Shelley Mamott, Staff Writer
While most of us know the immediate joys of owning a dog and the responsibility that comes with it, many are unaware of the health benefits a furry friend can provide. Dogs can help ease loneliness, reduce stress, encourage exercise and provide us with unconditional love. Dog owners are often healthier, both mentally and physically, than people without a pet.
1. Lowers Blood Pressure
Petting a dog or cat can help lower your blood pressure by keeping you focused on the present moment instead of dwelling on the past. Cuddling with a furry friend can give you a chemical boost by releasing serotonin and dopamine which are feel good brain chemicals. According to one study dog owners also tend to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
2. Eases Pain
Dogs can be the best medicine for a person suffering with chronic pain such as migraines or arthritis. Dogs can help reduce anxiety in a person with pain, and the less anxiety the less pain. “Some studies about acute pain actually found that adults who used pet therapy required 50 percent less pain medication than those who did not.” says Marty Becker, DVM.
3. Boosts Immunity
According to a study at Wilkes University, petting a dog can up your levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that fights off the common cold. “We know that social support, or a lack of it, directly affects the body’s immune system and impacts our resistance to infections and disease,” says James A. Serpell, PhD, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania.
4. Benefits Children
Boys and girls who live with dogs are more compassionate and social than those who don’t, according to a Croatian study. Dogs also help considerably with a child’s emotional development. “When a child is attached to a dog or cat, they learn to express themselves in more ways and they learn to relate better,” says Landa, who brings children to animal shelters to deliver toys and food. Dogs are also known to be beneficial to children suffering from autism and ADHD.
5. Prevents Allergies
People who grow up with a pet are less likely to have allergies and asthma later on, Swedish researchers say. Early exposure to allergens such as dirt, pollen, and pet dander helps create a stronger immune system. “Getting a pet as an adult will not minimize allergies, it only helps prevent certain allergies from developing in children,” notes Dr. Becker
6. Helps Keep You Fit
Dog owners spend more time walking and tend to be in better shape than people who don’t have a pet to walk. Exercise is good for reducing stress and overall health and owning a dog can be credited with increasing these benefits.
7. Improves Mood
The companionship of a dog can help reduce the feelings of loneliness and depression. Affection for your pet helps your brain release endorphins, natural pain and stress fighters, which can in turn give you a better quality of overall life.
8. Helps People Socialize
Owning a dog can increase a person’s ability to socialize. When we are out walking our dogs it makes us more approachable, gives people a reason to stop and talk, thereby giving us the opportunity to increase our friends and acquaintances.
Has a dog helped anyone you know? Share with us in the comments.