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Animals & Therapy

Pets: Your Prescription to a Healthier and Happier Life

If you have ever had a pet in your life you know the joy they bring. There is nothing like coming home from a tiring day to the welcoming, wagging tail of a dog or the feeling of the soft fur of a cat as she rubs against your leg. But did you know that over the last 30 years there have been many research studies which indicate that having a pet can actually improve your health and well-being?

Seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less than those who do not. Even the most highly stressed dog owners in one study had 21% fewer physician’s contacts than non-dog owners.

  1. Seniors who own pets cope better with stressful life events without entering the healthcare system.
  2. Pet owners have better physical health due to exercise with their pets.
  3. Pet owners have a higher one-year survival rate following coronary heart disease than patients who don’t have a pet at home.
  4. Having a pet can help fight feelings of loneliness and people can be less likely to become depressed as a result of the companionship.
  5. Blood pressure is often lower for people who have a pet.
  6. Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-owners.
  7. Having a pet can provide a sense of purpose - a reason to live, and can be the motivation for people to recover from illness faster.

What does this all mean for you? Simply put, having a pet in your life can help you live a healthier and happier life. Because the presence of an animal can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and stimulate the release of endorphins which make you feel good, your physical and emotional health can benefit. If you have a pet, please thank them for all they do for you. If you don’t have a pet, consider bringing one into your life. While many seniors think they may be too old to get a new pet, we encourage you to talk with someone at your local humane society. Often they can help you understand what it will take to be a responsible pet owner and help match you with the ‘right’ pet for you – such as adopting a senior pet in need of a loving home. If you can’t take care of a pet or know pet ownership is not right for you, ask a friend or family member if you can visit with their pet – even short visits with an animal can have beneficial effects on your health.

You can also benefit from interactions with therapy animals should you be hospitalized, are undergoing physical therapy or reside in an assisted-living center. To learn more about therapy animals, please click here. (link to 2nd page on website)