One of the trends I’ve noticed with the COVID situation is the number of people who have welcomed a new canine into their family. I totally get it. Our dog will be 16 years old this month and since we don’t have any children, he’s pretty much the center of our world. He makes our life better in so many ways, despite being a bit more high-maintenance than he once was.
There are many ways that owning a pet can enhance your life, not the least of them having to do with your health. According to the CDC, some of the health benefits of owning a pet include:
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for socialization
As you can see the health benefits include both physical and mental. Dogs need regular exercise and walking a dog gives you the opportunity to be more active and spend quality time with them. The exercise alone can lead to the better blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Many people don’t realize that the same health markers are also affected by stress. Pet ownership can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation that contribute to our stress levels.
When it comes to your pet’s health, they need sufficient activity, to be fed properly, and not overfed. Obese animals can develop health complications like arthritis, heart disease, and cancers (just like obese humans!)
If your budget or living situation doesn’t allow you to have a dog of your own, there are still ways to enjoy dogs and the attendant health benefits. Volunteer at your local animal shelter; the dogs there need walks and companionship as much or more so than family pets. If you have a friend or family member who can’t get out of the house, you can volunteer to walk their dog for them. Pet sitting for friends, neighbors, or family members in your home or theirs is another way to enjoy pets without committing to one of your own.
Whether you’re a new dog owner or one with lots of experience please recognize the health implications of poor diet and lack of physical activity for yourself and your pet. As for the cat owners out there, I recently read that some cats might be trained to walk on a leash and enjoy it. I’m skeptical, but hey, it’s worth a try.