How Pets Raise Spirits and Improve Health

Pets are good for you.

Most people who have a pet donít need scientific proof. Their own experiences are enough to confirm that the bond between humans and pets is enormously beneficial to physical and emotional health. The unconditional affection of a pet calms, soothes, and enhances the feeling of well-being.

Here I was, just beginning to draft an article about the health benefits of pets, when a Facebook friend posted the following message. ďHey, FB Friends: I want another dog and my family says Ďnoí because I have MS. What do you think? I want a new rescue dog.Ē

Having multiple sclerosis (MS) myself, I understand the desire for the kind of companionship that only a pet can give. Her family is probably concerned about the commitment it takes to properly care for a pet, and understandably so. Choosing the right pet for your personal circumstances requires planning, but you are likely to get quite a return for your efforts.

The non-profit Delta Society reports that 63 percent of all households in the U.S. have pets; 39 percent of all households have at least one dog and 34 percent have at least one cat. The benefits of having a pet include:

  • For Children: Children can learn valuable lessons in responsibility; caring for other living beings improves self-esteem. The unconditional love creates a bond that will be treasured for a lifetime. Pets also encourage children to engage in physical activity. An Australian study indicates dog ownership may help fight childhood obesity. Researchers found that children five to six years old were 50 percent less likely to be overweight if they had a dog. This benefit was present even if those children did not regularly walk the dog and regardless of economic status of the household.
  • For Adults: Busy work schedules need to be balanced with play. Spending time with a pet can lower anxiety and stress levels. For people who are shy or have trouble making friends, having a pet breaks social barriers and feelings of isolation. And itís fairly difficult to stay in a bad mood when your pet looks up at you with those big, loving eyes, or takes to your lap.
  • For Seniors: Studies show that older people with dogs visit the doctor less often with minor health issues and have lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol than non-pet owners. Seniors are advised to have pets that are easily managed. Many nursing homes have visiting pet programs that have been shown to have a tremendous impact on human lives.

Therapy animals are trained to provide companionship to people who are trying to overcome depression and loneliness, among other things. That says a lot about the human-animal connection. And letís not forget the hard-working and dedicated service animals who are trained to assist people with disabilities. Although these animals are not generally considered pets, the bond between people and their service animals is profound.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that benefits to owning a pet include decreases in:

and increases in:

Years ago, when my husband and I found ourselves in a too tidy and too quiet home, we decided to inject a little life into things. A dog wasnít quite right for our lifestyle, so off to the animal shelter we went in search of a cat. We found one… make that two. The brother-sister duo we named Smokey and Bandit did exactly what we hoped they would — they added chaos and noise and laughs and cuddles. Just what the doctor ordered.

Bandit has since left this world, but Smokey hasnít let up in her duties. To this day, when MS symptoms get the best of me, she snuggles up when I need her most. I canít tell you, scientifically speaking, how that affects my health. I can tell you that she lifts my spirits and helps me put aside my troubles. Thatís enough for me.

As for my Facebook friend, I hope she works things out with her family; I hope they volunteer to help her care for the dog when MS gets the upper hand; I hope she gets her rescue dog. When it comes to people and pets, sometimes they rescue each other.

182 comments

Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitneyabout a year ago

pets are our best friend wouldn't be without one.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitneyabout a year ago

really great article thank you for sharing

Alison Hill
Alison HILLabout a year ago

Having pets turns you into a better person. When I meet people for the first time I can usually tell if they have or have had pets just by the way they relate to others.

Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

Pinke A.
Pinke A.4 years ago

I agree with Ann,just having the dog (or a cat?) near to you,when you'r lonely,depressed and maybe having serious pain,helps! I do not need any scientifically clear and proved explanation for that,I can feel it and know it every day.

Corinne R.
Corinne Ruiz4 years ago

We've had our cat Denzie for almost 10 years. Denzie is my daughter's cat. My daughter passed away 7 years ago, she was only 14 years old. I found myself lost, broken hearted, not knowing how I would survive living without my daughter. I finally started to open my heart to God and have grown to know Him in a way I've never known. Then about 2 years ago I decided I wanted to adopt a puppy. Well, I ended up adopting 2 puppies Lucy and Roxy. They were abandonded on the side of a road and in the shelter. Today, my dogs make me laugh, whenever I cry, missing my daughter, my dogs know and they jump up on my lap. Denzie our cat has adjusted. I thank God for all of my pets.

Christine Vasquez

Pets not only give us company, they enrich our lives in ways which only a person with that bond can understand! My dog passed away a few months ago unexpectedly and my life has not been the same without her. I have my family, which gives me all the love I need, but the place my adorable dog had has left a huge void in my life. Maybe some time soon I will find the moment to refill that emptiness with another beautiful spirit. They definitely enrich our lives!

pam wilkerson
pam wilkerson4 years ago

Yes, I agree this will make both human and animals happy as long as they are together. I am also sorry that these people who dont know how to treat thier animals better than beating them up. Stop the abuse and starting rubbing your kitty's or your dog's!!! Let your hate beforgotten!
I also never forgotten about this true story about this dog who have been going to the jailhouse( the prisoners for men)from her owner home. WHen the owner got a new job and she and her dog have to move far away. Her dog wasnt too happy. He suddenly disappeared and found the way back to the jail. The dog was so happy to see all the prisoners. They too were happy to see him. So the owner was shocked so she decided( if I rememeber right) to leave her dog at prision. What a beauiful moments!!!