The Healing Power Between Humans and Their Pets | Hastings Veterinary Hospital

The Healing Power Between Humans and Their Pets

Stuck in quarantine? Cabin fever? This bizarre era of quarantine has obviously changed life as we know it for the time being. One respite that many have, however, is a pet. Unusual circumstances have helped us to see, even more clearly, the healing power between humans and their pets.

In a time when we can’t see our human loved ones, our animal friends still provide us with connection, companionship, and unconditional love.

The connection between people and their animals is a strong one, and that’s because it’s a friendship that originated as long as 14,000 years ago. For millennia, we have had animals at our side, and it’s not hard to see why. Scientific study has shown the tangible benefit of having a pet, for children and adults alike. Here are five of the healing effects of having a pet.

1. Improved immune system

Although it might be a surprise, some animals—namely dogs—can actually boost your immune system. A 2004 study from Wilkes university found that subjects that pet a live dog had an increase of immunoglobulin (also known as antibodies)—an important component of the immune system. Subjects that pet a stuffed animal or sat on a couch did not see an increase of antibodies.

Although it might not be enough all on its own, the immune system boost provided by dogs can be a great help when trying to stay well. There are plenty of reasons to love your dog, and learning that it might be keeping you healthy is just another one to add to the list. 

2. Making friends and getting outside 

Getting outdoors and socializing has been proven to improve mental health, decrease stress, and promote healthy development in kids. Now more than ever, having a dog is the perfect excuse to get outside and do something. A simple evening stroll, a walk in the park, or a hike are all great ways to get away from home for a few moments, and will definitely keep your furry friend happy. 

Dogs or even well-behaved cats can also be a great way to meet other people. Strangers are more likely to initiate conversation when you have a dog, and it can be a nice icebreaker as well. Of course, make sure to stay six feet apart if you do wind up talking shop with any other dog owners. 

3. Therapy for pain, anxiety, and depression 

Animals provide us with a comfort that, for some, is a crucial part of our support system. Some animals are trained and actively work to help people complete tasks. These are known as service animals. For instance, a service dog may navigate a blind person, or sense a seizure in their partner. Mini horses have also been used as service animals, helping the blind, and people with Parkinson’s. In some cases, capuchin monkeys have been used as service animals as well, in order to help with grabbing things, opening doors, or even turning pages of a book. Dogs and cats are also sometimes used as emotional support animals, which aren’t formally trained, but can help provide comfort and companionship to people struggling with mental illness or injury.

Beyond these working animals, an animal simply living in our homes and being our friend provides us with countless mental health benefits. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or sad, petting a happy animal can be the perfect distraction. It helps to calm the mind, and is even thought to lower blood pressure! 

4. Higher self-esteem and confidence 

Having an animal in a child’s home as they grow up has been shown to improve self-esteem and confidence, and it’s not hard to see why. When a child has no one else to play with, animals step in as the perfect partner. Dogs can keep up with an energetic kid, and cats can entertain for hours. Not only that, but the unconditional love from an animal can be a great way for a kid to learn affection, and show more of it as they grow up.

5. Quarantine buddies

For those of us no longer working, it can be hard to feel motivated by anything during quarantine. Having animals in the home is not only some welcome company while in self-isolation, but also it can help provide us with a sense of purpose. There’s no time to lie in bed all day when your cat needs its dish refilled, or when the dog is hassling you for a walk. Our animals get us out there, and keep us involved with the world, no matter what.

Beyond being our best friends, pets have countless healing powers, helping us to stay healthy and happy, even in the most extraordinary circumstances. In order to keep things running smoothly, it’s important to make sure your pet is healthy as well. For more information on pets, their benefits to people, and how to keep them well, contact us today!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.