The Physical and Mental Benefits of Owning a Dog
Let’s face it. Dogs are just the bee’s knees.
They always want to hang out with us. They always want to love on us. And they seem to bring out the best parts of ourselves. But are these good feelings real? Or are they something of a placebo effect?
Nope. They’re very real. Dogs make an undeniably positive impact on the lives of their owners, both physically and mentally. Below, we’re going to talk about just a few of the many ways that dogs improve physical health and how dogs benefit our mental health.
Quick Facts About How Dogs Improve Mental and Physical Health
- Owning a dog is linked to decreased levels of stress, isolation, depression, and anxiety, while also being linked to increased mood, social connection, and sense of purpose
- Owning a dog has been shown to increase the physical fitness of its owners by encouraging consistent movement
- People who own dogs are less likely to die of cardiovascular-related illnesses; dog ownership has also been linked to reduced allergy severity
How Dogs Improve Your Mental Health
It’s not a secret (we hope) that having a dog makes owners feel good. Whether it’s cuddling up to us on the couch after a long day of work, always being game for a quick round of fetch, or just being their weird, goofy, selves, dogs just have so many ways to make us feel unconditionally loved and accepted.
Imagine almost never feeling lonely. Really ever. Imagine knowing that, no matter what, someone was waiting for you with open paws when you got home. More importantly: imagine knowing that someone needed and wanted your companionship. Well, that’s one of the many benefits of owning a dog!
Not only that, but dogs can provide a certain kind of company that other people just can’t: they can listen. Forever. And, with dogs, you know whatever secrets you spill are safe with them!!
Plus, owning a dog provides many opportunities to meet and connect with other people in your community. This makes sense if you think about it – how many times have you struck up a conversation with someone you otherwise would have never talked to just because you wanted to pet their dog? (Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of this).
This last point is especially important for older people, people who live alone, or people who don’t have regular social contact with friends or family. Dogs can provide a natural way for these otherwise disconnected people to reconnect with their communities and regain their sociability.
This one’s a no-brainer. Every dog owner will tell you that their dog has a myriad of ways of boosting their mood. Heck, you don’t even have to be a dog owner to know that. Studies have shown that playing with dogs can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. That makes sense. It’s pretty impossible not to feel happier or more relaxed when you’re elbow-deep in a game of tug with a dog.
But you don’t even have to play or do something active with a dog to see the benefits to your mood. Researchers have found that even doing something as simple as making prolonged eye-contact with your pup is enough to release significant amounts of oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel happy.
Dogs’ ability to boost our mood is especially impactful to people who have emotional support animals (ESA) or therapy animals. Research has shown that cancer patients who spent time with a therapy dog prior to treatment reported improved social and emotional well-being, even as their physical health declined.
We know, we know, this one may seem like a bit of an oxymoron. “Stress reduction?! Have you seen my dog’s vet bills?!” You say to yourself. We get it. However, you have to admit: dogs are pretty effective at cutting our stress the rest of the time when they’re not draining our wallets at the vet. And we have the science to prove it!
Researchers have found that simply being around pets is enough to lower the concentrations of the hormone cortisol and reduce feelings of stress or anxiety. Additionally, studies have shown that people who own dogs have lower blood pressure than people without dogs. In fact, one study found that even people who had borderline hypertension saw their blood pressure and stress levels drop within less than six months of adopting a dog.
In recent years, researchers have shown particular interest in dogs’ ability to reduce the stress of chronically or terminally ill patients. Researchers at the University of California at Davis found that Alzheimer’s patients suffer from less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts when a dog is present at home. Not only that, but those same researchers found that even the caregivers of those patients benefited from reduced stress as well.
Establishing a Routine
In order to properly care for a dog, you have to attend to their needs each and every day. That means feeding, grooming, watering, playing, petting, and doing more with them! However, trusting yourself to remember to do all of that throughout the day is setting yourself up for failure.
That’s why so many dog parents cite a healthy, daily routine as a critical component of being a successful pet parent. Healthy routines provide a sense of structure and predictability for both you and your dog’s life. For people who are struggling with anxiety or depression, having a set routine can provide feelings of control, improved self-confidence, and stability.
How Dogs Improve Your Physical Health
By this point, it should be pretty clear that owning a dog is a boon to anyone’s mental health. But what about our bodies? Are there physical benefits to owning a dog? If there are, is owning a dog as helpful to our physical health as it is to our mental health? Well, first, let’s get this out of the way: there are numerous, proven physical benefits of owning a dog.
Now, whether or not the physical benefits of owning a dog are as helpful to us as the benefits to our mental health is up for debate. However, there is almost no denying that owning a dog has many health benefits, a few of which we’ll discuss below.
Heart Benefits of Owning a Dog
No, we’re not talking about how even just looking at our pooch pal makes our heart feel as if it’s bursting with love. Instead, we’re talking about the absolutely astounding benefits to your heart that owning a dog has. One 20-year study found that people who’d never owned a dog or cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than those who did.
A different study found heart attack patients who owned a dog were more likely to survive one year after their heart attack than patients who didn’t. Additionally, an exhaustive study of nearly 6,000 men and women by the American Heart Association found that dog owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-dog owners. That’s not even mentioning the positive impact that owning a dog has on your blood pressure, as we mentioned above.
Fitness Benefits of Owning a Dog
“Let me guess…” you start to say. “You’re going to talk about how owning a dog makes it more likely that I’ll walk a bit each day, right?” Well… yes. But there’s so much more to it than just “making you more likely to walk”.
You see, each of those walks adds up in a big way. A 2019 study in the U.K. found that dog owners four times as likely to meet their daily physical activity guidelines than non-dog owners. Researchers found that dog owners spent nearly 300 minutes a week walking their dog. Compare that to the less than 100 minutes most non-dog owners report spending walking. The picture becomes a bit more clear. If you own a dog, you’re going to move more.
Plus, you have to think bigger than just “walking”. When you walk your dog on a lead, you are countering their weight and activating weight-bearing and stabilizer muscles in order to keep the walk going. This means that every “walk” you do is really just a light-intensity, full-body workout.
Allergy Benefits of Owning a Dog
In their 50-page special report, Get Healthy, Get a Dog, Harvard Medical School details all of the various physical health benefits of owning a dog. Surprisingly, findings in this report was the potential for dogs to help reduce the severity of pet allergies in children.
Researchers found exposure to a dog from infancy onward reduces the likelihood that allergy-prone children would develop problems. Studies showed 19% of children living with dogs developed pet allergies, compared to 33% of children living in dog-free homes.
So, with all of the mental and physical benefits your pooch provides you with, there’s just one question we have for you: how are you benefitting your dog (besides, you know, the food, shelter, and all that stuff)? Well, one easy way for you to give back to your four-legged friend is to ensure that you can provide instant, sting- and odor-free relief when they’re suffering from a bacterial or fungal ailment. How do you do that? Simple: use Banixx!
Benefitting your Dog with Banixx Pet Care
Banixx is clinically-proven to provide fast-acting relief from issues and diseases that affect dogs including ear infections, hot spots, itchy skin, ringworm. Moreover, all without relying on pesky antibiotics or steroids. All you have to do is identify the affected area, gently apply Banixx twice daily, and wait. Within no time, your pup should feel like their normal selves again! With Banixx, relief really is that simple.
But, until you need to use Banixx next, why don’t you do some light reading here at our blog? There’s tons of information here that can help you keep your dog happy and healthy. Here’s one of our favorites about dog bug bites (how timely, especially in summer!) or have you ever wondered about odd topics such as How long can my do go without peeing? Or why does my dog insist on drinking from the toilet? Enjoy!
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