7 Pros of Pet Ownership
About 95 percent of pet owners consider their furry friends to be family members, and about half will buy them a birthday or holiday present, according to a Harris Poll. But did you know these relationships also have positive effects on your physical and mental health? Read on for the myriad ways pets help humans heal.
1 THE FEELING IS MUTUAL
“There have been studies [done that prove] the benefits are mutual, and the relationship is essential to the well-being of both the human and the animal,” says Wendy Goossen, CTR, director of cancer services at Marshall Medical Center. “Studies have shown that oxytocin levels are increased in dogs when they interact with their owner as opposed to strangers.”
2 UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
Something that makes the human-animal relationship so easy is that it’s not complicated, says Jeremy Ernst, DO, psychiatrist at Marshall Medical Center. “It allows people to have nonjudgmental love for one another,” he continues.
3 LET’S GET PHYSICAL
Susan Garlinghouse, DVM, a veterinarian at Goldorado Animal Hospital in Cameron Park, says dog owners, on average, tend to walk almost twice as much per week as non-dog owners, and are 54 percent more likely to meet the recommended levels of physical exercise.
4 BONDED FOR LIFE
According to Garlinghouse, “Studies have indicated that adults with deep bonds to a pet feel more connected in relationships and to their communities, and are more likely to take on leadership roles than those without pets.”
5 NO JUDGEMENT ZONE
Garlinghouse says pets don’t care how you look, how much money you make, or what kind of car you drive—they’re just happy to be with you and to have your attention. “A good portion of these feelings of higher self-esteem probably stem from that. It’s hard not to feel better about yourself when your dog thinks you’re terrific just the way you are,” she says.
6 CREATURE COMFORTS
And it’s not just dogs that help our well-being. “A lot of these benefits come from caring for almost any pet,” Garlinghouse says. “In one study, stressed adults decreased their anxiety levels when they stroked a rabbit or a turtle but not when they handled a toy rabbit or turtle.”
7 MOOD BOOSTER
Forming an attachment to animals is a combination of both biological and social needs. “Those endorphins released when we have a positive interaction with an animal just makes you feel good,” Garlinghouse says. “It’s hard not to want more of that on a regular basis, even subconsciously. No matter how rotten our day has been, no matter how judged or criticized you might feel from people around you, no matter how lonely or isolated you might be feeling, it’s a great feeling to come through the door and know your pets are always delighted to see you and think you’re absolutely wonderful.”
By Kourtney Jason
Did You Know?
The Sacramento SPCA offers special services to pet owners 65 and older, including free vaccine clinics, waived adoption fees, behavior and training discounts, and a pet guardian program. sspca.org/seniors
PICKING A PET
According to Eskaton—which welcomes companion animals in all its communities—the best dogs for older adults include those that are lap-sized and allergy-friendly with minimal grooming needs who are quiet with low energy. Pugs, Chihuahuas, and Shih Tzus are all good breeds to consider. eskaton.org/pets.html