One of the most joyous benefits of being a dog owner is the unconditional love that you receive from your four-legged friend, but have you ever considered the physical and mental health benefits that you gain from your dog? Aside from providing you with companionship and entertainment, there are countless mental and physical perks of being a dog owner. Read on for the list that’ll have you wagging your tail!
Dogs Help You Stay Active
Next time your dog begs you to take him on a walk, try thanking him instead of groaning in response. When you walk or jog with your dog, or simply play with him at the local dog park, you’re getting great exercise and having fun in the process. Research shows that dog owners who regularly walk their pets enjoy more advanced stages of movement and lower rates of obesity than those who don’t. All those walks with your pet add up to a healthier, more active lifestyle for you.
Dogs Can Help Kids Grow Stronger
When you were growing up, you likely heard adults tell you, “Drink milk for strong bones,” or “Veggies make you grow big and strong!” If you knew then what you know now, you could’ve asked for a puppy to help you reach those same goals. Science Daily reported that children with dogs in the home had fewer sick days, fewer allergies, decreased chances of eczema, and higher levels of important immune system supporters than their pet-less friends.
Dogs Are Therapeutic for Kids With ADHD
For children struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a pet dog can be a perfect complement to their treatment plan. Kids have the opportunity to learn greater responsibility when they own a pet, and playing with their dog in the back yard is a simple and fun way to burn off some extra energy. Dogs are also known to have calming effects on adults and children, and can provide a much-needed source of calm energy in your home.
Dogs Are Better Than Medicine
People take medicine every day to decrease cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and combat the effects of chronic stress. Dog owners can enjoy those very same benefits without popping pills, as one study found that they suffer from fewer overall medical issues than their pet-less counterparts. While you should never stop taking medicine without first consulting your doctor, having a pup is certainly a much more enjoyable way to prevent heart disease and a host of other medical issues than a cocktail of drugs.
Dogs Can Diagnose Low Blood Sugar Levels
If someone you know is a diabetic, you know how important it is to respond quickly when blood sugar levels start to drop. Fortunately, dogs can help detect falling levels before you even know it’s happening. One study found that more than 1/3 of dogs possessed this special talent and displayed changes in behavior when their owner’s glucose levels fell. The science is a bit of a mystery, but minute muscle tremors or slight changes in your scent may provide the clues they need to alert you to the impending danger.
Dogs Boost Your Mood
You probably already know that playing with your furry friend puts you in a better mood, but did you know that there’s actually science to back up what you’re feeling? Playing with your dog raises your levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are feel-good neurotransmitters, in your brain. In fact, research shows that 15 to 30 minutes with your pet is all it takes to lower your blood pressure and boost your mood.
Dogs Help Relieve Stress
When life gets a big stressful, your brain releases cortisol and norepinephrine, which have been linked to negative effects on your nervous system. Petting your dog is an easy way to combat unhealthy stress and increase your levels of serotonin and dopamine, those feel-good neurotransmitters that help keep you calm. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try spending some quality time with your pup for quick and easy stress relief.
Dogs Can Detect Cancer
In a 1989 case study in The Lancet, one dog owner was prompted to have a mole on her leg checked by her doctor when her dog wouldn’t stop sniffing at the spot. It turned out to be malignant melanoma. Since then, dogs have been trained to detect bladder, breast, lung, colon, and ovarian cancer, even in the early stages. While you should always prioritize regular health screenings, it’s nice to have some backup from your furry friend.
Dogs Reduce Depression
When you’re on the receiving end of your dog’s unconditional love, you’re likely to find a greater sense of purpose, decreased feelings of loneliness, and increased feelings of joy and happiness. Perhaps this is why hospitals and nursing homes often use pet-facilitated therapy to keep spirits high in the face of trying circumstances.
Dogs Help You Recover From Illnesses
You’ve already heard how recovering heart attack patients can live longer when they have a pet to help manage their stress, but these aren’t the only patients who can benefit from a furry friend. Many hospitals invite in therapy dogs to help patients recovering from a wide variety of illnesses. If you’re sick, a dog can help by providing increased mobility, more social contact, and much needed companionship to combat feelings of loneliness.
