How your dog may help make you healthier
Stressed? Pet your dog.
Feeling lonely and depressed? Talk to your dog.
Want to meet new people? Walk your dog.
The American Veterinary Medical Association found in 2016, 38% of American households owned a dog. Dog owners will likely be very happy to tell you all about their dog and the benefits of owning a dog. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists a host of health benefits pet owners can enjoy.
Whether it’s a lab, which topped the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular breeds of 2018, or a rescue mutt, there are research-backed ways that dogs are good for your health, your kids’ health and your neighborhood.
“There are therapy dogs for a reason,” says Rebecca Biskup, a massage therapist at Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis., and dog owner. “Dogs have been proven to help with physical issues like blood pressure and physical pain.”
Dogs can also help with emotional issues, too, Biskup says.
“Dogs do help on an emotional level, too, helping to balance emotions,” she says. “They definitely help lift your spirits and lower depression. How can anyone be sad with a ‘furbaby’ on their lap?”
Dogs can help:
- Decrease blood pressure and lower heart rates: Spending time with dogs can lower blood pressure and decrease heart rates, and it applies to every population of people.
- Lower stress levels: Most of us with furry friends have experienced this – you come home from a stressful day at work and that wagging tail makes you feel better. Measured cortisol levels prove this isn’t just anecdotal.
- Increase levels of physical activity: Walks are a regular part of dog ownership, and those pleading eyes can increase their owners’ level of activity.
- Reduce allergic sensitivities and asthma in children: Some studies have demonstrated that exposure to pets in the household for infants and young children lead to lower rates of allergies and asthma later in life.
- Positively impact feelings of loneliness: Feelings of social isolation and loneliness have increased, according to studies, even though we’re more connected than ever. Dogs reduce feelings of social isolation and can encourage social interactions between people.
- Promote social activity and strengthen neighborhoods: A ripple effect of dog ownership is an increase in social interactions and stronger communities.
One way to bond with your dog is massage, Biskup says.
“Just like acupuncture in humans, dogs have meridians that correspond to organs and health issues. Massage not only feels good but helps build that trust and love between you,” Biskup says. “Dogs have three stress points at the curve of their neck leading into their trunk, and massaging that area feels good.”
About the Author
Heather Collier works in Advocate Aurora Health’s public affairs and marketing department. She is based in Milwaukee.