Why Pets Are Good for Your Health

Why Pets Are Good for Your Health

Pixabay/Gellinger

Did you ever think that having a pet could be helping you manage your pain?  Well, it can! This article will discuss the benefits of owning a pet. Not only can pets help you manage your pain, but they can benefit you in other ways.  Read more to find out the great benefits of owning a pet.

Movement

If you have read other articles on this website, you know that I promote movement.  Whether it is yoga, stretching or something else, research shows that moving your body can help you manage pain.  See my article on the benefits of exercise.  Or see my articles on how I like the two DVDs I use.   (Gentle Yoga, and Back to Life

So how does owning a pet get you moving?  

Taking care of it.  You can’t just sit and look at your pet.  Even goldfish need feeding and cleaning of the tank/bowl.  And perhaps you need to research about the care of the pet.  (Which I recommend.) Then you need to get to the pet store for supplies.  Having a pet takes planning and commitment, part of which keeps you moving.

Walking it.  The obvious pet that needs walking is a dog.  What a great pet to have to get you out and about.  And this has to be done at least twice a day, every day.  A great motivator to keep moving. So having a pet to walk just naturally increases your opportunity to exercise.  

Grooming it.  More movement.   Especially if you have to bathe the dog!  But cats need brushing too. Maintaining your pet’s appearance engages you in moving and caring.

Loving on it.  Just the simple act of stroking your pet, even a turtle, takes movement.  The tactile experience of touching another living thing raises our feelings of contentment.  Then there is playtime with your dog or cat. These times give you movement as well as laughter and joy.  

All this movement releases endorphins.  And endorphins are feel good hormones that do just that; help you feel good.  

 

Mental Health

I have an article that I wrote about Mental Health and Chronic Pain.  I suggest you read it to see how pain can impact your mental health.  

Research shows that pets can improve your mental health.  There are studies (although not a lot) that state having an animal around can reduce anxiety and increase attentiveness.  

We have all heard about pet therapy in hospitals and nursing homes.  This article about Pet Therapy Science was interesting to me because it shows that a pet doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog or cat.  

Having a pet decreases your feelings of loneliness.  Coming home to a pet makes you feel needed and even loved.  I remember a humorous article I read that a single woman wrote about her dog.  She said she loved that her dog looked longingly into her eyes and hung on her every word.  She said she hadn’t met a guy to do that! 

Pets can reduce depression, lower stress and increase your self-esteem.  Apparently stroking, grooming, touching and interacting with pets releases oxytocin, a neurochemical that calms us.  Pets increase our opportunities to socialize, especially if we are out walking our pet.  

There are programs and studies of the use of dogs in assisting schizophrenic patients.  The same is being studied in prison programs, where rescue dogs are trained to be service dogs by the inmates.  

Taking care of pets keeps you busy, engaged, and fulfills having a purpose in life.  

As our mental health is improved this leads to improved physical health.  With all the positive hormones produced by having a pet, we feel less pain and therefore feel better.  

 

Other Health Benefits

There are studies that report that having a pet can:

 

  1. Decrease blood pressure
  2. Decrease cholesterol levels
  3. Decrease triglyceride levels
  4. Sense illnesses in owners

A dog’s ability to sense illness has been studied in diabetics.  Dogs can smell changes in the breath of a diabetic and if trained to do so, can alert the human.  This link to Wikipedia discusses the ability that dogs have to detect cancer cells.  

This article from Health.com about how pets improve your health is worth reading.  

Here is a great article by the CDC (About Pets and People) that is helpful in considering the right pet.  It also outlines health and safety concerns. It serves as a thought provoking reminder to prevent you from getting the wrong pet.  

Let’s Not Forget Cuteness

Apparently we as humans are programed to love the faces of baby animals.  Their faces pull at our hearts, filling us with the urge to care for, cuddle and form attachments to them.  These feelings produce those feel good hormones again. Here’s an article about this phenomenon.  (With cute pictures!)

 

Pixabay/JACLOU-DL

 

Pet Owner Comments

 

Some comments from pet lovers (who allowed me to use their names and comments).  Just in case you thought I made all this up! 🙂

Carolyn:  The benefits of having a cat for a pet are several.  First is that you are taking care of something outside of yourself.  Petting a cat is therapeutic. They are cute and do funny things. They provide companionship and accountability.  They can make great Christmas card pictures. Being a cat owner, she says cats are less work than dogs.  

Theresa: A pet’s love is unconditional.  Everyone needs to be loved unconditionally.  Also, they are good for your physical, emotional and mental health.  Pets have a calming effect, which helps relieve stress. Dogs must be exercised, which helps our physical health.  Pets are companions, which help with feelings of loneliness and depression. They are also protective of their owners.  So many benefits.  

Bryan: So here’s a tale about my cat Mephistopheles. I went to the SPCA to rescue a cat roughly a decade ago and picking the right one can be daunting as there is never a shortage of cats needing rescue and many wind up being euthanized due to space limitations. My system was to pick a dozen or so who responded enthusiastically to my presence outside their cage and then take them individually into the “test room” to see how they behaved around me. Of many would be contenders, he was the warmest and immediately jumped up on my lap and sat down purring – the decision was clear.

