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Exploring Life Attachments Part 5: How Pets Affect Your Health

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Like many adults, you may view your pets as lifelines for fulfilling many human needs — even like members of your family. Though, while they provide numerous therapeutic and health benefits, some may aggravate certain medical conditions. Learn how to reduce undesirable effects and encourage beneficial results to enhance your wellness. Balance pets with other life attachments including friends, work, technology and hobbies while satisfying your diet, exercise and medication strategies. You can reserve more time for your pets by receiving discount prescriptions from an online pharmacy without leaving home. For convenience, your mail delivery can include pet medications.

Pets Can Be Your Best Allies

Humans and domestic animals have been forming close bonds for at least 15,000 years. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey, 68 percent of U.S. households, or 82.5 million homes, own a pet. Besides the pleasure of playing or snuggling with a furry friend, your pet’s companionship, unconditional love, friendship and affection provide many advantages. Pet owners tend to rate their happiness, self-confidence, self-care, alertness, responsiveness and dependability higher than non-pet owners. Below are just two of the ways pets can enhance your life. Touch. Most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Petting, stroking, cuddling and holding a loving animal can calm and soothe you rapidly during times of stress. Many hardened criminals in prison who experienced mutual affection for the first time by interacting with pets have shown long-term behavior improvements. Purpose. Assuming a care-taking role by feeding, grooming or walking a pet can provide a sense of purpose and responsibility. Especially for older people, pets give structure to their day, contributing to their overall well-being. An animal can be an anchor if you’ve undergone a major change or loss and may even serve as a family substitute.

9 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Pets offer many physical and mental health benefits. Dogs, cats and even goldfish can ease loneliness, lift your mood, reduce stress, promote social interaction and encourage exercise and playfulness. Animals can offset physical and emotional conditions, improving your quality of life and extending it as well. These are several ways animals can improve your health. Enhanced vitality. Pets can help you overcome many of the physical challenges associated with aging. They encourage playfulness, laughter and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy. Reduced muscle tension. While dog owners often experience the greatest health benefits due to the necessity of walking and playing, even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension. Comfort and support. Researchers discovered that pets, like friends, can provide comfort and social support after owners experience rejection. Fewer sick days. Pet owners take fewer sicker days and need to see doctors less often than people without pets.pets1 Increased heart health. Caring for pets can decrease blood pressure, pulse rate, cholesterol and triglycerides. The American Heart Association has linked pets, especially dogs, with reduced heart disease risk and increased longevity. Other research shows that cat owners are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 40 percent less likely to have a stroke. Heart attack patients with pets are eight times more likely to be alive a year later than people without pets. Blood sugar monitoring. alert diabetic owners to blood sugar fluctuations. These pets can pick up on scents 20 to 45 minutes before a meter can detect a change. Dogs with early diagnostic noses bark, whine or exhibit other behavior changes to signal the diabetic’s blood sugar is too low or too high. This allows diabetics to treat unstable blood sugar in a timely manner. Alzheimer’s improvement. Research at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine concluded that living with pets reduced Alzheimer’s patients’ anxious outbursts and aggressive behavior. Mental health boost. Caring for pets can decrease depression by giving you an optimistic mindset. Playing with a pet can elevate your serotonin and dopamine levels, which calm and relax the mind and body. Anxiety relief. Horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and fish help patients cope with anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and developmental disabilities. Animal-assisted therapy reduces anxiety and improves mood.

Plus 1 or 2 Downsides

Besides requiring responsibility, allergies and asthma are the most common health risks of pet ownership. If you or a family member has a pet allergy, consider carefully whether living with the symptoms is possible before committing to pet ownership. While a pet tends to increase its owner’s happiness, independence and security, you’ll benefit most by picking an animal that’s compatible with your lifestyle, physical capabilities and health. Pet dander is a common allergy and asthma trigger, so choose short-hair, non-shedding or hypoallergenic pets if you know this may be an issue. Minimize your symptoms by grooming pets, using dander-neutralizing shampoos and sprays, removing hair from furniture and vacuuming frequently. Limit pet access to bedrooms and keep human and pet bedding clean. Wash your hands thoroughly after animal contact. Also keep your pet healthy with on-schedule vaccinations, vet visits, wormers and any necessary medications. If your symptoms persist, a doctor can run pet allergy tests and/or recommend medical treatments.

How to Get the Benefits Without the Commitment

If you’re unable to handle the demands of pet ownership, offer to walk a neighbor’s dog or pet sit. Find an animal shelter or rescue group near you that welcomes volunteers or offers a rent-a-pet program. You can reap the physical and mental health rewards of animal contact without being a constant companion.

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