How a Pet May Save Your Life

How a Pet May Save Your Life

People love their pets and for good reason. Bringing a dog, cat, rabbit, fish, bird or any other domestic friendly pet into your home could be the best thing you ever committed to. Find out how a pet may save your life, changing it forever in ways you probably never imagined. It may not be a ‘literal’ save (although that could happen too as animals have been saving humans forever) but it may simply be a way to improve your quality of life and save it from poor health and loneliness. Albeit, owning a pet is not for everyone as there are various allergy issues and other factors that may make it difficult. If that’s the case but you still want to experience a pet, there’s ways to do that too!

Increase Your Cuddle Chemical

If you treat a pet well, most of the time, a pet will respond tenfold. The unrequited love between a pet and its human caretaker has been shown to benefit the health of both. It comes down to the natural production of oxytocin, a hormone that encourages: 

Interacting with a pet using positive affirmations (“Whose a good boy!”) raises levels of oxytocin in both involved. Some call this the ‘cuddle chemical’ as it has shown to release when humans, especially babies, hug one another.

The study titled, ‘Oxytocin and Cortisol Levels in Dog Owners and Their Dogs Are Associated with Behavioral Patterns: An Exploratory Study’ by researchers from Swedish University stated that,

“Based on previous data from the experiment presented in this manuscript, we have shown that interaction between owners and their dogs results in increasing levels of oxytocin in both owners and dogs,…”

More Oxy Means Less Stress

The release of oxytocin also triggers lowering the release of cortisol known as the “stress hormone”. Although cortisol is essential for survival stress responses, more and more people are producing higher amounts of cortisol due to work, money or relationship stress. This overproduction of cortisol has been linked to high stress, weight gain and heart strain.

John’s Hopkins Medical and Jeremy Barron, M.D., medical director of the Beacham Center for Geriatric Medicine at Johns Hopkins describe the full spectrum feedback between pet and human, 

“Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies). In fact, an astonishing 84 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder patients paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and 40 percent were able to decrease their medications, reported a recent survey.”

Hits the Heart

If you’re concerned about your heart health, bring a dog into your life. In several studies it is living with and loving a dog that has shown excellent results for improving cardiovascular health. From the extra exercise a dog requires for walking routines to connecting through touch, the heart seems to significantly benefit. 

Scientific Reports cites research of the link between dogs and humans, stating,

“In conclusion, in a nationwide population based study with 12 years of follow-up, we show that dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in single households and with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death in the general population.”

Cognitive Stimulation

Sometimes, interacting with an animal strips away all previous history or context filled with feelings like judgment, resentment, fear, etc. often associated with a human interaction. It is a ‘freeing’ relationship that allows people to be who they really are without any social restraints. Therefore, animals can stimulate the brain on a deeper level, one that may go beyond anything another human might be capable to achieve.

In the article, ‘Pets Are Good for Your Health, and We Have the Studies to Prove It’ by Treehugger, it was reported,

“Just as non-human pals strengthen our social skills and connection, cats and dogs also offer furry, friendly comfort and social bonding to people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of brain-destroying dementia.”

One review on Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) published in BMI Psychiatry stated,

“The findings of this review, based on significant effect sizes, reveal that AAT may work as a beneficial and effective complementary treatment, especially in the area of behavioral and psychological symptoms, for patients with different degree of dementia severity if AAT is targeted at their specific needs and interests.”

Although incorporating a pet into your life is a big decision, it may be the best decision you ever made. Therefore, it is recommended to pick your relationship with a pet carefully by considering living space, cost, life expectancy, and time allowance. If a lifelong commitment is too challenging, there are pet shelters often searching for volunteers to walk and care for sheltered pets. This is a great way to get an oxytocin release without bringing a pet home. Either way, it looks like connecting with animals as pets, companions, therapy or care is a win-win option.