Purrs, Snuggles, Tail Wags: Just What the Doctor Ordered

cat at shelterWhen it comes to improving your health, you probably know the basics by now: eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, manage stress. But here’s one more tip that might surprise you: own a pet.

You may have thought your fur baby couldn’t get any more paw-some, but it’s true! Bonding with pets does much more than make us happy — it can also have positive effects on our physical and mental health.

Power of Pets

How exactly do pets help our health? For starters, they can increase opportunities for us to get outside and exercise. Studies show that dog owners are more physically active than non-owners, even during poor weather (rain or shine, Fido needs to go out!). What’s more, having a dog is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

But what if you’re not a dog person? (You know Mr. Whiskers isn’t going to join you for a walk outside.) Not a problem! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, simply playing with pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. High levels of each can contribute to heart disease.

Fur-tunate Friends

Pets also improve our overall well-being. Their companionship helps us manage feelings of loneliness and depression. And for those of us who need a little extra support in our lives — due to special needs or psychiatric or other disabilities — service animals can help! They enhance independence and quality of life by:

  • Assisting those who are blind with tasks and navigation
  • Alerting those who are deaf to the presence of people/sounds
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Retrieving medicine or the phone
  • Preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
  • Providing physical support to individuals with mobility disabilities

If you think you or a loved one might benefit from a service dog, talk with your health care provider.

New Leash on Life

Ready to add a pet member to the family? Maybe it’s a cat or dog. Or maybe you’d like a bird or hamster. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Adopt your new best friend. Adopting can save you money, but more importantly, make you feel good about helping an animal in need. When you adopt, you can save a life — and open up shelter space for another animal who needs it.
  2. Become a foster parent. By temporarily bringing a pet into your home, you can give them the care they need to be ready for adoption. A fulfilling experience, fostering offers the chance to change an animal’s life for the better.

Whether this is your first furry friend or your eighth (no judgment), it’s important to give back to the animals who give so much to you!

Related: 5 Ways Your Dog Makes You Healthier

Join the conversation. Do you own a pet? How does your furry friend add to your well-being?

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