A child is hugging his dog
The health benefits of having a pet is both physical and mental. Pets are known to improve their owner's overall quality of life.

A couple is sitting on a couch with their dog laying down beside them

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Benefits of Having a Pet

Good news for all the pet owners — keeping your furry friends around can actually benefit your health. Owning a pet is known to improve the quality of your life, both mentally and physically.

Having a pet in your home can actually lead to a wellness boost on an emotional and social level. We all know pets are great companions, but what most of us don’t know is that pets, especially dogs and cats, are known to decrease risk of heart attacks, lower blood pressure and decrease stress and anxiety. Let's look at some of the many benefits of having a pet.

Owing a Pet Can Decrease Stress Levels

According to a study conducted at the State University of New York in 2002, researchers found that people felt more relaxed while completing a stressful task with their pets by their side rather than other family members. This is evidence enough that people feel more open and at ease when they have their non-judgmental furry friends around.

Today, many treatment centers and rehabilitation facilities allow pets to accompany their owners as they believe few things can serve better to create a home-style environment than having a pet around for support.

An older woman is nuzzling with her dog

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Owning a Pet Can Reduce Blood Pressure

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pets can also help lower blood pressure, especially in high-risk or hypertensive patients.

Marty Becker, author of the famous book Your Dog: the Owner’s Manual, suggests that having a dog can reduce blood pressure and relieve stress and anxiety significantly. You may end up losing your job, your 401K, or your house, but you will never lose or replace the unconditional love from your pet.

A woman is sleeping while her cat is sitting on a pillow beside her

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Owning a Pet Can Alleviate Pain

Pet therapy is fast becoming the best medicine for chronic pain such as migraines, arthritis and anxiety-related stress. The effects of pet therapy are described to be similar to those of Valium, effectively lowering anxiety. A study from Loyola University discovered that people who considered pet therapy following a surgery needed significantly less pain medication than others.

A man is walking his dog in a field

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Owning a Pet Can Lower Cholesterol

Findings from another study conducted by the CDC suggest that people who owned pets also experienced lower cholesterol levels, especially in men. Absolute correlation has yet to be determined though; there’s a likelihood that lower cholesterol levels may well be the result of a healthier lifestyle that many pet owners opt for.

A woman is laying on the couch while petting her pet

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Owning a Pet Improves Mood

The reason why pets are used in therapies so often is because they make you feel wanted. With their unconditional love, they make you realize how important you are and how dependable they are on you, making you more responsible and worthy.

Dogs are now used as a common relief therapy for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With a pet as a buddy, a lower suicide rate has been observed among veterans while also finding it easier to re-enter society. They feel more comfortable because they have found a true companion who they care for, can rely upon, and who doesn’t require any explanation of what they have been through.

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Owning a Pet Helps People Socialize

Possibly the most beneficial of all the perks of pet ownership — they are instant conversation starters. A number of studies have proven that pet ownership actually leads to increased socializing, promoting friendly social interaction among neighbors, work colleagues and friends. They provide a topic that majority of us can relate to making it easier to communicate with others.

If you own a pet, ask yourself how many people you talk to on the way when you take your dog out for a walk every day? Two, maybe even three or more. Doesn’t that make you feel more connected with the world and perhaps make you feel more confident?

A woman is laying on the ground while holding her dog's paw

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Owning a Pet Prevents Strokes

In his book, Dr. Becker also suggests that a person who owns a pet cat in particular is 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 40 percent less likely to suffer a cardiovascular stroke. He also adds that pets aid in the recovery stages post cardiac arrest.

An older woman is gently petting a small black kitten

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Owning a Pet Monitors Blood Sugar Levels

Call it a gift or simply intuition, but pets actually change their behavior when their diabetic owner’s blood sugar level drops. Science tries to explain this transition as a reaction to the chemical changes in the owner’s body.

The American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Forecast magazine ran a story in 2008 about service dogs who accompany patients with unstable blood glucose levels. The story outlines how useful canine companions have been to diabetics in avoiding hypoglycemia.

A child is hugging his dog

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Owning a Pet Improves Immunity and Prevents Allergies

Pets are also known to prevent allergies and boost the immune systems in children. This is the reason why people who grow up in or near farmhouses develop strong immunity against allergies. According to a study, children between the ages of 5 and 7 from pet-owning households attend school three weeks more each year than the ones that don’t. This means that having a pet around is not only a joy but also a major health benefit.

A young child places their nose against the puppy's snout

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Owning a Pet Helps in a Child’s Early Developmental Stages

It is also a fact that children who grow up with pets around them from early stages are more expressive. Doctors today suggest that children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism should visit animal shelters more often to deliver toys and bond. They believe it encourages them to focus more on the responsibilities they might have to undertake in the future, and the sensory experiences of holding and loving a pet also helps soothe children with autism.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to make the commitment of getting a furry friend, consider not only the joy it would bring to your life, but the health benefits as well.

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