Every cat owner likes the think their cat is “dog like” in behavior and isn’t skittish or mean as many can be (which I believe leads a lot of the population to have a distaste towards cats in general), but mine really is that. Sure at the end of the day he’s a cat and occasionally lets people know what is his claimed territory, but he is always welcoming to strangers and curious vice skittish. But his behavior towards others  isn’t why I’ve come to love him so much; rather it’s how he interacts with me. Prior to having him in my life I never really understood how people can be so emotionally passionate towards their pets but he opened my eyes in this regard and I’ve come to not be able to imagine life without him. His long annoying fur that gets all over everything, the litter he tracks on the freshly cleaned floor, the vomit he always prefers to leave on surfaces that are hard to clean are an insignificant price to pay for his companionship and love.

Every day when I come home from work I can hear him shouting before I even open the door and as soon as I enter it’s hard to even open the door all the way because he’s instantly rubbing against me begging for attention and won’t stop until properly pet. Every evening when I sit on the couch to relax he runs over and jumps on my lap to collapse and often fall asleep. In the darker times when life isn’t going as was ideally desired, he breathes fresh life into me and provides an easy place to find solace.

Linda: I’ve not noticed any reduction in physical pain because I have a cat but definitely better emotionally.  She’s my “family” and misses me when I’m gone.  If I leave a room for more than 5 mins, she comes to look for me.  The house would be really lonely without her.  She’s the boss, the house runs on her schedule (feeding, etc.)  She wakes me up every day at the same time and if I’m not in bed at the usual time she sits in the middle of the room and talks about it.  It’s nice to have her to take care of, she depends on me for everything and I love that I can give her her forever home.  She also makes me laugh out loud.  Her personality is goofy and she can play with a thread on the floor and ignore a purchased toy.  She’s the best fly catcher there is.  She gets bored chasing a flashlight beam after about 3 seconds.  She loves to have her ears and head scratched and would let me do that all day. I guess to sum it up, she’s the best company and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

 

Conclusion

The conclusion we can reach is that pets have a positive influence on our lives.  They can help us feel better mentally and assist in pain management. Having a pet is a win-win scenario.

What about you?  Do you have a comment or story to add to this article?  I would love to hear from you. I enjoy hearing stories of how a pet helped you.  You would be adding to everyone’s experience by sharing. Please do so.  I wanted to add a cute/funny video of animals, but I couldn’t decide what to use.  If you have a recommendation, or one of your own, please share it!  Thanks.  

If you love to read and love animals, I still enjoy re-reading the books by James Herriot.  He has wonderful observations about people and animals. The stories will make you cry and laugh out loud.  A few of the titles are: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, All Things Bright and Beautiful.  I welcome your comments on these as well.  

If you want a more scientific article to read, I recommend this link from the British Psychological Society.  The article does state that research regarding all the above claims is sparse, but favorable.  

 

The Unconventional Guide of Ways to Feel Better

The Unconventional Guide of Ways to Feel Better

In my continuous search of natural pain remedies, I am always on the lookout for ways to feel better.  I am specifically talking about how to feel better in the fight against chronic pain. From which I suffer.  I have found in my research, though, that many of the remedies for pain relief also give a person a better attitude.  So, you get “two for the price of one”. Read on to find out what I have discovered.  

Jay Alexander

Exercise

One of the last things I feel like doing when I am in pain is to exercise.  But it is an unconventional way to feel better. Plus, there is more and more research in this field about how exercise can help you feel better.  Even if it hurts to move. I have pain in my buttock that I compare to sciatic pain. One woman stated that it was a challenge for her to walk because of the pain, but that she would rather be moving and in pain, than sitting and still be in pain.  Especially if she could get outside and enjoy nature.

Read further to find out why.

Endorphins

When we put our body in motion, we start several systems working.  Foremost among these is the release of endorphins. The way I understand this is that exercise releases endorphins into our body, and is transmitted to the brain.  The endorphins act like a pain killer, not unlike morphine, to inhibit the pain signal.  

 

You may have heard of the high that long distance runners experience.  This is similar. But the bottom line is, if you exercise you will feel better.  Not only with less pain, but with a better outlook.  Now why would you not want that?

Neurotransmitters

These chemicals have been linked to mood enhancement.  Exercise increases concentrations of serotonin and norepinephrine.  This leads to an uplifting mood or good mental health. These chemicals also enhance memory retention and learning.  So your outlook will improve along with how your body feels.

Joint Health

Dr. Manuel Gonzalez Reyes

Couch potatoes have a higher risk of joint pain.  Lack of movement means more pain. Moving those joints increases the circulation of the synovial fluid which lubricates the joints.  More lubrication; less pain. In addition exercise moves water away from the joints and brings more oxygen to the joints. Both add to a healthier joint.

