Pets Are Good for Our Mental Health

Hi, it’s Snow here with good news. Dr. Sarah has been writing an RX for several depressed clients to have a dog. Even she was surprised by the dramatic results. […..]

Many depressed clients are eager to have a dog, sometimes spouses or parents have said “no.” She hopes the written RX will help them see the value of a dog for their suffering loved ones. And it has. Four of her depressed clients have had a significant improvement in their mental health since getting a dog.

Why such a difference, well, here’s what she hears and sees:

1) The clients now have a living creature to love and be loved by unconditionally and provide a sense of belonging.

2) Just petting their dog, they say, has a soothing effect, not surprising because it’s been found to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase the calming hormone serotonin, an endorphin that gives us a sense of well-being, harmony and peacefulness. This is really important because Dr. Sarah tells me that stress is recognized to be one of the most common causes of depression.)

3) They also have a reason to get up and out of bed in the morning to attend to the needs of their pet. |                

4) They have a reason to go outdoors and walk with their dog. Both being outdoors and exercising are two other things that have been proven to improve mental health.

5) Dog are “social magnets.” People want to engage you, or your dog. So clients have a chance to be less isolated.

 

These results are not just with Dr. Sarah’s clients. Research also finds:*

  • Dog owners suffer less from depression that those
    without pets.
  • People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
  • Playing with a dog or cat can lowers the level of the stress hormone Cortisol and elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax, are low when one is depressed.
  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
  • Heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without.
  • Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

We’ve already learned about dogs being used in hospitals, nursing homes, and at airports to provide comfort, but now some schools are introducing dogs into their students’ day. Social workers, educators and students in the Iroquois School District in New York say the program helps ease social and academic pressures and achieve important goals in student development. Here’s what research as shown when dogs are properly used in schools and classrooms:*

  • Assist with students whо hаvе anger management issues, bullying behavior аnd оthеr anti-social conduct.
  • Increase empathy/compassion.
  • Help students whо аrе victims оf bullying аnd related behaviors.
  • Decrease retaliatory violence аnd improve self-esteem.
  • Assist with students whо аrе socially disconnected
    frоm thе mainstream student body.
  • Help studemts stay conneted with social networks.
  • Help reduce stress аnd anxiety аmоng children in
    social settings thаt аrе stressful.
  • Reduce anxiety levels аnd hеlр children tо decompress
    аftеr traumatic circumstances.
  • Contribute tо improvement in reading аnd comprehension skills оf students hаving difficulties.
  • Improve reading skills, comprehension аnd increase confidence аnd literary interest.
  • Lessen thе emotional trauma оf a critical incident/event fоr students, teachers аnd staff.

If you think adopting a dog (or another pet) could improve your life, check out The Comprehensive Guide to Adopting a Pet. There is a wealth of information there from finding a pet to preparing to bring your pet home and welcoming him or her into your home and much, much more.

* As reported on HelpDog.org

* As reported on

PetInsurance.com

I  know I sound biased toward dogs since I am one J but lots of other kinds of pets have been found to have found to have positive mental and physical benefits from cats and horses to hamsters, fish and crickets.