“It sounds as if you may be dealing with some Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.” We had suspected it, but now the vet was confirming our suspicions. Our 14-year-old Puggle is most likely exhibiting signs of CCD, or Doggy Dementia. We spent the rest of the appointment talking about ways to make things as good as possible for the little guy.
When things like this happen, owning a pet can be tough. It can be heartbreaking to watch a pet that’s been part of your family for years start to go downhill. The joy of having them in our lives makes up for the pain we experience though.
Pets can add so much to our lives, and they can even improve our health and wellness.
How Pets Can Improve Our Wellness
Here are five ways they directly impact our wellness:
1. They can help us be more active.
This is especially true if your pet is a dog. As we all know, dogs have to be taken outside several times a day. Whether we take them out for official walks or just walk around with them in the back yard, we’re moving more and — added benefit — getting some fresh air.
2. Pets can help improve brain health.
We know that often, what benefits our bodies also benefits our brains. Physical activity, especially aerobic activity, is proven to increase our brain health. This is true even for those who might be at risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia.
When we take our pets out for their walk, we’re working toward that recommended 150 minutes of activity per week.
3. They can reduce stress.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed, if you spend a few minutes with your pet you start to feel better? It’s not just psychological; it’s physiological.
According to Marwan Sabbagh, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health,
“Simply petting an animal can decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol and boost release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, resulting in lowered blood pressure and heart rate and, possibly, in elevated mood.”
Marwan Sabbagh, MD
4. Pets can help us feel less lonely.
Pets give us companionship and help us feel less lonely. It can be easy for people to start feeling isolated and alone if they spend a lot of time at home. Having a pet to care for and talk to can help us feel loved and appreciated.
5. They can help us make social connections.
Pet owners often have an immediate bond when they start talking about their fur babies. All it takes is seeing each other walking your dogs, or talking about the cute things your cat has done lately to spark a whole conversation.
And even if it’s just one of those quick, micro-connections we talked about in The Importance of Social Connection, it can help improve our sense of ‘belonging’ in the world.
These are just a few of the ways pets can improve our wellness. And we haven’t even talked about the love and joy they bring to our lives….
Choosing the Right Pet for You
Pets are wonderful additions to our lives, but they can also be a lot of work. Before getting a pet, we need to make sure we can give them the care they need to thrive.
When we’re thinking of adding a pet to our family, there are several things we need to consider. We want to make sure we can give our pets the best life possible while ensuring we don’t overextend our limits of time and energy.
Doing our research ahead of time can help us make sure we choose the pet that’s right for us. Here are the questions the CDC recommends we ask before adopting a pet:
- How long will this animal live?
- What does the pet eat?
- How much exercise does the pet need?
- How large will it become?
- How much will it cost for veterinary care?
- Do I have enough time to properly care for and clean up after the pet?
- What type of habitat does this pet need to be healthy?
- What type of exercise does this pet need?
- Are pets allowed in my house, apartment, or condominium?
- Are there young children, older people, or people with weak immune systems who will care for or be around the pet?
Answering these questions is vital to making sure we choose the right pet for us. Doing our research about their needs ahead of times ensures we’re able to provide the proper level of care for them and gives us the best chance of having a relationship that is beneficial for both our pets and us.
Pets can be a wonderful addition to many families. We’ve seen some of the ways our pets can improve our health, but it’s not just our health they can impact – they can impact our quality of life. That means they can improve our overall wellness.
Do you have pets? What kind of impact have they had on your health and your quality of life? Please share!