5 great reasons to own a pet!

What are the physical and mental health benefits of owning a cat or dog?

Our love for our pets knows no boundaries. They can be our most loyal companions and best friends. Many of us develop a strong bond with our cat or dog and they brighten up even our darkest days.

But did you know just how much living with a pet can do for you? Our beloved cats and dogs can actually improve our physical and mental well-being! If you’re in any doubt as to how we benefit from having the company of our cats and dogs around us then here are some great reasons why it’s good to have a furry friend.

1) Increases your physical activity

For most animal lovers, owning a pet means catering to their every need. Caring for a pet doesn’t stop at the basic requirements such as food, water, shelter and human interaction. Most pets also require grooming, additional exercise and good, old-fashioned play time! Either way, your pet is going to get you up and about, so some form of physical activity is going to be involved – which is a good thing.

Increased movement from walking or playing with your pet will contribute greatly to the physical health of your body. Daily exercise with your pet can reduce fat, reduce blood pressure and maintain a healthy heart. For those who suffer with high cholesterol, physical exercise with your pet can also help keep it at an acceptable level.

2) Helps lower your stress levels

Whenever you develop stress or anxiety, your brain may release adrenaline and cortisol (the stress related hormone), which can be detrimental to your heart and mental health if they persist for a prolonged period of time. Pets not only make their owners laugh and giggle but more importantly contribute to the release of oxytocin; a “cuddle hormone” that reverses the effects of cortisol and leaves a person feeling stress-free.

There’s also that calmness you get as you watch your dog run around playfully or as you soothe your cat’s fur. Medical practitioners have found that interacting with an animal greatly increases your chances of a quick recovery after surgery as animals tend to increase positivity and mental wellbeing.

3) Dogs can strengthen your child's immune system

Discovering that your child could suffer from a severe allergic reaction due to contact with certain organic or man-made items such as peanuts, egg or shellfish can be life altering. However, if you own a pet such as a dog, chances are your child will develop a stronger immune system thanks to your dog’s dander that they shed. Exposure to animal dust and hair can prevent a child (especially infants within their first year) from a very young age from developing later in life allergies.

4) Pets are great therapy

Pet therapy is steadily growing in popularity throughout the UK. Children with learning disabilities such as ADHD and autism, are encouraged to interact with therapy animals in controlled environments. These interactions have shown to help create positive and calm environments for children, which overall increases their levels of concentration, memory retention and aids academic improvement.

Pet therapy can provide children as well as adults, with an emotional connection that some may find hard to establish with other humans. By petting an animal, not only can it sooth an individual but it can create an emotional experience that may not have been there before.

5) Dogs can warn of impending danger

Dogs have a great sense of smell. In fact, the part of their brains that analyses smell is around 40 times greater than humans! And although humans have been working with dogs and their keen sense of smell for hundreds of years, it’s only in recent years that dogs are now being used to monitor individuals who suffer from health issues such as epileptic seizures.

Those who suffer from epilepsy, seizures and other health issues are known to omit an odour that differs from a regular healthy human odour. By using the powerful nose of a dog, an individual that may begin to show signs that they are developing a seizure, will be alerted by their specially trained dog with specific barking or movement, therefore allowing the individual to safely prep themselves for the seizure or alerting others.

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