Pet Ownership: 3 Surprising Health Benefits

We all know that owning a pet can be good for us. The unconditional love that’s on offer helps to decrease stress, anxiety and depression. And dog owners in particular are often getting regular exercise which is great for our overall health and wellbeing. However, owning a pet has some additional health benefits that you may not even have been aware of. So read on to find out how your furry friend could be helping you to live a healthier life.

Helps to lower pain

It may come as a surprise but studies have shown that pets can have a positive effect on people suffering from long-term, chronic pain associated with conditions such as arthritis or migraines. It’s all to do with reducing anxiety. If you feel less anxious, then you feel less pain. In fact, one study in the US found that people who were offered pet therapy when recovering from surgery needed significantly less pain medications than other patients.

Monitors blood sugar levels for diabetics

Research published in the American Diabetes Association’s magazine suggested that as many as one third of the pets (usually dogs but also cats, birds and rabbits) living with diabetics, changed their behaviours when their owner’s blood sugar levels dropped. The researchers concluded this was most likely in reaction to chemical changes in the owner’s body. In fact, organisations such as Kotuku Foundation Assistance Animals Aotearoa specially train diabetic assistance dogs to become companions to those at risk. The hypersensitive nose of a diabetic response dog can alert diabetics to an oncoming attack before the person even knows it. The dogs do this by detecting abnormal blood sugar levels and responding to an episode of hypoglycaemia. When this happens the dog is trained to use indicator behaviour, summon assistance or retrieve vital medical supplies.

Prevents allergies and improves immunity

Contrary to what you might think, certainly for children, having a pet can help to prevent allergies and improves their immunity. It’s a fact that those kids that grow up on farms or around animals tend to have fewer allergies than those that don’t. It seems that early exposure to potential allergens is actually a great way to develop immunity. Sadly though if you are already allergic, getting a pet as an adult will not minimise your existing allergies, the preventative benefits have only been observed in children.

New Zealand has one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world with more than 2 million of us owning a dog or cat alone. And having that four-legged friend brings with it a myriad of health benefits. Helping to keep your blood pressure low, decreasing stress, improving your mood and encouraging you to exercise regularly are all positive health benefits of having pet ownership.