Lucky critters – how pets improve our health

Did you know there is a week dedicated to honoring our canine companions? National Dog Week is the last full week in September and we’re taking time out, in advance, to observe National Dog Week and look at the health benefits of pets.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, owning a pet is linked to a decrease in blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglycerides. Great, so all we need to do is adopt a pet to be healthy? While we do want to encourage everyone to consider helping our local Pima Animal Care Center by adopting or fostering one of the thousands of animals taken in each year, there is more to the connection between pets and improved health.

Important aspects of being healthy include staying active, managing stress, having a strong sense of purpose and having a good social support network. Owning, fostering or even volunteering to work with animals can help us more easily achieve these healthy behaviors.

1. Purpose and connection

Having a pet or participating in a program that cares for animals gives us purpose and helps connect us with others who have similar values and passions. Pets can serve as a social icebreaker for people who tend to be shy and more introverted, easing the creation of social bonds. Through these connections, we can develop a support network that goes beyond the commonality of pet ownership. 2. Improve mood and decrease tension or stress

2. Improve mood and decrease tension or stress

Hopefully, everyone has had the opportunity to experience the unconditional love that a pet greets you with when you return home or go to visit them. This greeting alone can improve mood and decrease tension or stress. Animals can keep us in the present moment, which helps to distract us from our worries and problems that we might tend to ruminate about.

3. Reduce heart rate and blood pressure

Many studies have demonstrated that petting an animal can reduce heart rate, blood pressure and perceived level of stress. Plus, how can you not feel joyful when animals look at you with such adoration as you pet them?

4. Maintain a routine and stay active

Pets, and dogs most specifically, help us to maintain a routine and stay active. While we may be willing to skip our own exercise, we are not likely to say no to our loving pets! Even if it is just a quick walk around the neighborhood, remember, any activity is better than nothing. If you are interested in a more rigorous workout, please take a look at our post on running with our four-legged friends.

Regardless of what type of activity you choose to do with your pet, getting into a routine can also have an impact on the other health choices we make throughout our day. Once you are consistently doing one thing to benefit your health, you are more likely to follow up with others, such as making healthy food choices or getting better quality sleep.

 

We want everyone to be ‘lucky dogs’ and enhance their lives and health. Gina Darling of Mrs Green’s World will be hosting a session on Environmental Responsible Pet Care at The Core at La Encantada on Sunday, September 24th.  And for more information on exercising safely with your pet, join us Wednesday, September 27th at 5:30pm with Gina Hansenn of PACC. Click here to learn more about the events.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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