We’ve long loved dogs for being man’s best friend but not so well known is that our pets can actually make us physically and mentally healthier. Just the presence of our pets can lift our spirits and help us relax.
Pets are great caregivers. They keep us company when we’re sick or feeling down. They can make us feel safe while we’re home alone and they keep an eye on the house while we’re out.
Dogs especially help us get out and enjoy the outdoors while getting some regular exercise. They are great motivators and personal trainers, never wanting to miss a training session no matter the weather. Dogs can also help introduce us to people in the community, especially other dog owners, and they make great conversation starters.
Research has shown that pet owners are generally healthier and happier than non-pet owners. They have lower blood pressure and cholesterol; are less depressed; are at lower risk of heart disease; feel less lonely than non-pet owners; and actually find it easier to get to know people.
Studies have revealed that even just looking at animals can reduce anxiety in times of stress. For example, the simple act of watching a fish tank can induce feelings of calm and relaxation. That’s probably why you see so many fish tanks in doctors’ offices!
The joy of having a pet isn’t new to most Australians; we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. In fact our pets are such positive influences on our lives that one study found Australian ownership of cats and dogs saved approximately $3.86 billion in health expenditure over one year.
The benefits of owning a pet include:
- Owning a pet means you have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels –reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Good news – you’ll make fewer visits to the doctor and use fewer medications
- Pet owners suffer from less depression and are able to cope with grief and loss better than non-pet owners.
- Research has shown that teenagers who owned pets have a more positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness and boredom.
- You’ll be more active than those who don’t have a pet - particularly if you own a dog. Plus, you’ll feel safer when walking alone if your dog is with you.
- They enhance your social skills – and who knows who you might bump into on your walk!
- For children, it has been shown that growing up with pets (particularly dogs) during infancy helps to strengthen the immune system and reduces the risk of allergies linked to asthma.
- Children who have pets including dogs, cats, fish and birds are also less likely to miss days of school.
If you are considering owning a pet be sure you contact your local RSPCA. Pets offered for adoption by the RSPCA are all thoroughly health checked by a vet, desexed, microchipped and vaccinated and have been temperament tested. Visit adoptapet.com.au to find your new animal friend.
Article contributed by RSPCA