The health benefits of owning a dog

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to health officials calling for us to stay home and practice physical distancing. While it is socially responsible to stay at home, our physical and mental health can be negatively impacted in times of isolation if we’re not careful. It’s important, especially nowadays, to have ways to cope with the adverse side effects of self-isolation. The good news is that owning a dog can positively impact our physical and mental health, especially during times of self-isolation!

 

Many of us own dogs and consider them a part of our family. We factor them into decisions we make, from picking pet-friendly hotels on vacations to scheduling time in our days to walk them. Although it may seem that we do much more for our dogs than they do for us, this is probably not the case. Owning a dog has numerous physical and mental health benefits that affect our overall well-being.

 

Physical health benefits

Dogs encourage exercise! Most dogs require daily exercise, encouraging you to be more active when you own one. This is especially relevant at the moment, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While most gyms, fields, and parks are shut down, owning a dog can keep us moving as we walk them daily. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that owning a dog can lead to lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels, which lowers your risk for stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be as physically healthy as possible, not only for yourself, but for those who rely on your support. Performing moderate exercise daily, like taking your dog for a walk, can reduce your risk of catching a respiratory infection, such as the flu, by nearly 30%. 

 

Mental health benefits

Much like the physical health benefits of owning a dog, the mental health benefits that dogs provide for their owners are quite significant. Self-isolation, such as the kind we’re experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Research has shown that these mental health disorders can be mitigated by owning a dog.  The CDC also states that owning a pet can help us fight loneliness and reduce stress. With physical distancing being practiced in the community, feelings of loneliness and a lack of companionship are issues many of us are facing. Owning a dog is a great way to combat these problems! Dogs aren’t called “man’s best friend” for no reason. Most of the time, they’re keen for a cuddle or a game of fetch. 

 

Societal benefits

The positive effects that dogs have on their owners’ health is not the only reason why owning one is a rewarding experience. Dog shelters are in need at the moment. With less staff and volunteers working, dogs in shelters are facing decreases in social time. Further exacerbating the issue of reduced socialization, many shelters are asking that people refrain from visiting shelters unless they are coming to adopt a dog. Now might be the right time to adopt a new family member! We all have more time at home right now, which allows for a smooth transition from a shelter to your home if you do decide to adopt a dog. Not only will you reap the positive health benefits of dog ownership when you adopt a dog, but you will also be making a positive impact on an animal shelter and a dog in need.

 

Dog owners can certainly attest to the positive impact their pet has on their lives. However, there is much more than  anecdotal evidence regarding the benefits of dog ownership. Research backs up the positive impacts our furry friends have on our physical and mental health. In stressful and uncertain times like these, dogs provide us with much needed stress-relief, companionship, and the motivation to stay physically active. If you are interested in adopting a dog, there is no better time than now to improve your quality of life and make a positive impact on society.

 

References:

Centre for Disease Control: Healthy Pets, Healthy People

Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin

Science Daily: Couch Potato or Elite Athlete? A Happy Medium Keeps Colds at Bay