What can one say? I’m sure everyone heard about the benefits pets have on human’s health.
Pets have an important role on wellbeing, from reducing blood pressure, the risk of allergies and obesity to even decreasing the risk of having a heart attack
Besides physical benefits, there are also psychological ones. The ones all pet’s owners know about but that only recently were explained by science.
Especially dogs, are known for their ability to interact with humans and understand them better than other animals. Researchers attribute this to thousands of years of living together, which led to the domestication.
Walking your dog and playing with it not only have the obvious physical benefits of exercising, but also prevents illness. It is proven that exercising releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter which helps prevent this problem. People who have dogs, do exercise more than people who don´t so, having a dog can be a way to prevent depression.
Pets can help people with moderate to mild depression feeling better along with medication and other treatments. Having a pet is not only a way to combat the isolation that fuels depression but also provides unconditional love that improves self-esteem. Petting an animal releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, two feel-good hormones, that typically are too low in people with depression.
Pet´s owners are prone to get along with the neighbours. They actually talk and socialize more than people who do not have a pet. Studies also show that they are more likely to know people and make new friends.
If you always see your pet as your “fur baby”, now science as discovered why. When a known animal stares at us our body releases oxytocin. When we stare back the pet will also release the same hormone. This hormone is responsible for mother and child bonding, altruism and trust. That’s why spending time with your pet helps reducing anxiety and keeping the good mood. This is applied to animals, with whom you have a bond already. For example, in dog’s language, keeping eye contact is perceived as a threat, so please do not stare at dogs you do not know.
In people with Alzheimer’s disease that have found memories of childhood pets, spending some time with a pet can bring some joy. In these cases, some considerations should be made because the person might not be able to ensure all pet’s needs.
If you don’t have a pet you can volunteer at a local shelter and help. In exchange, you get all these benefits for your health… And you might will fall in love with an animal and bring it home!
Author: Marta Vieira, DVM, Intern in Animal Behaviour