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How Animals Benefit Us

Updated on September 24, 2014
A photo of Sniper, a therapy dog I photographed at a therapy session.
A photo of Sniper, a therapy dog I photographed at a therapy session. | Source

Those who have a pet passion like mine will nod with heartfelt agreement when I say that pets are good for us.

This reaction baffles some. Nonetheless, pets touch our lives in countless ways. Pet ownership has proven physical, mental and emotional benefits. Many have also gained from various pet-assisted therapies.

It is time to convince all who think otherwise that owning or interacting with a pet does us a world of good.

A photo of Santhi, a mongrel who obligingly allowed children to place rings around him.
A photo of Santhi, a mongrel who obligingly allowed children to place rings around him. | Source

A. Why some people are not drawn to animals

Unfortunately, some of us are not drawn to animals for various understandable reasons.

They may have ingrained, negative attitudes about animals that stem from their upbringing or environment. Often, hearing friends or relatives discuss their negative experiences with dogs or cats deters them from having their own.

Some have inexplicable phobias that are difficult to shake off. My husband’s cousin has a phobia of dogs that keeps her glued to the couch when another cousin’s gentle schnauzer comes near. I also came across a young woman who froze in fear when I passed her by in the lift landing with my terriers, Misty and Cloudy. She absolutely refused to budge until I had entered my home with the dogs.

Such phobias are, quite often, result from the lack of exposure. Perhaps they did not have opportunities to interact closely enough with an animal to realize how harmless most of them are, especially when treated well.

Others are the victims of horrible experiences. A friend of mine was once chased by a pack of dogs before he eventually managed to flee to his own home. It was only when I introduced him to Misty and Roscoe, my Jack Russell still alive then, that he began to accept that animals were not fearsome unless he perceived them that way.

With busy, fast-paced schedules, many do not have the time to care for animals. They make the wise decision not to own one as it is not fair to the animal to neglect it.

A labrador puppy allowing children to feed him.
A labrador puppy allowing children to feed him. | Source

From your experience, what makes people fear animals?

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B. Why caring for a pet is beneficial

The aim of this article, therefore, is to change such perceptions. Owning a pet gives us advantages beyond our imagination. They are boons for all areas of our well-being.

Studies have shown that people with pets have much lower blood pressure and stress levels. Pets are not restricted to dogs or cats. Merely watching fish in an aquarium is therapeutic. It lowers tension and pulse rate, explaining why avid fish owners fill their homes with tanks.

Playing with a pet can raise the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the body, chemicals that calm and relax you.

Heart attack patients with pets tend to live longer. A study showed that pet owners over the age of 65 made 30% fewer visits to doctors than their counterparts without pets.

Besides, pets increase your activity level. You will find a healthy game of chase with a little dog irresistible. I recently made my husband run with Cloudy to help him burn off a few excess calories.

Pets give your life structure. Having to feed them at certain times makes you pay attention to routine.

They also help you know others. I round myself gathering a few more friends recently when I introduced Cloudy to a new group of human and canine buddies at the park.

Health Benefits of Companion Animals

C. The benefits of Pet Therapy

If pets benefit us, they are even more beneficial for those who face difficult, more complex physical and mental challenges. Pet-assisted therapy and its benefits are well-known.

1. How pet assisted-therapy works

Pet-assisted therapy aims to promote healthy interaction between pets and those who are mentally, emotionally and physically disabled. Such therapy works on the premise that physical contact with a happy pet gives them the same positive benefits they do us.

Pets and their owners make regular visits to care homes and hospitals with this goal in mind.

2. Who can benefit from pet-assisted therapy?

Disadvantaged children with grave illnesses or disabilities benefit greatly from a pet’s healing paw. Often, they draw out those who are more insular. Those diagnosed with autism interact better when they come into contact with pets.

To add, a pet’s touch gives cancer patients and those in long-term care facilities hope and a greater impetus to heal.

Pets heal those hospitalised with chronic heart failure because contact with them improves stress levels and tension.

Anyone who had traumatic encounters and developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will gain much from the regular visits of a dog. They lessen the build up of tension.

Naturally, animals must make the cut to give such therapy. They must know how to keep their distance and composure if they get uncertain or aggressive reactions. They must curb their enthusiasm as well, lest others misconstrue it.

3. The advantages of pet-assisted therapy

There are many reasons why pets have become healers. The physical, mental and emotional benefits for recipients are astounding.

a. Physical Health

Physically, a pet’s touch instantly lowers blood pressure. Regular contact with a pet improves cardiovascular health.

