Having a furry companion around your home may be just what you need to help you relax and relieve that unwanted stress after a busy day. Stick along for the ride as we uncover the facts about this belief.
Owning A Dog Decreases Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is a hormone that is released during stressful situations. Surprisingly, touching or petting a dog can have a profound impact by decreasing the level of cortisol in the bloodstream and increasing levels of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin, which are hormones associated with feelings of happiness and joy. Dogs not only affect our mood, but they affect the chemicals in our bodies as well.
Pets Help Reduce Blood Pressure
If you have a high demanding job that constantly leads to stress, increased cortisol levels may lead to high blood pressure, which can eventually produce high cholesterol levels or hypertension. Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a nursing professor and associate director at the Center for Animal Wellness, Missouri University College of Veterinary Medicine, conducted a study with Richard Meadows, testing how blood pressure levels are affected in both humans and animals after petting a dog. By drawing blood samples at the beginning of the petting session and every five minutes after, the researchers found that the humans’ blood pressure dropped roughly 10 percent 15 to 30 minutes after petting the dog, and the dog’s blood pressure dropped immediately, according to NBC.
Dogs Encourage Exercise
As you probably know, exercising can increase endorphins in your bloodstream and help reduce the symptoms of depression. Dog owners are likely to get outside and play catch with their pets, run around or go for walks, which can lead to an overall healthier lifestyle and may help diminish the symptoms of depression. Exercise, of course, has other health benefits by helping manage weight, and it can also increase cardiovascular endurance.
A Pet Owner May Experience Less Anxiety
Apart from all the biological benefits listed above, pet owners or those who are able to interact with dogs may experience less anxiety. Oftentimes, therapy dogs are brought to hospitals and nursing homes to lift a patient’s mood.
We had a friend who was in the hospital for almost a month. Her frequent visits with a therapy dog helped so much, that she decided to become a pet owner after that and certify her own dog as a therapy dog, so that she could take him to hospitals and help other patients who are suffering.
And, of course, a dog is a forever companion. After our friend had a major heart surgery and returned home, his shih tzu knew he wasn’t feeling well. Even though the tiny pup had always been scared to go in the basement, when her owner would go down there, she would race downstairs with him, stay for a few minutes, then head upstairs and sit at the top of the steps waiting for him. Every 20 minutes or so, she would head downstairs, check on him for a few minutes, then come back upstairs to wait for him again at the top of the stairs.
With a pet, you are truly never alone and always have a forever friend.
Dogs May Reduce A Child’s Social Anxiety
Do you have a child that is extremely timid to read in school or speak up in class? Having a therapy dog or a pet dog may help lessen the anxiety. In one sense, dogs are able to do what humans can’t, because people are more easily able to open up and share their feelings to an animal without fearing the rejection of another person. By reading to a therapy dog who is trained to sit still and be patient, a child can practice reading to the dog without having the fear of being judged. Reading out loud to a dog may help boost your child’s confidence in a way that carries over into the classroom as well.
And so, it’s true! Dogs help reduce stress. Dogs are man’s best friend in every kind of way; not only providing biological benefits, but also benefits that help increase our mood as well.
If you know anyone who could benefit from this article, please feel free to share it. Here at Cane Bay, we are concerned just as much about your well-being as we are about your pets’ health.