Family Health

The Secret Benefits of Pets: How Having a Furry Friend Can Help Your Health

The benefits of pets have the potential to go beyond just fun, joy, and unconditional love -- although those are huge blessings by themselves! Pets can also be great for your overall well-being, offering a big bonus for your and your family's physical and emotional health. Let's dig into some of the good things pets offer.

Relieve Depression

Owning a furry friend might help with an occasional case of the blues and even longer-lasting depression. According to Frontiers in Psychology, petting an animal can boost your serotonin and dopamine, two of your brain's "happy chemicals." Pets also brighten your spirits by distracting you from anxious thoughts with their play and antics. In fact, pets can alter your mood entirely with their unconditional love and excitement when you come home from a long day at work.

Protect Your Heart

Pets certainly make your heart happier -- and they also make it healthier. As the American Heart Association explains, owning a pet reduces your risk of heart disease. Part of this is because dog owners who regularly take their dogs for walks get the recommended amount of exercise. The CDC also discusses how pet ownership may help ensure lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, along with lower blood pressure. Finally, research data presented to the American Stroke Association shows that you're statistically more likely to survive a heart attack if you own a pet!

Reduce Childhood Allergies

Children are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma when they have a pet. According to research from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, infants are less likely to develop pet allergies or eczema when a dog is in the home. Infants raised in a home with cats are less likely to develop asthma, as well. (The only exception is if the child's mother has cat allergies.)

Animal-Assisted Therapy Makes a Difference

Now that you know how pets can improve your health, it's also useful to understand why animal-assisted therapy is important. Some people, like those in nursing homes or staying in a hospital for an extended period, don't have access to pets when they may need them the most. Canine Kindness is a wonderful organization that fills the gap by bringing trained dogs to hospitals and other centers where they provide therapy and comfort for patients. The organization also helps potential volunteers get certified so they and their dogs can take part in improving people's lives.

You shouldn't adopt a new furry friend solely for the potential medical gains, because none of these benefits of pets is guaranteed! But if you'd like to provide a home for an animal in need and potentially improve your life in the process, becoming a pet owner is a great choice. Although you may have to make some lifestyle changes, you'll soon find that your little ball of fuzz gives you so much joy in return. If you're thinking of adopting a pet for the first time, talk to a local animal shelter or rescue organization to find out which animal is the best match for you.

Posted in Family Health

Author and publicist, featured by Business Week, Livestrong, The Nest, and many other publications. Her interests include Science, technology, business, pets, women's lifestyle and Christian living.

More articles from this writer

Understanding Concierge Medicine: Is the Service Right for Your Practice?

Why Adult Coloring Books Are Good for Mental Health

How Much Sleep Is Too Much?


*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.