Study shows dogs can keep you energized and vitalized.
An Australian researcher recently announced that pet ownership can save billions in health spending because pets help reduce blood pressure and risk of heart disease while connecting their owners to the community and increasing a sense of well-being.
“Research shows pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, are less depressed and have lower risk of heart disease” said University of Queensland psychologist Maggie O’Haire in a June article for The Courier-Mail in Australia. “They feel less lonely than non-pet owners and actually find it easier to get to know people.”
O’Haire said less is known about how animals affect children, but she is studying what pets can do for children with autism spectrum disorder or Asperger syndrome.
Did you know that a dog can help you through a breakup?
A Southern California therapy dog volunteer agrees with the Australian study.
“It’s a fact that’s medically proven that dogs can lower blood pressure,” said Linda Randall, who has worked with therapy dogs for nearly 10 years and is a member of Therapy Dogs of Southern California.
The organization claims petting a dog will calm a person’s heart rate and lower blood pressure. Studies also indicate petting a dog prompts the human brain to release endorphins that block pain.
Randall has seen how her Irish Wolfhounds and Afghan Hound uplift the moods of traumatized patients.
Three years ago, Randall visited a young woman who was assaulted and wouldn’t talk to anyone. But when the woman saw Randall’s dogs, she burst into tears and began talking to the dogs.
In another incident, a catatonic woman who wouldn’t speak, said, “Oh look a dog!” when she spotted the therapy dogs, Randall said. The dogs also comforted a boy who was suffering from burns.
Randall’s dogs also helped a stroke patient with his recovery, Randall said. The man suffered the stroke in 2003 and had his left arm paralyzed with his palm up. The patient also lost hope after the stroke.
“He was ready to die then when he saw the dog he took his paralyzed hand and turned it the right way to pet the dog,” Randall said while trying to stand up. He tried even to step off his wheelchair.
Randall’s dogs followed the patient for three years as he regained his speech and began walking with a cane.
She explained how dogs boost emotional and mental well-being.
“Dogs feel emotions of people and react to it,” Randall said. “They see you’re sad, even lonely and they will cuddle into you. You and I wouldn’t do that, especially to somebody we’ve never met. Dogs are not afraid to show emotion, they’re not afraid to comfort.”
In everyday life, canine companions get their senior citizen owners to exercise by urging them to walk, according to a 2008 article in Senior Journal. Dogs can also soothe senior citizens who feel unsafe or vulnerable from living alone, according to the article.
Check our guide on how to make traveling with your dog easier.
Dogs can help smokers quit
Pets can even persuade their owners to quit smoking, according to a February article from U.S. News & World Report. The article cited a survey of smokers conducted by the Henry Ford Health System Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
One in three smokers responded they would kick their habits knowing that second-hand smoke can harm their pet’s health.
Randall said she has benefited from owning dogs.
“They’re my ‘family,’” she said. “I know they’re dogs first, but I also call them ‘the kids.’”