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Benefits of Companion Animals

June 2, 2017

Having a pet can be a very rewarding experience…in more ways than many can imagine!

As pets are often considered to be beloved family members, there is a good chance that if a person was asked if they felt their health benefited from owning an animal, their response would be an emphatic “yes!”

Scientific studies agree and support the belief that when a relationship forms between a human and animal, the bond can have a positive impact on the person’s physiological, psychological, and social health.

Physiological Benefits of Animals

When a person suffers from worry and stress, owning an animal helps by:

  • Lowering anxiety levels
  • Alleviating stress-related conditions by decreasing their onset, progression, and severity.

An interesting point to keep in mind is that for a person to benefit from animal contact, they don’t have to own or live with the animal. Just being near one has been noted to have an impact. For example, the chance to watch aquariums in hospitals and nursing homes benefits the physical health of Alzheimer’s patients, the elderly, and the infirm by:

  • Decreasing pulse rate
  • Decreasing muscle tension
  • Increasing skin temperature
  • Boosting nutritional intake and weight of Alzheimer’s patients.

When people spend time with therapy animals, it has been found that:

  • Just 5 minutes of interaction has been shown to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol
  • One 30-minute session finds people notably happier and with a better sense of well-being, which is caused by an increase in the levels of dopamine and endorphins, and a decrease of the level of cortisol
  • Lonely residents, especially those in long-term or permanent care, feel less alone and isolated
  • Patients respond with an increase in ability to maintain independent self-care and mobility.

Animal-assisted therapy has also been shown to directly benefit Alzheimer’s patients by:

  • Increasing the time spent socializing between patients and staff
  • Decreasing patient problem behaviors
  • Helping residents acquire a level of calm. 

Having an animal can also decrease stress levels by increasing a person’s level of activity.  Dedicating daily time to walk and play with a pet not only boosts the time spent exercising, but also works to provide cardiovascular benefits by:

  • Reducing blood pressure in an amount equal to what might be gained through dietary changes such as switching to a low-salt diet or lowering alcohol intake
  • Protecting against the risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering
    • Systolic blood pressure
    • Cholesterol
    • Plasma triglycerides
  • Decreasing heart rate
  • Increasing the length of survival following a heart attack.

Psychological Benefits of Pets

When people go through stressful life events, such as the loss of a loved one, having an illness, or being homeless, they may experience depression, loneliness, and insecurity. Having a pet provides a level of support and companionship that benefits their mental health. Studies have shown that when people are in these types of situations, having a pet positively impacts their life by:

  • Reducing depression
  • Warding off loneliness by providing companionship
  • Increasing the need to take or maintain responsibility for self
  • Lowering the incidence of psychological disease
  • Lessening the need for medication
  • Providing a sense of purpose.

Social Benefits of Animals

Animals can be used as icebreakers in certain social settings. If, for instance, a person has difficulty engaging in conversation, an animal can fill the role of social catalyst. With their attention on the animal, strangers may be more encouraged to step out of their comfort zone to talk to the animal, which ends with their holding a conversation with the animal’s person.

Not only are animals fun and entertaining, but they can also provide other great health benefits to their human family members! 

 Contact your Covetrus representative online or at 855.724.3461 for additional information regarding animal needs


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