We’ve all heard that owning a pet can be beneficial to your physical and mental health, but what kind of benefits can you expect? How do you choose the pet that’s right for you and your family?
It’s estimated that 67 percent of all U.S. households, or 84.9 million homes, own at least one pet. For many of these households, owning a pet is simply part of healthy living. Pets offer love and companionship, tremendous mental health benefits, and can reduce your risk for certain illnesses.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a dog, cat, or another furry friend — it’s worth taking the time to learn about the benefits of pet ownership, how to choose the best pet for your family, and how to keep your pet healthy.
The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Pet
Having a pet is incredibly beneficial to your physical and mental health. The most obvious benefits that pets provide us unconditional love and companionship. Certain pets, such as dogs, may also encourage owners to have a more active lifestyle, which can reduce the risk of certain illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Being a pet owner is very beneficial and can:
- Decrease feelings of loneliness
- Decrease feelings of depression and anxiety
- Provide social and emotional support
- Reduce daily stress
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Provide opportunities for socialization
- Provide opportunities for outdoor activities
Recent surveys show that up to 74 percent of pet owners experienced mental health improvements from having at least one pet. Pets have a significant impact on our mental health. Pets can increase our overall sense of well-being and reduce feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. For many Americans, pets are a crucial part of handling conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Autism, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Choosing the Right Pet for You and Your Family
Choosing the right pet for your family is an important decision and one that should be made with care. It’s worth taking the time to select the type of pet that would be best for your family and the breed. For example, if you intend to get a dog, learning more about dog breeds can help you prepare for certain temperaments, health conditions that particular breeds are prone to, and more.
Consider these important questions when deciding on what pet will fit your family best:
- Does anyone within your family have allergies to certain animals?
- How large will the pet potentially become?
- What is the life expectancy for the animal?
- What kind of exercise does the animal need, and how often?
- Who is going to care for and clean up after the pet?
- Is there anyone with weak immune systems that will be around the pet?
- Are pets allowed in your type of residence, and are there any breed or weight restrictions?
- How much can your family afford for pet-related expenses, including food, toys, and veterinary care?
While pet ownership isn’t usually costly, it is essential to ensure that you and your family can financially afford a pet. Families generally spend a little over $500 a year on their pets with expenses such as pet food, pet supplies, medicine, veterinary services, and pet services.
Avoid Keeping Wild Animals as Pets
A big part of healthy living is avoiding contact with wildlife. Wild animals are not pets, and while some may be cute and cuddly looking, these animals may be carrying diseases even if they do not appear to be sick. Close contact with wildlife carrying diseases or their droppings can spread diseases to people and pets.
Teaching Children How to Interact With Pets
Pets offer health benefits to kids too! Children who have good relationships with their pets may:
- Have improved behavior
- Learn to be more responsible
- Develop a better understanding and empathy for others
- Receive cognitive stimulation
- Experience mental health benefits, including reduced anxiety
As parents, we must teach our children how to be responsible and compassionate with our pets. By teaching kids how to respect a pet, an accident will be less likely, and the spread of germs and illness can be reduced. Children frequently touch contaminated surfaces and put their heads on their faces and in their mouths, which can put them at a higher risk for illness. Children who are younger than five years old should always be monitored when around pets for their health and safety.
Making Your Pet’s Health a Priority
Following healthy living guidelines will improve the wellness of your family and pets. Routine veterinary care is essential for the health of your pet. Vaccinations help safeguard your pet’s health, but visits to your vet will also help you monitor your pet’s weight and catch illness early.
In addition to vaccinations, it is essential to keep up on your pet’s flea and tick control, especially if your pet ever goes outside. Fleas and ticks can cause illness in pets, and some ticks spread serious diseases, such as Lyme disease. These illnesses put your family and pet at risk.
Pets and Healthy Living Habits
While pets offer a lot of health benefits, it is crucial to practice good pet hygiene to safeguard the health of your pets and family. Germs and illness can be spread between pets and people. Therefore, it is crucial to practice proper handwashing after interacting with pets.
In addition to hand washing, remove dog feces from public places and your yard. If you have a cat, scoop cat boxes daily. Pet feces can sometimes contain harmful germs and parasites that can cause roundworms, hookworms, and more. If you have children in your home, keep kids away from areas that may contain animal feces. If you have a sandbox, keep the box covered when it’s not in use to prevent cats from using them as a litter box.
Thoughts from USHEALTH Group
Having a pet provides several health benefits, but before adopting a new friend, it’s important to consider the best pet for your family, the costs, and how to keep everyone safe and healthy. Having a pet is an incredible experience. Pets become a part of our hearts and our family, and it’s easy to see why. The love and compassion that pets bring out in others are extraordinary.
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