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3 ways having a pet could improve your health


3 ways having a pet could improve your health

The results are in: Pets make people happy.

In a survey of more than 2,000 adults, more than 80 percent of respondents said pets have a mostly positive impact on their mental health, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association found in a joint poll.

“Something as ordinary as the excitement a pet has when you come home can make an enormous difference in your life,” says Heather Partridge, a behavioral health counselor at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road in Myrtle Beach.

Here are three ways pets may benefit your health:

1. Improve mood

Research shows that simply petting or holding an animal can lower the stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, the interaction between the pet and its owner can increase levels of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone.

“It’s hard to discount the benefits of unconditional love from a pet,” Partridge says. “It may be hard to find the motivation to get out of bed some days, but having a pet that relies on you may make breaking out of that rut a little easier.”

2. Get you moving and on a routine

Owning a pet that requires physical activity, such as a dog, encourages you to take them for walks.

“Having routines, especially those that are enjoyable and fulfilling, can improve your health both mentally and physically,” Partridge says. 

Pets are linked to decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pets can also contribute to increased opportunities for physical activity and better cognitive function in older adults.

3. Offer companionship

Caring for an animal can make you feel needed and provide social support, especially if you live alone.

“It can feel good to take care of something and provide a sense of purpose,” Partridge says. “Many owners talk to their pets, and some even use them to work through problems they may be facing – like a form of verbal journaling.”

Should you own a pet?

It’s important to remember owning a pet is a major commitment that will last through the animal’s lifetime.

Consider speaking with your physician or another qualified care provider if you think getting a pet may be beneficial to your health and ask yourself these questions:

    • Do I consider myself an animal person?
    • Can I provide the level of activity that this pet needs?
    • Can I afford to pay for this pet’s food, grooming and medical bills?
    • Are pets allowed where I live?
    • Do I have enough time and energy to properly care for this pet?

If owning a pet isn’t feasible for you, consider lending a helping hand at a local animal shelter. Many shelters welcome volunteers to help with walking dogs, feeding, fostering and much more.

Meet the Expert

Heather Partridge

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