Besides releasing calming endorphins, they also diminish physical pain. Petting a dog produces an automatic relaxation response and lessens the need for medication in the long-term.

b. Emotional Health

Few of us need reminders that pets lift spirits and lessen depression. As writers, we often work in isolation, so a friendly pet helps to put these feelings away.

They help children overcome speech and emotional disorders like autism or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by giving them the comfort they need.

c. Mental Health

Pet-assisted therapy encourages communication and lowers anxiety. By increasing opportunities to interact with others, they help those in contact with them recover faster.

Oure Areas Of Need
How Pets Benefit Us
Physical
Pets lower blood pressure
 
They improve cardiovascular health
 
They release endorphins
 
They produce automatic relaxation responses
Mental
They encourage communication
 
They increase socialisation
Emotional
Pets lessen depression
 
They overcome speech and emotional disorders
A Therapeutic Dachshund playing fetch.
A Therapeutic Dachshund playing fetch. | Source

Conclusion

If you have not gotten yourself a pet or know anyone who needs help from one, why not make the move to own one today?

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    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      some people don't like cats or dogs because they were frightened by their own parents when they were young. I am both cat n dog lover

    • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

      Robin Grosswirth 2 years ago from New York

      Dog owner and lover of animals. Great read and so true.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      It always is!!!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Do we really own them, or do THEY own us? Life is always better with an animal.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, it is!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Just looking at them raises endorphins

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 2 years ago from Kansas

      Hard to imagine life without them.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 2 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      As always a great and informative hub. I don't know what I would do if my cat's little furry face didn't make me smile every morning. Passing this on.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      They just did today, Chitra!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, very much so, Dianna!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      They do that, and so well, Ginn!!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      It's a matter of preference, I am sure! Thanks, Manatita!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for reading, Tica!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      A racoon! Fascinating!! Those are a little cheeky!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Bill. I'm always amazed at the way you find so much time for the animals and write, too!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      I commonly get the "dogs are dirty" bit, Mark!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      I can imagine it so, Devika! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      When we bond with them, they become our owners indeed! So glad to know another dog trainer!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Don!! Much appreciated.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Deal for a Living.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Adopting animals is therapeutic, no doubt!

      Sometimes they relieve you of stress like no one else can.

      Very nice thoughts! Voted up!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      You make the argument for owning a pet very clear. I love the positive facts you posted here. I remember how much my hubby loved our cat and dog. He really enjoyed playing with them after work. They do help so much with blood pressure don't they?

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 2 years ago

      A great article, there is no greater loyalty or teacher than a pet. On the day that I was born 82 years ago a puppy was placed in my crib--with the words "YOUR BEST FRIEND".

      Note: Three times a dog has saved my life.

    • profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago

      Pet therapy, heart attack prevention, social benefits .... interesting way of putting it. I grew up with them and loved them, Michelle, especially dogs and cats. Today I find them time-consuming, although still lovely. Still, I feel it's a very individual thing. Some need pets for their inner development and others probably don't. Who knows the ways of the Lord? Om Shanti!

      Well reasoned article with a very interesting take on things here.

    • tlcs profile image

      Trudy Cooper 2 years ago from Hampshire, UK

      Really good article, I love dogs and am sure that one day when the time is right I will get my third golden retriever but for now Ill read your hubs about pets.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      We have one dog, one house cat, four outside stray cats, and lately, a racoon, which in Phoenix, has to be someone's lost pet. He apparently eats cat food and likes to get in our pool late at night.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, we have two dogs, one cat, six chickens, twenty-four quail, and two rabbits. We think animals are pretty special. :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Great article! Another reason for phobias are that they are taught. I am not sure how it is there, but here mothers tell their kids that all dogs bite, and of course those kids grow up and teach their kids the same thing. It is hard for a cute little Schnauzer, and a poor dog like my Pitbull (with her ugly mug) does not stand a chance.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi midget38, another interesting topic about dogs. When I had mine they were my best friends. Certainly a great way to feel happy and free. I talked to them and felt less stressed. It was my daily efforts with my dogs that left me feeling so good.

    • profile image

      Robert Marcotte 2 years ago

      As a 35 year Veteran of Breeding, Handling, and Training International Therapy Dogs, with our Kennel of German Shepherds, and other breeds, this blog is right on the money, and could not be more insightful, and direct in pin pointing the essential nature of an animal, and its Master. Tho' at times, the Master so often is the Canine, and the Human, its companion...! Kudos, 10 out of 10 stars.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I agree with you that pets are and asset to humans in a variety of ways. I am usually puzzled as to why some people fear dogs, although I probably have an irrational fear of snakes, even harmless ones. Your article provides useful inforam. Voting up and useful. sharing.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Animals do us a world of good.

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 2 years ago from Earth

      Raising a pet and building those bands are definitely therapeutic.