It's hard to beat coming home to pets that have missed you all day. They’re always excited and happy to see you. But apart from the fluffy tails and snuggles, did you know that owning a pet has actually been proven to be good for your health?
Pets Can Help Children Build Up Resistance to Allergies
This may seem counterintuitive. But introducing a pet into a child's life early on, within the first year of life, has been proven to help reduce allergies by about 33 percent. Studies have shown that being introduced to pets at an early age increases the amount of antibodies your little ones produce to dog or cat allergens, making them less susceptible to these allergies as they get older. This is a process called allergic sensitization.
In fact, it's been shown that children exposed to animals at a young age develop stronger immune systems overall. So, when your partner tells you the dog or cat has to go because the baby on the way may be allergic, you can tell them the pet will likely do more good than harm.
Great for Your Heart – and Your Overall Health
On the surface, this may not make sense, but stay with me. First, for most people, owning a pet proves to be a stress reducer. Not only does having them around tend to relax owners, but petting an animal just feels good. This releases a relaxation hormone which helps to lower stress and anxiety. Lower levels of stress and anxiety translate to better heart health. Also, pet owners, especially those who own dogs, tend to be more active. Taking a dog for a walk, a run in the park or out to catch a Frisbee means you're getting active, and this makes your heart happy as well. All this activity is a great boost to your fitness level, increasing blood flow and working your cardiovascular system. So, if your doctor tells you to exercise more and reduce your stress, consider a visit to a local animal shelter or animal rescue group and look for an energetic dog or a cat.
Pets Can Help with Depression
There's a reason many people feel as though their pet is a member of the family rather than "just an animal." Oftentimes, there is a deep bond between an owner and a pet. If the owner has a tendency toward depression, the unconditional love and companionship a pet provides has been proven to help reduce this. Not only does the presence of a pet promote psychological well-being, but having them around also gives people something to focus on. This is extremely important for somebody who is fighting through depression and needs to focus some tough energy on something more positive.
Dr. Sidhwani is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s The Woodlands Clinic. Her clinical interests include preventive care and women’s health. She’s also a pet lover with two dogs.