10 Ways Pets Keep Us Healthy

By Elizabeth Miller on April 03, 2015

Without a doubt, we love our pets. It's estimated that Americans will spend over $60 billion dollars on our furry friends this year; that's an average of about $500 per family. The great news is that it's money well spent; besides being our best friends, pets are a great boost to our overall health. Here are 10 ways our pets help us every day.

  1. Happiness. Anyone who's ever owned a dog can tell you, they're absolutely thrilled when you walk through the door. It doesn't matter if it's been 8 hours or 8 minutes, they practically wiggle themselves off their feet wagging their tails so hard. That kind of love makes us happy...it makes us smile...which is always good for you mentally and physically. The physical effects from that love include lowered cortisol and raised seratonin levels.
  2. Lowered Blood Pressure. As odd as it may sound, the simple act of petting your furbaby can result in a drop in blood pressure. Researchers have found that the effects aren't just temporary; pet ownership has longer lasting effects on your cardiovascular health.
  3. Healthy Heart. Studies have shown that dog and cat owners have a lower risk of dying from cardiac disease – including heart failure - than non-pet owners.
  4. Friend Magnets. It's almost impossible for a dog lover to pass up the opportunity to speak with someone walking a dog. They're just furry little magnets for conversation, and make it much easier to meet new people.
  5. Mental Health Boost. Many organizations now recognize the benefits of service animals for more than just physical disabilities. Therapists have been known to actually prescribe a pet as a way of dealing with depression, and some retirement and nursing facilities have pet visitation days for their patients. Some organizations specifically deal with military veterans. Paws and Stripes, for example, is a non-profit organization providing service dogs for wounded military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
  6. Exercise. Most dog owners will tell you that it's almost impossible not to get at least a little exercise every day. Just two 15-minute walks a day will get in your recommended 30 minutes of exercise without even trying hard.
  7. Fewer Allergies & Better Immune System. If your little one is begging for a pet, it may not be a bad idea to give in. Children raised on farms or in homes with a cat or dog, have higher level of certain immune system chemicals. That makes them less likely to get sick as children or as adults. Researchers have also found that they're also less likely to develop allergy problems.
  8. Children With Autism. New research finds autistic children who have a pet at home have much more advanced social skills and are more assertive and communicative than autistic children who do not have an animal companion.
  9. Assistance for the Disabled. The role of service dogs has greatly expanded in recent years beyond only guide dogs for the blind. There are now trained seizure dogs who can either lie down on the patient to prevent injury or are trained to fetch help for children sometimes before the seizure even starts. There are also dogs trained to sense cardiac issues and low blood sugar as well as those who turn on lights, open doors and pick up small items from the floor.
  10. Chronic Pain. Petting your four-legged family member also helps release endorphins, which can be powerful pain relievers. Caring for your pet also helps distract you from chronic pain.
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