By Dr. Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS
Conshohocken Physical Therapy
Do you own a pet? If you do have a dog, cat, bird, fish, snake, gerbil or whatever else you might consider a pet, you already know they bring you much happiness. Did you know that Fido might also be improving your health? Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that owning a pet significantly improves your health in many ways.
In return for caring for your pet, your pet is also caring for you. I came across countless studies that show amazing health benefits for pet owners. Pet owners tend to live longer; from reducing chances of heart attacks and increasing survival after heart attacks to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and stress levels to reducing doctor visits and the use of prescription medications, pets can improve our health.
This is why many hospitals and retirement homes incorporate animal therapy. This may involve visits from volunteer animals or a pet that is kept at the facility. Have you ever stopped to think about why so many doctors’ offices have fish tanks? It helps calm you down before your visit!
Women, in particular, have been studied and the results are quite amusing. A study of women undergoing stress tests demonstrated that the presence of a dog had a greater effect on lowering blood pressure than the presence of friends. Look out, husbands… many women believe their pets are more sensitive to their moods and emotions than their spouses. A recent survey reveals that nearly 50 percent of women rely more on their pets for affection than their husband or children! When asked if they were more likely to lose their temper with a family member or a pet, 67 percent of women said a family member.
There is also information that shows a positive impact on health for seniors who own pets. In addition to the health benefits listed above, seniors with pets are less lonely, less depressed and more relaxed. Children also benefit in unique ways. Children with pets are more likely to have higher self-esteem and improved communication skills. In caring for their pets, children also learn responsibility, empathy/compassion, and authority.
There are several possible reasons for pet owners’ improved health. Pets provide unconditional love, companionship and a bond unlike anything or anyone else. Pets are sympathetic, supportive and non-judgmental listeners. Pets provide us with a distraction from our worries; they encourage social interaction and provide a soothing presence. All of these simple pleasures help to reduce stress. Even the simple act of petting your pet relaxes you. Pets also help us feel needed and responsible. Additionally, the increased exercise in the form of playing with and walking your pets provides countless health benefits.
Pet owners, the time and expense you invest in your pets returns to you in many unexpected ways. Take the time to thank your four-legged, furry, caged, or flying friends for all the good they are freely providing for you and your family.