Furry Therapy: How Pets Benefit Our Overall Health

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If you’ve ever cared for any kind of pet, there’s an intuitive understanding of the overall positive effects its companionship has on life. And while understanding the fondness for these furry friends may come naturally, there has been a growing body of scientific work to help the world better understand the far reaching effects pets have on life. 

The article provides 8 ways pets improve lives that you may not have heard about. 

Fondness For Pets And Their Overall Benefits

If you have yet to commit to being a pet owner, you may not fully understand why people’s pets are all over social media, YouTube, and are a constant subject of memes. The simple explanation is that they have an innate way of entertaining people. But apart from being undoubtedly cute, and frequently funny, there are underlying reasons why people love having pets. 

As noted by Veterinary Manual, pets allow their owners to feel needed as caregivers and nurturers, while also being able to return the favor. 

Pets offer an unconditional affection that improves their owners’ ability to cope with personal difficulties and bouts of loneliness. But more importantly, the mere act of caring for a pet gives owners another reason to justify their existence, and to stay healthy. 

Here are other health benefits brought about by pets you may not have known about.  

  1. They help children with autism

As noted by NAPA, socializing is one of the biggest challenges for children with autism, which often leads to them being vulnerable to isolation, rejection, and similar stressful interactions. A recent research has shown that children with autism who have pets at home have developed more advanced social skills when compared to their pet-less counterparts. 

According to the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, children with autism who interact with pets at home are more likely to introduce themselves, ask for information, and respond to people’s questions.  

  1. The help prevent allergies and strengthen the immune system

According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), teenagers who lived with a cat during the first year of their life had a 48 percent lower risk of cat allergy than those who didn’t. More interestingly, it’s been found that prenatal exposure to dogs can decrease the tendency to develop allergic diseases in children. 

The study furthers that the lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents brought about by pets suppresses that natural development of the immune system. 

  1. They have a positive impact on a child’s development

Apart from helping develop a healthy immune system, classroom pets have been found to help motivate children to improve their reading performance. The children’s inclination to read to the animals have led to them enjoying reading and increasing their willingness to learn to read. 

As well, it was found that a presence of a pet in a classroom – by fostering the development of autonomous functioning – develops in children a sensitivity for the needs and moods of others. 

  1. They help improve the condition of people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Research has found that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) can decrease agitated behaviors, and increase positive social interactions of people with dementia. 

Meanwhile, HABRI notes that following the installment of an aquarium into a facility, elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease had a higher food intake, reducing the need for nutritional supplementation. Conversely, the presence of companion animals have likewise benefitted caregivers by decreasing their physiological stress. 

  1. They help improve the life of cancer patients

Studies on AAT for pediatric cancer patients have shown the following benefits:

  • Improved rest
  • Nourishment
  • Exercise
  • Motivation
  • Self-esteem 

And similar to the way the presence of pets have helped reduce psychological distress in Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, the same has been found for pediatric cancer patients and their parents, aiding their well-being throughout the hospitalization.   

  1. They help people who suffer from PTSD

According to a HABRI funded review of 10 studies, animal assisted intervention for patients with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms suggest that the presence of an animal has served as a comforting reminder that danger is no longer present, thus leading to more positive emotions from the patients, as well as an overall display of warmth. 

Additionally, animals have served as social facilitators for PTSD patients, encouraging them to break out of isolation, and connect with people around them. 

  1. They have a positive impact on mental health management

Pets have been found to serve a positive role in people managing long-term health conditions. According to a 2016 study, over time, pets were found to help develop routines that eventually translated to emotional and social support. 

The mere act of caring for a pet helped mental health patients gain a sense of control, while the owners’ relationships with pets provided a sense of security, continuity, and meaning. They were also found to have the ability to provide distraction from distressing symptoms like hearing voices and suicidal thoughts.   

  1. They have a positive impact on people’s quality of life

As you’d find from all of the above, pets  bring a certain sense of joy and stability to people. Whether it’s by providing meaning and worth, or encouraging exercise and mobility, or reducing stress and depression, pet owners have been found to report higher life satisfaction than non-owners. 

Takeaway

It may not have needed scientific for most, but comprehensive studies are now available to back up what people already innately know—pets help better lives. 

Do you or you kids suffer from any of the conditions mentioned above? If you do, perhaps introducing a pet to your lives may just be what you need. 

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