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The Health Benefits of Having a Pet

cartoon animals in the park with owners

We all know that pets are the best snuggle companions, but did you know that they can also significantly boost your health and your mood? Pets, especially cats and dogs, can reduce depression, stress and anxiety, improve your physical health, ease loneliness, and even reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Here are the top health benefits owning a pet can bring into your life:

1. Lower Stress and Anxiety

According to WebMD, it only takes a few minutes of interacting with a pet to feel calmer and less stressed. Serotonin, the chemical that makes us happy, is released when we look at and interact with our companion animal. It’s also accompanied by a decrease in cortisol, a stress hormone. Pets live in the moment and take you for face value; they don’t care about your physical appearance or if you're in a bad mood, they love you unconditionally. This could be a major boost of self-esteem and confidence for many pet owners.

2. Improved Socialization

Pets can be an instant icebreaker for many social scenarios. For instance, dog owners may make new friends at the dog park or get asked while on walks, “can I please pet your dog?” It’s a great way to meet new people and strengthen relationships. Researchers from Harvard and the University of Western Australia surveyed almost 2,700 men and women in Perth, Australia; San Diego, California; Portland, Oregon; and Nashville, Tennessee and found that being a pet owner was the third most common way that people were introduced to others in their neighborhood. Pet owners were found to be 60% more likely to get to know others around their neighborhoods who they hadn’t previously known than those without pets[2].

3. Increased Physical Health

Pets, especially dogs and cats, need physical activity. Research published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health suggested that dog owners were 54% more likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity than those who didn’t have a dog in their lives. Regular walking or playing with a pet can decrease blood pressure and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels[1].

4. Improved Outcomes for Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

Pets can help dementia patients be more interactive, especially when they have trouble socializing with others. In a 2002 study conducted on an Alzheimer’s special care unit, researchers wanted to understand the effects of a resident dog versus a visiting dog on patients’ behavior. They found that there were significantly fewer behavior problems during the day in the four weeks of the study[3]. Pets can also provide companionship for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, but it’s important to make sure the pet can be cared for depending on the abilities of the patient.

Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

November 1-7 is Animal Shelter Appreciation week, and to honor this week we encourage everyone seeking a new furry friend to adopt a shelter animal. Not only will you be giving a second chance to a deserving animal, but by adopting you can help create room for other animals in shelters. Visit the ASPCA’s adoption page to find your new best friend and learn more about how they’re providing effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals. If now’s not the right time to get a pet, but you still want to help more animals find their forever homes, you can get a BuzzRx Prescription Discount Card benefiting the ASPCA. Every time you save, we’ll donate $1 at no cost to you.

1. https://pets.webmd.com/ss/slideshow-pets-improve-your-health

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