Pets and your Health

September 22, 2020 | Lifestyle, Stress, Wellness

More time at home these past months might have made you want to adopt a pet. There are, in  fact, many health benefits to owning a pet. A dog, for example, can increase opportunities to get outside, exercise, and socialize. Daily walks or simply playing with pets can help decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  Pets are good company and can help manage depression by giving us companionship. It’s no wonder people have been flocking to their local animal shelters to find a new friend – pets are generally good for you! Here are 4 ways pets impact your health. 


1. Pets can decrease your blood pressure in more ways than one 

Of all pets, dogs appear most likely to positively influence the level of human physical activity. Studies show that dog owners engage in more physical activity and walking and are more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity than non-owners of dogs. A Canadian study found that dog owners walked an average of 300 minutes per week compared with 168 minutes per week for non-owners. An increase in physical activity is beneficial to your health in many ways. It helps keep your weight down, it decreases your blood pressure, and helps build muscle. 


Furthermore, compared with indoor exercise, exercising in “natural environments” was linked to “greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreased tension, confusion, anger and depression” and more energy. 


However, physical activity is not the only factor that decreases blood pressure. In fact,  people with any kind of pets, in general, had significantly lower resting heart rates and blood pressure, significantly smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure in response to stress, and faster recovery after cessation of stress than non-pet owners. 


2. Pets can relieve loneliness

A survey by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute found that 80 percent of pet owners said their pets made them feel less lonely.  Avoiding loneliness is amongst the most common reasons people give for living with a pet. Also, a lot of studies have found that pets, particularly dogs, can facilitate socializing with people, for example, through dog-walking, or spending time at the dog park.  


3. Pets and your work ergonomics

One way having a pet may be a hindrance to your health is with regards to your work posture. Do you find yourself working in a crooked position to accommodate a snuggly cat or lapdog? Many pet owners working from home have recently confessed to our practitioners that their work ergonomics are less than ideal due to their pets’ need for closeness. Bad ergonomics can result in serious injuries such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, and headaches, etc. If your pet is a snuggler, consider getting them a bed close to your workspace so that they can still feel close to you while not hindering your work position. Decoy keyboards have also been proven helpful for cat owners.  


4. Pets and your sleep

Most pet owners are familiar with the ways their pets affect their lives while they’re awake, but far less attention is paid to how pets impact sleep. Pets can make your sleep less restful at times. Depending on your personal lifestyle habits and your pet’s behaviour, sleeping with your pet can be hit or miss for sleep quality. A recent Mayo Clinic study reflects that sleeping with a pet is harmless as long as the owner and pet are both healthy and sound sleepers. However, the study also revealed that dog owners were achieving less-than-ideal sleep efficiency with their pets in the bed. While your pet can enhance your sleep by lowering stress when in the bedroom, sharing a bed can increase sleep disruption, and disturb your sleep position. 


There are many considerations to take into account before adopting a new pet. While you might be currently spending a lot of time at home, will it still be the case next month, or next year? Do you have enough physical space in your home to accommodate a pet and its needs (litter box, crate, food, toys, etc.). Maybe you don’t currently travel a lot due to COVID restrictions but once things “get back to normal”, will you still be at home most weekends? Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies?


Before making the pet decision of adopting a new pet, make sure that it is the right one for you and your family. Do some research beforehand about the specific needs of the animal and make sure they’re a good fit for you and your family. Your health may benefit greatly from having the right pet around. If, however, you are starting to feel the effect of cuddling your pet while working, give us a call to book your first appointment with the clinic.