Is Having Dogs Good for Mental Health?

Although dogs have been dubbed “man’s best friend” for years, that is not the only purpose that they serve. Many statistics indicate that those who love animals and have dogs as pets may receive an added benefit to that companionship, a boost in mental health. There are some facts that may surprise you about the correlation in being a pet owner and having a positive outlook on life.

Reduction in Anxiety and Stress

Dog owners are less likely to suffer from anxiety and stress in comparison with those who do not own pets. There are a multitude of potential reasons for this but experts believe it could be linked to the fact that dogs help to keep us in the present. Being around a dog, petting it or taking the canine for a walk have all shown to decrease a rapid heartbeat, slow breathing and can even help stave off panic attacks.

The All-Natural Anti-Depressant

While no one can make the claim that owning a dog will successfully treat depression, it can be a great tool for combatting the blues. The startling statistics are that those who do not own pets are at higher risk for depression than those who do. Some who suffer from severe depression or anxiety may utilize a dog as a service animal even.

Meeting Basic Needs

Touch is a basic need for all human beings and the family dog is perfectly qualified to meet that need. Pets can take away the feeling of isolation, giving someone something to look forward to and can provide a sense of responsibility. The physical activity required in caring for a dog such as walking can also contribute to the overall wellbeing of the owner. This source of exercise will not just assist in keeping the waist line trim, but exercise itself can contribute to improvements in mental health.

Backed by Medical Science

Contrary to popular belief, the positive mental health associated with owning a dog or being around one frequently is based on facts and science. The reason why dog owners tend to be happier and healthier can be explained by an increase in serotonin and dopamine. Both play a role in emotion and mental health. Increases in them can lend a calming, happy effect for the individual. Abnormal levels of either are often associated with some mental health conditions, which can include depression.

The Bigger Picture

The benefits of being around a dog are widely known and accepted in the medical community. In addition to boosting mood and improving mental health, there is just something therapeutic about having a dog around. Many hospitals, psychiatric facilities and long-term care centers incorporate some type of pet therapy into their programs due to this phenomenon as well. Improved physical health, companionship and more positive mental health is closely associated with interacting with our canine friends regularly.

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