One theory is that animals increase oxytocin levels. In addition, this hormone enhances social skills, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, boosts immune function, and improves pain tolerance. It also reduces stress, anger and depression levels. It is not surprising that the constant company of a dog or cat (or any other animal) gives you only advantages. So how can animals make you healthier and happier?
Animals prolong life and make it healthier
According to a 2017 study of 3,4 million people in Sweden, having a dog is associated with a lower rate of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes. For about 10 years, they studied men and women aged 40 to 80 and tracked their medical records (and whether they had dogs). The study found that for people who live alone, having dogs can reduce their risk of death by 33% and their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 36%, compared to single people without pets. The chances of having a heart attack were also 11% lower.
Pets Boost Immune Function
One of our immune systems’ jobs is to identify potentially harmful substances and unleash antibodies to ward off the threat. But sometimes she overreacts and misidentifies harmless things as dangerous, causing an allergic reaction. Remember those red eyes, itchy skin, runny nose and wheezing in the throat.
Do you think that the presence of animals can trigger allergies. But it turns out that living with a dog or cat for one year not only reduces the chances of childhood pet allergies, it also reduces the risk of developing asthma. A 2017 study found that newborns living with cats have a lower risk of developing asthma, pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
Living with a pet as a child also strengthens the immune system. In fact, just a brief encounter with an animal can activate your disease defense system.
Animals make us more active
This applies more to dog owners. If you enjoy walking your beloved dog, especially if you work in an office, you are approaching the recommended levels of physical activity. In one study of more than 2000 adults, it was found that a person’s regular walks with a dog increased their desire to exercise, and they were less likely to become obese than someone who did not have a dog or who did not walk with one. Another study found that older people with dogs walk faster and longer than people without dogs, plus they move better at home and do household chores themselves.
Pets reduce stress
When you’re stressed, your body goes into battle mode, releasing hormones like cortisol to produce more energy, boosting blood sugar and adrenaline for the heart and blood. This was good for our ancestors, who needed quick bursts of speed to defend themselves against predatory saber-toothed tigers. But when we live in a constant state of fight and flight from the constant stress of work and the frantic pace of modern life, these physical changes take a toll on our bodies, increasing our risk of heart disease and other dangerous conditions. Contact with pets counteracts this stress response by decreasing stress hormones and heart rate. They also reduce levels of anxiety and fear (psychological responses to stress) and increase feelings of calm. Research has shown that dogs can help relieve stress and loneliness in the elderly, and help calm pre-exam stress in students.
Animals improve heart health
Pets evoke feelings of love in us, so it is not surprising that they influence this very organ of love – the heart. It turns out that time spent with your pet is associated with improved cardiovascular health, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Dogs also benefit patients who already have cardiovascular disease. Don’t worry, being attached to cats has a similar effect. One study found that cat owners were 40% less likely to have a heart attack and 30% less likely to die from other cardiovascular diseases.
Pets make you more social
Four-legged companions (particularly the dogs that get you out of the house for your daily walks) help us make more friends, appear more approachable, and be more trustworthy. In one study, people in wheelchairs with dogs were gifted with more smiles and more conversation with passers-by than people without dogs. In another study, college students who were asked to watch videos of two psychotherapists (one filmed with a dog, the other without) said they felt more positive about someone who had a dog and were more likely to share personal information. .
Good news for the stronger sex: studies show that women are more inclined towards men with dogs than without them.
Animals Help Treat Alzheimer’s
Just as four-legged animals strengthen our social skills and bonds, cats and dogs also create comfort and social attachment for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of brain-damaging dementia. Furry companions can reduce behavioral issues in dementia patients by boosting their mood and making it easier to eat.
Animals enhance social skills in children with autism
One in 70 American children has autism, which makes it difficult to communicate and interact socially. Animals can also help these children communicate with others. One study found that young people with autism talked and laughed more, whined and cried less, and were more social with peers when they had guinea pigs. In recent years, many animal therapy programs have emerged to help children, including dogs, dolphins, horses, and even chickens.
Animals help to cope with depression and improve mood
Pets make you smile. Their activities and the ability to keep you in daily life (by meeting their needs for food, attention and walks) are good recipes for protection against blues.
Pets help cope with post-traumatic stress disorder
People who have had injuries from combat, assault, or natural disasters are especially vulnerable to a mental health condition called PTSD. Of course, research shows that a pet can help correct the memories, emotional numbness, and violent outbursts associated with PTSD.
Animals help cancer patients
Animal-assisted therapy helps cancer patients emotionally and physically. Preliminary results from one study show that dogs not only erase loneliness, depression and stress in children battling cancer, but may also motivate them to eat and follow treatment recommendations better. In other words, they are more actively involved in their own healing. Similarly, there is an emotional uplift in adults who experience physical difficulties in cancer treatment. Even more amazing is that dogs are even trained to sniff out cancer.
Animals can relieve physical pain
Millions live with chronic pain, but animals can soothe some of it. In one study, 34% of patients with fibromyalgia reported relief from pain, muscle fatigue, and improved mood after therapy with a dog for 10-15 minutes compared to 4% in patients who simply sat. Another study found that those who had total joint replacement surgery had 28% less medication after daily dog visits than those who had no contact with an animal.
Ekaterina Romanova Source: