It’s no secret that owning a pet has so many benefits when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. Just being around pets can significantly lift our mood and help us feel more relaxed. We chat with Dr Pip Wines, Senior Veterinarian at Turramurra Vet, about the top four benefits of owning a pet.
As vets, we are all aware of the positive effect and benefits of owning a pet on human wellbeing. All of our staff at Turramurra Veterinary Hospital are devoted pet parents ourselves, and in addition to our own pets, get the added bonus of a daily fix of cuddles, purrs and tail wags at work.
I have been a pet owner all my life. My first pet was a Border Collie cross Rough Collie that I adopted at age four from the RSPCA. When we adopted him, he was probably too young, but the RSPCA had no option but to rehome his whole litter urgently. We were one of the lucky families to be given a teeny tiny puppy. We fed him milk with an eyedropper and were advised by our parents that he may not make it through the night. At this point, my siblings and I decided we would stay up all night to make sure he lived. One of us put the saucer of milk on the floor, and the little guy lapped the whole thing up.
He was a treasured member of our family for 16 years and I’m sure was instrumental in my passion to become a vet. He saw me through the angst of my teenage years, the loss of loving grandparents and through the many ups and downs of a normal childhood. Here are just some of the benefits of pet ownership.
Benefits of owning a pet
1. Creates companionship
Pet ownership is known to decrease loneliness, social isolation, stress and depression across all ages by creating companionship and responsibility. Playing with a dog or cat is known to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and even triglyceride levels. Some of these positive outcomes could be associated with increased activity levels when owning a pet. Many pets are also great caregivers. They are there to keep us company when we are feeling sick or upset, and also make us feel safe if we are home alone.
2. Reduces cortisol
There is a huge focus on the mental health of our youth. I know of many cases where parents of teenagers who are struggling with their well-being notice a significant turnaround when their child is given a pet or encouraged to be the main caregiver for their family pet. Pet ownership has been known to reduce the ‘stress hormone’ called cortisol. During this current lockdown, it is heartening to see kids walking with a friend and their dog, chatting happily. It gets them outdoors and away from their screens and devices to clear their mind! Dogs really are the best personal trainers, as they are never willing to miss a session, rain or shine.
According to the RSPCA, those who have pets, including children or adolescents have been shown to have higher self-esteem. Teenagers who own pets have a more positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness, despair and boredom.
3. Teaches responsibility
Pet ownership for children can teach so much. I love it when (in non-pandemic times) children come into my consultations and learn about how to care for their pets. I love engaging with the younger family members in discussions about what their pet likes to do at home, what they eat and even who is their pet’s favourite family member. Usually, they tell me that they are the favourite! Plus, growing up with a dog (and other pets, to a lesser extent) can also help strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies.
4. Teaches about loss
Pets also teach children the important lesson of loss and grief. Often the death of a pet is the first loss a child experiences and can be crucial in learning the normal emotions of sadness and loss. Pets really do become important members of your family the day you bring them home, and their loss will have a huge impact on your child’s life. It’s a chance to help them through this difficult time and all the emotions that come with it.
Turramurra Veterinary Hospital is passionate about animals and their role in your family. When your pets need us, we are here for you. Make an online bookings or call (02) 9988-0198 for an appointment.