7 Ways Pets are Good for Your Health
HealthCentral Editorial Team Sep 10, 2012 (updated Sep 27, 2013)
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A pet can mean as much as a best friend or even a family member, so it’s little surprise that they can have a huge impact on your physical and mental health. Here are seven ways that your pet is taking care of you.
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Dealing with depression
Studies show that pet owners have greater self-esteem and are less lonely, less anxious, more physically fit, and more extroverted. Often, spending only 15 minutes with a dog, cat, or other animal is enough to help you feel calmer and more relaxed. This is because the brain decreases production of the stress hormone cortisol and ramps up production of serotonin, a hormone that helps you feel good.
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Kids with ADHD benefit from the companionship of a pet. Through care of a pet-- parentally supervised of course--kids can learn responsibility and schedule management--skills which are especially difficult for ADHD children. Children have an innate connection and fascination with animals, and being able to focus their attention on a pet can be a wonderful learning opportunity.
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Sensory issues in autistic children
Many children with autism have difficulty with sensory issues, such as processing all the stimuli in a busy store, feeling certain fabrics on their skin, and dealing with the smells of foods. Current therapies to help treat such sensory issues include petting animals and exposing the child to the different sounds and smells that accompany animals.
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Controlling blood pressure
It’s pretty difficult to feel tense while petting an animal, so it’s no surprise that cuddling a pet lowers blood pressure and reduces heart rates. Snuggling a pet could be one of the healthiest and most enjoyable remedies for keeping calm and combating cardiovascular disease.
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Amazingly, some animals have the sensory ability to alert diabetic owners when their blood sugar is getting low. Some diabetics have specially trained alert dogs to help them manage their diabetes, and these animals are especially helpful for young diabetic children. They are able to alert their owners through behavioral changes and barking when the owner is experiencing hypoglycemia.
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Strengthening the immune system
Studies have found that children exposed to certain pets at a young age are at a reduced risk of developing asthma. Specifically, the dust created by dogs is believed to protect against infection from a respiratory virus linked to asthma. The exposure to allergens and bacteria that accompany many other types of household pets also help children develop stronger immune systems and reduce their risk of developing allergies.
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A pet can be a great fitness motivator, which is why pet owners tend to have lower cholesterol and are more physically fit. Dog owners in particular tend to be in decent physical shape and healthier all around. A dog can be a great live-in fitness partner to keep you on track with daily walks, runs, and Frisbee tossing in the park.