How pets help people cope during trying times

By The Health News Team | December 12, 2023
Woman hiking with her dog

There’s no question that having a pet in your home during the best of times can bring joy. In more trying times, 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

5 ways to get support from your pet

When faced with challenges, pet owners often turn to their animal friends for far more than basic companionship and improved vitals. Many people are finding that their pets help reduce anxiety and depression and give them hope.

Here are five ways you can turn to your pets, whatever the species, when you need a little extra support:

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. This is an excellent way to get much-needed exercise, breathe some fresh air and connect with your neighbors.

4

Settle in for a snuggle.

Our pets are always up for a cuddle. 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 war, school shootings, political unrest or global warming, 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.

Remember: Pets need you too

It’s important to recognize that you’re not the only one who benefits from having a pet. The connection between pets and humans is mutually beneficial. Studies have found pets seek out a bond with their person. They like to be pet by safe, trusted people, and their own stress can be relieved by your loving presence.

If you’ve been thinking you might have some extra love to give, The San Diego Humane Society recently announced the number of dogs in their care is currently at unprecedented levels. They are operating well over capacity and are in urgent need of people to foster dogs— as well as other animals in the shelter.

The Humane Society also encourages anyone interested in pet ownership to consider adopting a shelter animal from one of their four campuses across the county. Reduced adoption fees are being offered to help find good homes for the hundreds of San Diego animals waiting for their forever family.

During the holiday season and throughout the year, it’s vital you adopt, don’t shop. Visit sdhumane.org for more information.


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