We live with puppies because we make each other happy, but did you know there are health benefits of puppies? Multiple studies prove what puppy lovers already know—they’re good for us!
Puppies Reduce Stress
Puppies can be even more beneficial during times of stress. People with pets get sick less often and recover more quickly than those without animal friends. Infants and children who grow up with puppies and kitties are less likely to develop allergies as they mature.
Your puppy may lower blood presser more effectively than medication. That’s because the act of speaking dramatically increases blood pressure, and drugs don’t block this effect. The only thing that counters elevated blood pressure that results from talking is focusing on something outside yourself—like a pet. You can learn how to talk to your puppy effectively.
Your puppy doesn’t even have to be present for this “pet effect” to work. It’s simply enough to know he’s waiting at home. Petting and stroking any friendly dog or cat also lowers blood pressure, so if you’re pet-less, you could volunteer at the shelter or get your fur fix at a neighbor’s home. Petting is especially effective, though, when it’s your own animals.
Puppies Improve Childhood Development
There have even been studies by Aline and Robert Kidd that show youngsters from pet-loving families score higher in cognitive, social, and motor development. Another researcher, Robert Poretsky, developed the Companion Animal Bonding Scale. The higher preschool children scored on this measurement tool, the higher their scores also were in all measures of development and empathy.
Puppies Reduce Doctor Visits
According to a Japanese study, pet owners made 30 percent fewer visits to doctors than those who had no pet. Another survey by British researcher Dr. James Serpell showed it that only one month after getting a dog or a cat, senior citizens had 50 percent fewer minor medical problems such as painful joints, hay fever, insomnia, constipation, anxiety, indigestion, colds and flu, general tiredness, palpitations or breathlessness, back pain, and headaches.
People who have suffered a heart attack—and own pets—recover more quickly and survive longer than heart attack survivors without pets. And those of us who live with a beloved puppy or other pet experience only half as much blood pressure increase when stressed, as those without a pet.
Puppies Increase Exercise
Keeping up with the new puppy can be a challenge. Chasing him around the house and yard, though, has other benefits.
Part of the pet effect has to do with increased exercise. I know that my exercise has increased since Magic came to live with us. He demands a game of fetch outside several times each day, and that gets me up and moving. Dogs won’t take “no” for an answer, or let you sleep late, if the food bowl is empty, and you can’t ignore the puppy’s needs the way you can a membership at the gym. Exercise relieves anxiety, boredom, and depression. While others may look askance at goofy-acting humans, it’s “legal” to play and have fun with your pets—which is as good for our own mental health as it is for the pets. Set aside time every day to play with your puppy and you’ll feel better for it.
Pets keep us connected socially, too. Walking the dog or talking about your puppy at the pet food aisle at the grocery encourages contact that keeps us interested in life and other people.
Puppies Relieve Pain and Anxiety
I’m not making this stuff up. Positron emission tomography (PET scan) is an imaging test that helps physicians to detect biochemical changes used to diagnose and monitor various health conditions. These tests show that touching a pet shuts down the pain-processing centers of the brain. Petting your puppy relieves your own pain and also buffers anxiety, all without the side effects of Valium. In other words, a puppy on your lap can ease your pain.
We often refer to “the bond” when talking about the love we feel for our pets. Science can actually measure this pet effect because thought and attitudes are influenced by changes in brain chemicals. These chemicals prompt feelings of elation, safety, tranquility, happiness, satisfaction, even love. Blood tests that measure these chemicals reveal that the levels increase for people—AND for the pets!—when bonding takes place. In other words, when you bond with the puppy, those feel-good chemicals and bonding happen for both you and the puppy so your puppy does feel love.
Of course, if your puppy is a juvenile delinquent pooch that needs more training, he may raise your blood pressure by chewing illegal targets or having potty accidents in the house. But all the aggravation is worth it. Never discount how this pet effect impacts you and your puppy. Consider getting a puppy to be a furry prescription, and you’ll both qualify for the health benefits.