5 Ways Pets Can Improve Our Health

We had to say goodbye to one of beloved fur-babies on Friday. Technically, he was a dog, but he didn’t know that. He was one of ‘my boys.’ He and his brother came to us in October of 2009. They had been seized from a hoarding situation – the woman had 40 dogs – and they were just little brown bags of skin and bone. They were around 7 months old, and of course, coming from the situation they had, they had no potty training, they hadn’t been socialized at all, and they really didn’t seem to want much to do with us.

It took a while, but after some patience and lots of walks and treats, they became our ‘kids.’ And yes, we’ve spoiled them rotten.

This was taken just a couple of weeks ago. Coda is the little guy ‘posing’ for the picture.

The funny thing is, though, that they have given us just as much as we’ve given them over the years. And as painful as it has been to have to say goodbye to our beloved Coda, the joy he gave us over the years more than makes up for that pain.

Pets can add so much to our lives, and they can even improve our health. Let’s take a look at some of the ways they do that.

How Pets Can Improve Our Health

1. They can help us be more active.

This is especially true if your pet is a dog. As we all know, dogs have to be taken outside several times a day. Whether we take them out for official walks or just walk around with them in the back yard, we’re moving more and — added benefit — getting some fresh air.

2. Pets can help improve brain health.

We know that often, what benefits our bodies also benefits our brains. Physical activity, especially aerobic activity is proven to increase our brain health. This is true even for those who might be at risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia.

When we take our pets out for their walk, we’re working toward that recommended 150 minutes of activity per week.

3. They can reduce stress.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed, if you spend a few minutes with your pet you start to feel better? It’s not just psychological; it’s physiological.

According to Marwan Sabbagh, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, “Simply petting an animal can decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol and boost release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, resulting in lowered blood pressure and heart rate and, possibly, in elevated mood.”

4. Pets can help us feel less lonely.

Pets give us companionship and help us feel less lonely. Especially now, in this age of social distancing, it’s easy for people to start feeling isolated and alone. Having a pet to care for and talk to can help us feel loved and appreciated.

5. They can help us make social connections.

Pet owners often have an immediate bond when they start talking about their fur babies. All it takes is seeing each other walking your dogs, or talking about the cute things your cat has done lately to spark a whole conversation.

And even if it’s just one of those quick, micro-connections we talked about in The Importance of Connection, it can help improve our sense of ‘belonging’ in the world.

These are just a few of the ways pets can improve our lives. They are such wonderful additions to our lives, but they can also be a lot of work. Before getting a pet, we need to make sure we can give them the care they need to thrive.

Puggle standing in the yard, with text overlay: "Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life." James Cromwell

Choosing the Right Pet for You

When we’re thinking of adding a pet to our family, there are several things we need to consider. We want to make sure we can give our pets the best life possible while ensuring we don’t overextend our limits of time and energy.

Doing our research ahead of time can help us make sure we choose the pet that’s right for us. Here are the questions the CDC recommends we ask before adopting a pet:

  • How long will this animal live?
  • What does the pet eat?
  • How much exercise does the pet need?
  • How large will it become?
  • How much will it cost for veterinary care?
  • Do I have enough time to properly care for and clean up after the pet?
  • What type of habitat does this pet need to be healthy?
  • What type of exercise does this pet need?
  • Are pets allowed in my house, apartment, or condominium?
  • Are there young children, older people, or people with weak immune systems who will care for or be around the pet?

Answering these questions is vital to making sure we choose the right pet for us. Doing our research about their needs ahead of times ensures we’re able to provide the proper level of care for them and gives us the best chance of having a relationship that is beneficial for both our pets and us.

Having a pet adds so much to our lives, and losing them can seem to be almost unbearable at times.

It’s all the little things – the first time we only have one dog’s dinner to prepare; the first night when Tucker seems to be looking for his brother when we go into the bedroom; the first time we’re not on a strict medication schedule in the last two years…. but we are blessed because he was part of our family for 11 years.

Coda was known by several nicknames: Code Man, Frenchman, Mr. Bossy Pants, and most lately, Houdini.

He was extremely adept at backing out of his leash and getting past obstacles we put in his way. After he got so ill a couple of years ago, we started putting our ottoman in front of the door to the family room when we were in there so he couldn’t run around the house. If I left the room temporarily for any reason, he made it his mission to find me. He learned to slide the ottoman enough to make a passageway and come into the back of the house with me. He wasn’t about to be separated from his Mama if he didn’t want to be…. Rest in peace, my little Houdini. You are loved.

Just as Coda added so much to our lives, pets can be such a wonderful addition to many families. We’ve seen some of the ways our pets can improve our health, but it’s not just our health they can impact – they can impact our quality of life. That means they can improve our overall wellness.

Do you have pets? What kind of impact have they had on your health and your quality of life? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

Sharing is caring! Please pin for later:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/pets-and-mental-health

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-bond-for-life-pets/pets-and-mental-health

17 comments

  1. My little pound puppy, now 8 months old has done so much for me. I’ve lost over 35 pounds and he is my baby. He snuggles with me at night, even sleep under the covers with me. He runs in the house looking for me and it makes me feel so loved. Our other baby is a dady’s girl, she loves and sleep at my feet but she is all about daddy. I would not know what life would be like without a dog in my life, I have had a dog or other animal all my life. Jet has been great for my mental health, the pandemic doesn’t stress me out becasue I have him to keep my mind off everything. Your baby is out of pain in doggie heaven, he knows he was loved. Now what are you going to do about getting another baby for your second fur baby?

