Pet Ownership – The Ultimate Health Tonic

Most people read and hear that a quality diet and regular exercise are the keys to staying healthy and living longer.  While it’s definitely smart to follow that advice, you can do something else to help keep your mind and body in optimum condition.

Get yourself a pet - it goes a long way toward making you happy and healthy.

Any pet owner will tell you that their dog, cat, or any other pet, is an integral and important part of the family.  The unconditional love that a pet gives has always been known to help put their owners in a good mood, but there are more benefits to owning a pet than just that - in fact there are plenty of very real physical, mental and social benefits to owning a pet.

Having a willing exercise partner, is the first benefit that comes to mind when one thinks of pet owners – especially if the pet is a dog.  Walking or playing with any pet is a good way to burn a few calories, and get in shape, but it’s not the only thing a pet does for its owner’s health.

Studies have shown that people who interact regularly with animals have lower blood pressure, reduced levels of anxiety, stress and depression, and increased social interaction and connection to the community.  These are very real health benefits that occur because of the playful nature of animals.  Pets offer unconditional love, companionship and will help people relax, reducing stress hormones and increasing an owners sense of well-being.

Pet owners usually have lower levels of cholesterol, lower triglycerides and lower blood pressure.  Studies have shown that people who owned a dog or cat had less stress induced increases in blood pressure.

Having a pet often provides people with a reason for enjoying life and connecting with others.  This can be especially critical with older adults.  Providing for a pet’s needs by going to the vet, buying pet food or taking a dog for a walk helps reduce seniors’ social isolation by encouraging them to get out and about.  Many new friendships have been struck up at the park or at dog training.

In a family with pets, children tend to have more self confidence, interact with others better and owning a pet is a good way to teach children about responsibility.  Owning a pet can also help prevent allergies.  Children with pets are less likely to develop hay fever or asthma and being around a pet will also build up the child’s immune system.

Owning a pet, unlike reading about or intending to start the next exercise regime or healthy eating diet, is a sure fire way to improve long term mental and physical health.  Just being involved with a pet makes it happen.

Dr Alison Banfield, Sanford Veterinary Clinic Geraldton


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