Everyone knows the old saying about a dog being man’s best friend. As it turns out, there’s a lot more truth to that statement than most people realize. The health benefits of adopting a dog are wide-ranging — from physical to psychological to social. People who lived with pets for many years may have intuitively known their four-legged friends made life better, but now there are also numerous scientific studies to support their claims. In fact, it’s been found that immunocompromised patients who were encouraged to give up their companion animals because of concerns over animal-to-human transmitted diseases experienced poorer overall health without their pets.
The answer is an easy one: Animal companionship is good for your health. Of course, the dog-human bond isn’t one-sided. Being a good pet parent requires time, patience and a little education. A dog that’s given healthy food, the right kind of attention, and plenty of love will reward its human in many ways.
Interacting with a pet can lower anxiety and stress-related disorders, including reducing blood pressure. While walking or actively playing with a dog is an obvious way to enjoy these types of benefits, even passive interactions like petting a dog can provide the same results. Dog owners decrease their risk for cardiovascular disease, have fewer allergies and less asthma, and enjoy better health overall. The health benefits of adopting a dog are especially important for the elderly. Elderly dog owners tend to see the doctor fewer times per year than their peers without dogs.
Pets play a significant role in helping humans cope with loss, depression, chronic illness and other stressful situations. Caring for a pet requires responsibility, which encourages a pet parent to maintain a regular schedule even during difficult times. Making sure the dog is fed, watered and walked may lead to better self-care by the pet owner. Adopting a dog adds a sense of purpose to life — something the elderly and those with a chronic illness sometimes feel they lost. A dog’s faithful and unconditional love can also boost self-esteem while reducing loneliness and anxiety.
Dogs are great social catalysts, providing unexpected opportunities for social interaction. Taking a dog to obedience or agility class, the beach or dog park helps people meet other dog lovers. Even if these casual connections don’t lead to deep friendships, there is still value in expanding social networks. A dog can provide isolated people with a feeling of safety and confidence that helps them interact more with their community. To many people, pets are viewed as family members and friends to take on adventures or keep them company at home.
The health benefits of adopting a dog affect almost every aspect of a person’s wellness, but dog ownership isn’t for everyone. When considering if getting a dog is right for you, the biggest reason should be because you value the special bond you and a dog could share. Be certain you can provide a pet with all the care — including veterinarian care — it needs and that you are willing to make a long-term commitment.
If you are ready for the responsibilities of adopting a dog, you will be rewarded not only with better health but with a new best friend.
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