Companion pets do more than make us smile; they’re actually good for our health. From reduced incidence of depression, lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction, a four-legged friend might be the best health plan money can’t buy.
At Pets for Patriots, we advocate for the adoption of “last-chance” pets that face near-certain death if not adopted: dogs and cats two years or older, dogs 40+ pounds regardless of age, and special needs pets. Collectively, these are animals that are most often overlooked in shelters, but that have many years of love and life to give. And because most are beyond the puppy or kitten stage and may already have some basic training, they’re less stressful to integrate into your family life.
So how exactly do companion pets improve our health? Let us count the ways.
Physical benefits of pet ownership
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the average companion animal can deliver extraordinary physical health results. In some cases, having a pet can improve your health more than medication alone – or at all. It’s no wonder then that more than half of households overall have a pet in the family.
- Lower cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels
- Increased physical activity and motility
- Lower cardiovascular stress in the presence of a dog than when among family members or spouses
- Improved recovery after a heart attack or stroke
- Fewer annual doctor visits for elderly people who have dogs
- Lower incidence of allergies and asthma for children exposed to pets at a young age
Many of the service members and veterans who honorably adopt through our program tell us that their motivation for getting a pet is to help “get out of the house” more and to be more physically active. After all, the dog isn’t going to walk itself. But pets get us “out” in other ways: they’re a natural social catalyst, helping us relate more easily to others. Maybe that’s why dogs and cats are associated with improved mental health, too.
Pets brighten the day
We believe in what we like to call “four-pawed therapy.” After all, pets are the masters of unconditional love. They accept us for who we are, not who we wish we were. They don’t care what we look like. They don’t see our failings or disabilities. They see our invisible wounds and look beyond them. They simply love us, as is, and ask for nothing more in return.
Here are just some of the amazing ways they boost our spirits:
- Reduced stress and incidence of depression; elderly people are less depressed if they own a pet
- Fewer feelings of loneliness
- Recent widows who own pets use less medication and have fewer symptoms of any type of illness than those that don’t own a pet
- Dog owners report being as emotionally connected to their pet as to their closest family members
- Just a half hour in the company of a dog improves feelings of happiness and well-being
- Positive impact on children’s attitudes about themselves, boosting their ability to relate to others
Perhaps it’s the military personnel and veterans who adopt through our program that sum it up best: pets give us a purpose in life, another reason to live.