and anxiety, the feeling that comes with a dog cuddling by your feet or the sound of a cat purring waiting for your attention. As shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015, a study found that children who had pets in their household were less likely to test positive for anxiety. Children with pet dogs were also found to have lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, when interacting with their companions compared to children who did not interact with their pets, and those who did not have any pets at all. This effect is evident across all animals and pets. In 2014, riding and caring for horses also showed a reduction in cortisol levels among teenagers.

More than this, pet owners develop special bonds with their furry friends, as more than 66% of dog owners and 56% of cat owners consider their pet to be a family member. Studies show that this relationship may extend to effects on stronger romantic relationships, with greater overall relationship quality and investment than non-pet owners.

Studies show that our special pets, with wagging tails, those that make purring sounds, and little bundles that go on happily hopping, help reduce stress levels, tame blood pressure, curb depression, reduce feelings of loneliness, and keep you physically fit / Photo by: PKpix via Shutterstock

 

There Are Still Risks

At the end of a long day, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to a wagging tail, a cold nose, and a slobbery kiss? Although, according to Jennifer Wright, a veterinary epidemiologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s best to kiss your dog or cat at the top of their heads. A direct kiss can still expose owners to acquiring illnesses. Pets can carry bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. Most notably, amphibians and wet animals such as turtles, frogs, and even baby chicks can carry salmonella, causing serious illness in small children and elderly folks with chronic conditions. There are benefits to having pets, but there are also some risks that are preventable as long as we stay aware and informed.