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How Pets Improve Human Quality of Life
It is a common sight to see pets at the farmer’s market, the park, and at the airport. The familiar scene of seeing companion animals outside of the home illustrates the significance of a pet to their human counterparts. Pets aren’t just animals; they are family.
It has long been known that animals improve emotional wellbeing through physical touch and companionship. It is estimated that 66% of households in the United States share their home with a pet according to the 2023-2024 APPA National Pet Owner Survey. Studies have shown that humans feel less isolated and alone when they have a pet. Although pets are not able to give advice, they offer a listening ear and always remain judgment free.
Human physicians and psychologists are even recommending pets to individuals who suffer from mental or physical health concerns. A recent survey by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) states that 22% of pet owners were recommended pet ownership by a healthcare professional. Coming home from a long day of work is made easier by being greeted by a four-legged companion. Exercise is more likely to occur when a wagging tail is accompanying you on a walk.
Pet ownership is also thought to lessen the chance of heart disease. When petting a dog, “feel-good hormones” (serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine) are released that lower cortisol, a stress hormone. This leads to reduced blood pressure and a slower heart rate. Exercise is also essential to cardiovascular health. Whether it is walking to the chicken coop or running with a high-energy dog around the neighborhood, having a pet encourages activity. A 2022 HABRI report shows that 76% of pet owners report that their personal health has improved through pet ownership.
These are just a handful of ways pets benefit their human counterparts. More broadly stated, pets give their owners a sense of purpose, drive and unconditional love and support.
An important question exists: How can we better support the pets that are so drastically improving our quality of life?
To properly care for the creatures that are providing daily physical and mental benefits, we must take full responsibility for their care. This starts early in the human-animal bond. In fact, responsible ownership starts prior to bringing a pet into the home.
Preparing for Pet Ownership
It is a necessity to go into pet ownership with a clear understanding of what is required of you as the human caregiver. Before committing to a pet, you should be able to confidently agree to care for the pet through all their life stages. Below are some considerations to review prior to committing to a companion.
Finding the Perfect Companion
Finding the perfect companion for your family should involve research. It is never suggested that a commitment to an animal is made on a whim.
Companion animals are not limited to cats and dogs. People have found chickens, horses, goats, and countless other animals as comforting pets. When searching for a companion, the first decision is selecting the right species to introduce to your home. Does your lifestyle allow you to provide the time required to care for a canine companion? Are there young children in the household that may not understand how to interact safely with some types of animals?
For simplicity’s sake, we will focus on considerations needed when selecting a canine companion. These concepts could be applied to other species as well.
There are several available breeds out there, all with varying levels of popularity and appeal. When selecting your ideal breed, there are several things that should be taken into consideration, including, but not limited to:
- Exercise requirement
- Shedding vs non-shedding
- Ease of maintenance
- Breed predispositions
- Mature size
A herding dog, like a Blue Heeler, that requires a lot of activity and thrives when having a job, would likely not do well in an apartment. An active family who is looking for a hiking partner should steer clear of an English Bulldog, as they are not built for strenuous activity.
Your veterinarian is a great resource to help guide you in breed recommendations and pet selection. Veterinarians surround themselves with companion animals daily, and are the best experts on these topics.
Regardless of age, introducing a dog into your home is a rewarding experience. There are challenges to adopting a puppy just as there are to adopting an older dog. It is recommended that the future pet parent researches what goes into training puppies and introducing a mature animal into a new home.
Knowing the Importance of Veterinary Care
Your companion will have varying needs, which will need to be met to have a happy, healthy pet. Basic pet care includes providing nutrition, shelter, and medical care. Your veterinarian is an excellent source of knowledge and can help guide you on proper pet care.
After acquiring a new animal, regardless of age, you should consider an initial introductory consultation with your veterinarian. It is recommended that you schedule wellness visits annually or biannually to have your pet evaluated. During these appointments, your veterinarian will give recommendations geared towards improving and maintaining your pet’s health. Topics of discussion often include preventative care and early disease interventions.
Veterinarians are versed in vaccinations and parasite control, which are used to minimize disease risk to your companion. A healthy pet is a happy pet!
Diet and nutrition are highly discussed topics. It is recommended that you consult your veterinarian to get their opinion on what type of food is best suited for your pet. Diet FADs or trends can be problematic although prevalent. As a result, it is important to follow sound medical recommendations based on science when selecting pet food.
Veterinarians are not only able to offer medical advice, but can provide sound training recommendations as well. Training can be done to mold a well-mannered dog, but can also provide mental stimulation.
A Beneficial Relationship
The relationship between humans and animals is a beneficial one that has been cultivated for thousands of years. From working alongside each other to providing emotional support, animals have played an essential role in the lives of humans. As we continue to recognize the importance of pets in our lives, it is crucial that we prioritize their health and wellbeing. By taking care of our furry companions, we not only improve their quality of life but also enhance our own. It is our responsibility to provide them with the love, care and attention they deserve, and in return, they will continue to enrich our lives with their loyal companionship and unconditional love.