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Should You Get a Pet For Better Health?

Animals have an uncanny ability to bring peace and joy, even on your worst days. Not only are they able to help reduce stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, but they may also help you to stay in physical shape.

If you’re having trouble deciding if you should get a pet for better health, consider the following questions:
  1. Is your home environment a good place for a pet?
  2. Are you able to afford a pet?
  3. Do you and your family members have the time to care for it?
  4. Are you open to the unique challenges pet ownership may bring (i.e., time constraints, financial costs, medical emergencies, etc.)?
  5. Is your lifestyle equipped to care for a pet?

If you answered “yes“ to the questions above, or are willing to make some changes, you may be ready for a new furry friend. Continue reading to learn about the health benefits of owning a pet.

Pets May Improve Your Mental Health

Aside from the unconditional love given to and received from a pet, the benefits of pet ownership start with improved mental well-being. That’s true for younger people, older adults, people with disabilities (including Autism and Alzheimer’s), and more. Pet ownership  isn’t just for patients, pets can improve the lives of healthcare workers as well.

According to the CDC, companion animals improve the mental and emotional well-being of humans. That means that pet owners tend to suffer less from conditions like:
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • PTSD

The benefits of pet ownership don’t stop there. Individuals who own pets tend to experience more fulfilling social interactions, better social support, and many other ancillary benefits. For aging adults, owning a pet can provide a sense of meaning and happiness and can contribute to better emotional health.

Pets May Improve Your Physical Health

In many ways, the mental and physical health benefits of owning a pet overlap. For example, pet ownership may decrease cortisol levels, resting heart rate, and more. Which, in turn, may reduce the likelihood of heart attacks and heart disease. That’s just the beginning.

A few more notable physical health benefits of owning a pet may include:
  • Reduced blood pressure and hypertension (especially for dog and cat owners)
  • Boosted immune system — just petting an animal is able to help with this
  • Lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (particularly for dog owners)
  • Increased physical activity
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Higher levels of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin resulting in feelings of euphoria

Human-animal interactions may be beneficial for both parties. While you’re busy caring for your pet, they’re busy taking care of you. Learn about the best pets for stress reduction below.

The Best Pets to Help Reduce Stress

Perhaps you’re sold on pet ownership's physical and mental benefits. In that case, the next step is to choose the best pet to help you. Generally, the best pets that help humans reduce stress include:
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Horses
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Fish
  • Turtles
  • Birds

You don’t have to own a pet to experience the benefits of animals. If you’re not well suited for pet ownership, you may consider fostering a pet, attending pet therapy groups, or volunteering at an animal shelter. HPSO cares about the well-being of healthcare professionals. Learn more in this article about the tools you may use to cope with stress, burnout, and anxiety while working in healthcare.
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