Animals and Stress Reduction
While regular trips to the vet are vital for keeping your pet healthy and happy, did you ever stop to think about the health benefits they provide for you? Chronic stress is a gateway to all sorts of health problems. The links between animals and stress reduction are clear. Animals and stress relief research points to many benefits of animals as natural therapy. Numerous studies show that pets are not only good for our minds but also good for our bodies. Here are just a few of the ways that animals and pets help reduce stress and improve our health.
- Pets make us laugh! OK, maybe not so much during the puppy and kitten stage when they can be like miniature weapons of mass destruction, but with a little patience and training, it’s well worth the effort. As a source of companionship and unconditional love, keeping animals as natural therapy means an abundance of opportunities to laugh, connect with others, and create funny YouTube videos. Doctors always say that laughter is the best medicine, and in many ways, it’s true! According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing activates and relieves the body’s stress response, soothes tension, relaxes tense muscles, and stimulates circulation.
- Petting animals and stress reduction are linked. You might be wondering how petting animals reduces stress. Well, humans have an innate need for touch. Physical touch not only builds trust but also reduces stress and gives the immune system a boost. For instance, just the simple act of petting a dog or cat can lower your blood pressure several points. People can reap the benefits of touch by petting a dog or cat, but it’s especially important for people who are elderly or live alone. Having a pet can improve overall mood and health, and help reduce fearfulness and feelings of worry and isolation, which are contributors to stress.
- Dogs relieve stress in humans through increased exercise. While many of us hate the thought of getting up and going to the gym, we’re not quite so reluctant to get up, get outside and take a walk with the dog. Not only do we get the benefit of exercise and fresh air, walking the dog can even help us meet new friends or even potential partners – another mood booster!
- Cats and dogs help boost our immune systems. Some studies show that children in homes with pets are less likely to develop allergies. Early exposure to pets and pet dander – this especially applies to cats – can reduce a child’s risk for developing allergies by up to 80 percent! Click here to learn more. In even more recent studies, pets – specifically dogs – are credited with boosting the immune system of children. Click here to learn more.
- The benefits of animal therapy for depression and stress are clear. Pets reduce anxiety and help relieve the symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness, which is why more hospitals, nursing homes, schools, rehabilitation centers, and even prisons are incorporating animal-assisted therapy programs into their organizations. For instance, the beloved local nonprofit, Gabriel’s Angels, brings the healing magic of pets to help abused, at-risk, and neglected children learn to develop trust, respect, empathy for others, and other important life skills.
While you might think that all of these positive health benefits are limited to connections made with our furry friends, you’d be wrong! Many scientific studies on animals and stress relief show that interacting with fish, birds, horses, dolphins and many other animals can also help relieve stress. Whether they’re furry, feathered, or scaled, remember to thank your pet for all the health benefits they give to you by taking care of their health. Regular wellness visits to the vet, annual vaccinations, and consistent dental care can help keep your pet well, happy, and with you for many years to come. Need a great veterinarian? Find an AZPetVet location near you.