Dr. Aaron's Blog

The importance of man’s best friend.

October 1, 2014 All by Aaron Van Gaver

Most people will agree that having a pet is wonderful. A dog or cat is a living, breathing animal that provides love, devotion and sometimes entertainment. They are your most loyal companion and depend on you to feed and provide for them. The benefits of your pet extend far beyond these seemingly simple aspects.

Socially, a pet such as a dog can act as an icebreaker contributing to the creation of meaningful relationships with others. For older individuals or people with few social connections they can take the place of a friend or partner indirectly lessening anxiety and depression. By providing companionship dogs or other social pets are invaluable and with the social facet of life balanced, the emotional and physical components are less likely to suffer.

Having a pet can significantly decrease the negative impact of stress hormones on the body. Norepinephrine and cortisol are important hormones for a stress response, but long term stress and increased concentrations of these hormones in the body can lead to disease states by negatively impacting the immune system. For individuals with high blood pressure, adopting a pet has been shown to decrease blood pressure readings.  Individuals with a history of heart attacks have shown decreases in cholesterol and triglyceride levels after adopting a pet when compared to patients who have not.

If you are not able to have a pet for allergies or lifestyle, you can always tag along the next time a friend takes their dog for a walk or snuggle up with their cat and momentarily enjoy the unconditional love and loyalty they offer. If you do, go cuddle your cat or dog or give your hamster a treat silently thanking them for all they give you.