Dogs For Mental Health

Lily Hanson and Summer Day

Everybody has seen cute pictures of pets on social media, but studies have shown that dogs and other household pets are more than just a cute face to look at. It has been proven that dogs help improve health issues in people who suffer from mental illness such as anxiety and stress, as well as decrease depression.

While people with pets often experience the greatest health benefits, a pet doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and lower pulse rate. Studies have shown that: Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months. Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax. Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels indicators of heart disease ) than those without pets. Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

The therapeutic value of our relationship with our pets, particularly dogs, is increasingly recognized by researchers. Cats can be wonderful too – but dogs have been domesticated by humans for much longer, and, as even the most devoted cat lover will admit, dogs are far easier to train for companionship

One study conducted by Patricia Pendry, a human development researcher at Washington State University concluded that cortisol (a stress hormone found in saliva) levels significantly decreased among students who directly pet dogs instead of just saw pictures of them. For those who suffer from stress and anxiety, it may just be time to adopt a little furry friend. “Dogs tend to be animals who very actively seek out interaction with people,” says Pendry. “They make eye contact; they enjoy being pet. They evoke in people that feeling that it’s all about them. They just seem completely thrilled to interact with the individual and people end up feeling very loved and attended to and special. That’s very appealing.”    

If people can live happier, more fulfilled lives, why wouldn’t it be time to add a new furry family member into your life?