Dogs Can Lower a Child’s Likelihood of Developing Related Allergies
While you probably shouldn’t bring a pup home if someone in your family already has a dog allergy, introducing a pet in the home from an early age can actually reduce the likelihood of an allergy developing down the road. Pediatrician James E. Gern published a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that found children who grow up with pets develop stronger overall immune systems and may be up to 33% less likely to develop pet-related allergies.
Dogs Can Detect The Presence of Major Food Allergies
You’ve probably seen police dogs who are trained to sniff out illegal drugs or even bombs, but did you know they can be trained to sniff out major allergens as well? If you face serious peanut allergies, you can enjoy a little extra peace of mind when your trained service dog can detect even trace amounts of peanuts in a room before you enter. While you must still be careful and keep an epinephrine pen on hand, you may still find these pups ease some of your burden by detecting allergens before its too late.
Dogs Reduce Your Risk of Eczema
Remember Dr. Gern’s study that found growing up with pets made you less likely to develop pet-related allergies? Well, he also found that you’re less likely to have eczema, an allergic condition known for the itchy, red patches it causes on your skin. This may have to do with the overall strengthening your immune system enjoys when exposed to dogs’ dirt and allergens from a young age.
Dogs Help You Be More Social
Has your bachelor brother ever asked to borrow your pup for the day in hopes of getting some positive attention from women? He might actually be on to something. Dogs can help you meet new people by increasing your approachability and helping you overcome shyness. Britain’s Warwick University found that people with dogs are far more likely to be approached by strangers and make friends sooner. Take your dog to training classes, dog parks, or outdoor cafes, as a fun way to boost your social life.
Dogs Can Make You a Better Person
It’s no secret that owning a dog can be hard work, especially when you’re raising a puppy. On the plus side, the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet can actually make you a better person. Caring for a dog is a wonderful way to learn selflessness, and the training and daily care required provide plenty of opportunities to grow in patience and commitment.
Dogs Extend The Lives of Elderly People
The exercise and companionship that come with caring for a dog can have tangible benefits for elderly owners. In fact, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio includes a question concerning pet ownership in their medical screenings of clients over 75 years old and view a “yes” as a point in the client’s favor. If you’re looking to make the most of your golden years, a dog is a great way to increase your quality of life.
Dogs Help Alzheimer’s Patients
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the symptoms that accompany it can cause a lot of stress for patients and their families. Fortunately, dogs can relieve a bit of that burden. Dr. Lynette Hart of the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine shares that having a pet at home can reduce the number of anxious outbursts shown by Alzheimer’s patients. There’s simply something calming about the presence of a pet, even in the midst of a confusing diagnosis.
Dogs Can Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you have yet another reason to provide a dog with a loving home. RA patients who own a pet dog are more likely to move more often, which is an important part of treatment. Plus, pups are so cuddly and playful that they make for a great distraction from your pain. Can you imagine a more lovable home health aide?
Dogs Improve Heart Health
You know that warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when cuddling with your pet? Well, it turns out that there are real, tangible heart health benefits to those sweet moments. Dog owners boast lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, and fewer heart attacks than their pet-less friends. In addition, patients recovering from a heart attack survive longer on average when they have a pet to help manage their stress levels. Those puppy cuddles are an even better idea than you originally thought!
Dogs Can Help You During Seizures
If you or someone you know is struggling with seizures, you may want to look into getting a seizure service dog. These pups are both adorable and intelligent. They know how to detect subtle changes in behavior to recognize when you are having a seizure. Some studies suggest these dogs may even be able to warn you of oncoming seizures so that you can take action on the front end, but at the very least, they provide a calming and supportive companion throughout your health difficulties.
Dogs Reduce Stress at Work
Feeling extra stressed at work lately? Why not ask your boss if you can bring your dog along to help calm you down? Don’t worry. There’s science to back you up. A SUNY Buffalo study found that couples with dogs had lower responses to stressful tasks when allowed to see their dog before or after the task. This should be all the reason you need to bring your furry friend to the office!