Other Benefits

As you are able to increase your exercise you will reap other benefits.  Heart health comes to mind. Exercise strengthens the heart muscles and lowers blood pressure.  

Weight loss is another side benefit to exercise.  As is better sleep. There are also studies that show that women who exercise regularly reduce the risk of breast cancer from 20 – 80%.  

Another benefit seems to be increased energy.  I don’t know why this is; after all you are expending energy to exercise.  But I have had personal experience where I feel more energy after I exercise.  

Start With Just A Little

You may say right now, but I can’t exercise.  I am in too much pain. I have been there. I could not get out of bed without experiencing terrible pain.  I practically had to crawl to the bathroom. But over time, and with learning what works for me, I have come to a point that I can move almost normally.  

I still have chronic pain, but it is manageable now.  So even if you just move from the bed to a chair and do a few stretches, you are on your way to feeling better. This is what my life has come to at this point.  I used to spend hours in the gym.  

But now I have to be happy with ½ hour of stretches and maybe a short walk.  I doubt I will get back to my former workouts, but that’s okay. I am thankful for what I can do.  

What can you do?  Can you push yourself just a little to feel better?  And one more thing about exercising through the pain.  When you focus on anything besides the pain, you feel better.  So focus on the exercise. See if you don’t feel better!

Some Home Remedies To Try

You might have a few of these items in your house already, but didn’t realize they may help in your pain management.  I have researched some of the popular ones for you to try.

Turmeric

This is actually a spice used in Asian cooking.  It contains the chemical curcumin.  There appears to be a connection between curcumin and inflammation reduction.  If your pain is associated with inflammation (osteoarthritis) you may find some relief using this spice.  There are capsule forms also. I have used the spice in warm water as well. Just drink it down. It is not an unpleasant taste.  I have found some relief from this spice. 

There is occasional indication that it can cause stomach upset in some people.  For more information about turmeric see this article from WebMD.  

 

Summer Malik

Willow Bark

As its name suggests, willow bark is taken from the bark of a willow tree. There is research that shows it was used in the time of Hippocrates where it was chewed to relieve pain.  It contains the chemical salicine, which is similar to aspirin. Because of the similarities, there can be similar effects, such as reduction in pain, fever and inflammation and side effects such as stomach upset and blood thinning.  I found another article from WebMD for this information.  

Epsom Salt

Called a salt because of the chemical structure, when dissolved in warm water it dilutes to sulfate and magnesium.  The understanding is that the magnesium is absorbed into the skin, and reduces swelling and inflammation. This has not been proven, but just the activity of soaking in warm water helps to relax muscles and joints, so there is relief pain.  It should not be ingested. More information at WebMD.  

I use Dr. Teal’s with lavender to soak in the evening.  Not only do I gain some muscle relief, but the lavender aromatherapy helps to relax me.  

Bone Broth

Bone broth contains collagen.  As we age, we have less. This collagen protein is essential in joint health.  The collagen is like a cushion that assists the joint to work easier. The collagen is produced by simmering bones to create the broth.  There are other benefits to bone broth including boosting the immune system. Use this link to learn more, and for a bone broth recipe from Dr. Axe.  

Comfrey Extract

This extract has poisonous qualities, so use with care.  There is evidence that rubbing the extract into the lower back can relieve pain.  Another link to WebMD will provide more information.  

Omega 3

I have a complete article on Omega fish oil.  See this link. Although research is inconclusive, I have found some relief.  See my article here.  

Naturopathic medicine

I personally do not have any experience with this as of yet.   But I wanted to include it because I heard a testimonial from a mother of a daughter who had found some miraculous relief from her fibromyalgia.  

I need to spend more time investigating this alternative.  But to hear this story of how the daughter suffered for over a year, and then was helped by this Naturopathic doctor is worth checking out.  If you are in the eastern LA county area, the office she visited was Integrative Natural Health, in Claremont, CA.  Click on their name for a link to their website.  Their website is very informative with background about the philosophy and what to expect.  

I’d especially like to hear back from you if you visit them and tell me about your experience. Or if you have had experience with this alternative option.  

Pets

I read an article that claims that pets may help older adults (that’s me) manage pain.  I can’t afford a pet right now, but I know there is research about how calming it is when you pet a dog or a cat.  I believe being around animals is just good for you period. But if pets can help with managing pain, all the better!  Here’s the link if you want to see the article.  I would love to hear about stories you might have of how your pet helped you.  

 

2allmankind

Sleep

I have a complete article here regarding the benefits of sleep and how to get better sleep.  I recommend you check it out. Sleep gives your body a break from the pain, and repairs broken parts.  If you are like me, you probably push yourself too hard. I recommend you work on getting more sleep. You should notice the benefits immediately.  

Conclusion

I want very much to know if this article was helpful to you.  Any feedback is welcome. If there are improvements I could make to this information, I would like to know about them.  

I am not a doctor and do not claim that any of these remedies are cures.  But I am a pain sufferer. I continue to search for relief for myself and in so doing, hope that something here can provide pain relief for you as well.