The Health Benefits of Interacting with Animals


The Health Benefits of Interacting with Animals 

You know you love your pet. And you know it feels good to be greeted at the door with a wagging tail or a happy purr.  But did you know that your pet actually provides you with measurable health benefits? It’s true. Studies have proven numerous health benefits of interacting with animals. Here are a few:

Pets provide positive mental energy

Playing or snuggling with a pet raises your serotonin and dopamine levels. These naturally occurring chemicals in your body help your mind stay calm and keep depression at bay. In other words, there’s a scientific reason for those feel-good feelings you get when you cuddle up with Mr. Whiskers.

Pets help protect your heart

Heart-related studies have shown that pet owners have decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. These conditions help minimize the risk of future heart attacks. Pets provide an advantage even for those with heart problems. One study found that of 421 adults who suffered heart attacks, dog owners were significantly more likely to be alive a year later than those who did not own dogs. 

Pets boost your fitness

Dog owners walk more than non-owners. According to one study, dog owners walk an average of 5 hours per week, while non-owners walk 2.75 hours per week. 
Another study found that people who walk with dogs actually improve their fitness more than those who walk with other people. 

Pets relieve stress

Cuddling and petting with a pet slows the heart rate and drops the blood pressure of both human and animal. It also causes a surge of oxytocin (also known as “the cuddle hormone”), which is linked to emotional bonding. All this lovey-dovey-ness decreases the stress hormone, cortisol. It’s no wonder you feel so relaxed when you have Fluffykins purring in your lap. 

Pets help you stay socially engaged

People who have more social relationships tend to live longer and show less mental and physical decline than those who keep to themselves. Social interaction with pets counts. Additionally, your dog is a social magnet. Studies have also shown that dog walking leads to more conversations and keep you socially connected. That makes us wonder who gets the most out of visits to the dog park – your pet or you?

We love pets, too!

At Bella Vista Health Center, we understand the healing role animals play in the lives of many of our patients. When you come to stay with us, you don’t have to say goodbye to your loveable furball. We welcome visits from pets on approval. If you would like to arrange one-time or regular visits from your pet, talk to our staff.  But if you don’t have a pet, don’t worry. You can still receive the health benefits of interacting with animals during our regularly scheduled companion pet visits from the San Diego Humane Society and Love on a Leash.