    1. Wow, that’s fabulous Mel! It’s amazing how much they can add to our lives, isn’t it? It’s funny how you’ve got one Mama’s and one Daddy’s baby. That’s how our guys have been too. Coda was more a Mama’s boy and Tucker is more of a Daddy’s boy, though he’s been following me around a little more these last few days. He’s probably missing his brother. Those two were inseparable. As far as Tucker getting another brother or sister, I don’t think that’s going to happen. The only other dogs they ever liked were each other. We couldn’t have them anywhere near other dogs or they would start fighting with each other. We always suspected it was because of the situation they came from when they were pups. Also, Tucker’s almost 12 and has injuries to the ACL’s in both his hind legs so he has to have a little extra care. I don’t think he’ll mind being an ‘only pup’ too much. Hope you’re staying safe and well sweet friend. Hugs!

  2. Nawwww, little cutie!

    Pets are so much more than ‘pets’, the word just doesn’t do them justice. Our furbabies can be life-changing, often in ways we don’t realise. You’ve made some really get points here. I do think the whole reducing stress is a big one for me – just being around animals ground me and calms me, helps me to see the bigger picture and get out of my head for a while to just be in the moment and appreciate life. I’m going to show this post to my papa. I’m still plugging away trying to convince him we need a golden retriever but he isn’t budging. I’ve been doing this for a few years now… one day he’ll break!

    xx

    1. Thanks for sharing Caz, and thanks for making me smile! I remember you talking about the golden retriever before…. Didn’t you even have a name picked out for him at one point? I’m like you as far as animals and stress relief go. I can be completely stressed out and then love on our pets for awhile or see a deer behind the back fence, and next thing you know, I’m feeling much better. I hope you get your golden. Maybe you should ask Santa for one….😁 Sending hugs!

      1. Seeing a deer so close must be pretty magical. Beautiful creatures, aren’t they?
        And yes, my golden is called Finn, or Finnigan if he’s misbehaving. Sadly he may always be imaginary. I’m sure Freud would have a lot to say about this! 😂 I’ll pop it on the list for Santa! xx

      2. It really is amazing. One night when we took the dogs out front, two deer were right there in the front yard and ran off when we opened the door. That’s the closest I’ve seen them. They really are beautiful. Last year, we had a little herd of them that included twin fawns that came around behind our fence quite often. Maybe I’ll name one of them Finn in your honor. It won’t be a Golden, but at least it won’t have to be imaginary anymore.😁

  3. I don’t know what I would do without our 2 rescue pups. They are such comfort and provide so much unconditional love! Even my chickens help keep me healthier as it forces me to go outside and take care of them. Another great post.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Wendi! I’m glad your pups are such a joy to you. It’s so awesome that you have chickens too. We have a family a few houses up from us that put their chickens in a cute little ‘chicken tractor’ in their front yard every day. Of course, they move it around each day to give the chickens a different place to forage in. Hope you’re staying safe and staying well sweet friend. Hugs!

  4. Terry, I’m so sorry to hear about Coda. There is something special about “rescues”. He knows he was loved. Praying for you, Guy and Tucker.

    1. Thank you so much Wanda. I agree with you about the rescues…. It’s almost like they know you rescued them and are somehow more appreciative of the home and love you’ve given them. We were blessed to have had more time than we thought we would with him after his initial diagnosis, so we’re grateful for that. I hope you guys are doing well. We miss you! Sending lots of love and hugs your way!

  5. I loved this post! I honestly believe that our cats know when we are in pain. My husband told me earlier that when we went to bed, his back was hurting. Our older cat got close to where he was hurting and pretty much massaged that are and of course, laid there an purred. I know there have been many times when either my back was hurting pretty bad or my legs and the cats are drawn to that area. The amount of love and laughter these sweet animals bring is priceless!

    1. Thank you so much Alyssa! It’s uncanny, how our pets seem to know when we’re hurting, or sad, or just need a little extra love, isn’t it? My Pop had eye surgery recently and had to have drops in them several times a day. Every time he lay down on the bed for my Mom to put the drops in, their cat jumped up there and laid right beside his head until they were done. I hope you’re doing well and staying safe sweet friend. Sending hugs!

  6. So sorry for your loss! It’s so difficult when we lose a pet. We have an almost 18 year old Maine Coon cat who is having health issues. The vets couldn’t pinpoint exactly what is going on (after lots of tests and money) so she has her own guest room to live in to keep her safe. My husband would like another pet but I would like to wait.

    1. Thank you so much Sarah. Wow, 18 years old – that’s an impressive age for a cat. I’m sorry to hear she’s not doing so well. I know it’s hard to know she’s not feeling well and not knowing why. It’s wonderful that you’re able to give her a nice safe place to hang out. Decisions about whether to get a new pet can be difficult, can’t they? There are just so many considerations. Wishing you all the best sweet friend.

Please tell me what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.