Our pets play an integral role in our mental health. Pets are attuned to us, our behavior and our emotions. They not only understand many words, but they can also interpret our tone of voice, gestures and body language. Have you ever had one of those days where you just want to crawl under the covers and escape from the world? All it takes is your dog looking you in the eyes telling you, “I’m here and I’ll make everything better!” And guess what? They DO make it better, even if just for a moment. Our pets live in the moment and can’t really comprehend anything beyond the here and now, so they truly are WITH you at your time of need!
by Loree Walden, Marketing Manager, Yavapai Humane Society
Mental Health is not a destination, but a process.
Here’s a few facts about how pets affect our health:
Playing with or petting your dog or cat can elevate levels of dopamine and serotonin, which calms and relaxes you.
- Dogs and cats can greatly reduce stress, anxiety and depression, improve cardiovascular health, ease loneliness, and help encourage you to have more play and exercise time.
- Pets have a significant effect on Alzheimer patients. Patients experience less stress, and emotional outbursts are less frequent. The touch of an animal can be a soothing experience as pets are able to interact nonverbally, which can be comforting to someone whose communication skills are dwindling. In addition to reducing stress, the presence of a pet has shown to encourage more social engagement from Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. They can also increase physical activity through tasks such as going for a short walk, combing a dog’s fur, or playing with a cat’s toy. Some patients have even been known to have increased appetite after interacting with an animal.
- Having an animal has been credited to decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and the positive feelings that having a companion provides.
Mental stimulation is needed by almost every living being. It keeps us healthy, helps us stay more alert, promotes learning and growing, and it helps to keep us from becoming depressed or bored. Our minds need to be challenged and so do our pets. Mental stimulation, combined with physical stimulation, helps both of you learn, grow, stay healthy and have fun together!