Yesterday (Feb 20) is “National Love Your Pet Day.” I don’t own a pet, although I really want to. The lovely Toby (name from a smart search dog in Sherlock Holmes) of my neighbor’s has always been my dream dog – I love poodles.
Higher survival rates, fewer heart attacks, less loneliness, better blood pressure, better psychological well-being, lower rates of depression and stress levels, fewer doctor visits, increased self-esteem, better sleep and more physical activity – all of these are benefits of pet ownership, according to psychologist Harold Herzog at Western Carolina University.
Anxiety and mood
There’s some research that shows having a pet with you during an anxious event could help reduce the stress. A pet owner would also say so: that their pets ease their emotions especially when they need it.
Among all the 30 studies Herzog pulled on the topic, the conclusion was not in agreement. Some found pets eased depressive symptoms; some showed no difference in reduce depressive rates in people with or without pets; others might find pets made depression worse.
There’s no clear conclusion on the topic, of which my personal hypothesis would be it’s highly related with personal likes (for example, people who love pets would feel better with pets than people who just keep pets for emotional relief, which may not actually work.)
Dogs and cardiovascular health
Several large studies were conducted on the link between dog ownership and risk of cardiovascular health. the conclusions were similar: Owning a dog can reduce both the risk of cardiovascular disease and death because of it by about 30%.
The cardio benefits are just for dogs, because dog owners are more likely to expose to walking or jogging exercise for up to 30 minutes a day, comparing with non-walkers. Therefore, lower risk of cardio disease may not come from dogs, but the extra exercise time walking the dogs.
Well, for a dog owner, it doesn’t really matter whether the health benefits are from the dogs or the walking – they need to walk with the dogs anyway.
There’s no confirmed conclusion now, and the debate may last for some time in the future. But it’s perfectly fine if you love a pet and want to own one – as long as you are not allergic or have other pets-related problems.