How pets help people cope during a pandemic

By The Health News Team | April 9, 2020
How pets help people cope during a pandemic

There’s no question that having a pet in your home during the best of times can bring joy. In more trying times, as we’re experiencing now during the COVID-19 pandemic, pets can offer more than just a slobbery greeting or good-natured nuzzle.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the enjoyment they provide, pets offer a variety of health benefits, including:

  • Decreased blood pressure

  • Lowered cholesterol levels

  • Decreased levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in your body

  • Reduced feelings of loneliness

  • Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities

  • Improved opportunities for social connection

Because of these benefits and the unconditional love many share with their pets, people around the globe were extremely relieved when the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there is no evidence that domestic pets can transmit the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The virus is spread to humans through person-to-person contact, not pet-to-person, so interaction with your pets is highly encouraged at this time as long as everyone involved — both humans and animals — are healthy.

5 ways pets improve life during a pandemic

When faced with the challenges of job loss, health concerns and social isolation, pet owners are turning to their animal friends for far more than basic companionship and improved vitals. Many people are finding that their pets are helping to reduce anxiety and depression, and give them hope.
Here are five ways you can turn to your pets, whatever the species, to help you during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Talk to the hound (or hare, hamster or hermit crab). Many pets are able to pick up on your emotions and can sense stress or sadness. They are great listeners — no unwelcome advice is given — and sometimes, just saying things aloud can offer relief or help you work through troubling thoughts.

  2. Look to them for comedy relief. Pets are funny, often without any effort at all. Whether chasing their tail (or each other if there are two or more in your home), hiding their toys, falling off their exercise wheel or swimming in circles, pets are often good for at least a chuckle, and laughter is an excellent way to relieve stress.

  3. Take Fido, Fluffy or Feathers for a walk. Whether on a leash, in a stroller or on your shoulder, some pets are more than happy to accompany you on a walk, which is currently an excellent way to get much-needed exercise, breathe some fresh air and greet your neighbors from afar.

  4. Settle in for a snuggle. While we may not be able to touch other humans outside our homes during social isolation, our pets are safe for a cuddle if you’re healthy. Hugging your pet feels great, reduces depression and releases feel-good hormones. It can also help you relax, ease tension and even relieve physical pain.

  5. Share the sweetness. When the news and social media seem to be filled with nothing more than sobering updates about COVID-19, a photo of your four-legged — or otherwise feathered, finned, scaled or furry — friend can bring joy to your loved ones and acquaintances. Whether you share them via text, email, video chat or on your social media platform, there’s nothing like a funny pet picture or video to create a connection with others and bring a smile to their faces.

Don’t forget good hygiene
While enjoying extra time with your pets due to recent stay-at-home orders, it is important to continue to practice good hygiene. As always, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol before and after handling or touching your pet.
The CDC also recommends that you follow these additional healthy hygiene tips:

  • Keep pets and their supplies out of the kitchen.

  • Regularly clean and disinfect pet habitats and supplies, preferably outside your home.

  • Never clean supplies in the kitchen sink, food preparation areas or the bathroom sink.

  • Always remove your pet’s feces (poop) from your yard and public places by using a bag and dispose of it in proper areas.

  • Keep children away from areas that might contain dog or cat poop. 

Be prepared for your pets
While experts say the virus cannot be transmitted from your pets, extra care during the pandemic is recommended. Help pets practice social distancing — don’t let them come in contact with people or others’ pets outside your household. If you are ill and concerned you may have — or if you have been diagnosed with — COVID-19, avoid or minimize contact with your pets, if possible. If a healthy person is not able to help feed and tend to your pet, always wear a face mask when providing care.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also suggests that you prepare a kit with essential supplies to have on hand, including a 30-day supply of your pet’s medications and at least two weeks’ worth of food. Choose a friend, neighbor or loved one who could help in the event you are unable to care for your pet and let them know where the kit is stored and who to contact in case veterinary care is needed.

Learn what Sharp HealthCare is doing in response to COVID-19.

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.