Jillian Michaels

February 21, 2018

Health Benefits of Our Furry Friends

So, I’m a pet lover. It’s no secret. I have about 40 of them. Yes, I’m serious. 1 pig, 4 horses, 3 dogs, 2 cats, 1 rabbit, 1 parrot, 14 chickens, 4 ducks, a wild goose, TONS of fish, a desert tortoise – and a partridge in a pear tree (kidding on this one…sorta).

Have I gone overboard? Yes. I won’t even try to defend it. However, the reality is that study after study shows us that pets provide some pretty significant health benefits. Pet ownership can have a dramatic impact on infection control, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cholesterol, allergies, stress, blood pressure and psychological issues – all for the better. Much better, in fact.

Here are just a few of the findings that these studies on the impact of animal and human bonding have shown:

  • A pet (cat dog horse etc.) can reduce your risk of a heart attack by 30% and your risk of a cardiovascular incident, like a stroke, by 40%
  • People with pets recovering from injury, surgery or suffering from chronic pain conditions like arthritis, migraines etc. required significantly less pain medication than those without pets.
  • One study on children between the ages of 5-7 found that kids with pets attended school 3 weeks more per year than kids without pets because they are sick less often and have fewer allergies as pet dander acts as a natural immunotherapy to allergies.
  • A CDC study showed that pet owners have significantly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those who don’t own a pet.

And the list above could go on and on.

Pets have even been shown to help children with autism or ADHD! Incredible right?

We don’t know the exact reasons for all the above, but we can definitely make the safe assumption that some of it is the behavioral changes we make when owning a pet. Animals intrinsically encourage a more active lifestyle. For example, dog owners literally must walk their dogs and can attribute an hour or more of extra activity weekly from this alone, which would burn calories, improve cardiovascular conditioning etc.

We can also safely assume a huge component would be the emotional and psychological benefits of being a pet owner. The bond between human and animals is significant.  Animals provide unconditional love, support, and companionship. I’m sure we all know how beneficial that is to our emotional wellbeing, but this also affects our physical health. Our biochemical response to the affection we feel from our pets helps to lower our anxiety and stress, which significantly affects our body chemistry enabling us to better manage hypertension, lower blood pressure, and fight off infection. Owning a pet can increase in the release of serotonin to boost your mood, lower cortisol levels to help manage fat metabolism and the list goes on. They even encourage us to be more social in general – think about those trips to the dog park.

The conclusion is clear. Pets are great for our health. If you don’t have one consider getting one! And I highly recommend rescue. There are millions (literally) of pets without a loving home. And I don’t even wanna throw at you the amount of animals that are euthanized per year because they have nowhere to go. Consider saving a life, and I guarantee they will help save yours in return.

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