The Power of Pets

Crazy about your Persian cat? In love with your Lhasa Apso? Great! Studies show that having a pet may have positive effects on both your physical and mental health.

The National Institute of Health has extensively researched the health benefits of pet ownership. Their findings confirmed that among heart attack sufferers, those who were dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive a year later than those who did not have a dog. Also, people who owned pets were likely to have lower blood pressure and quicker recovery from stress.

Another study followed dog-owners between 71 and 82 years old. Those who regularly walked their dogs were found to walk faster and for longer time periods each week than those who didn’t walk regularly. Compared to others in the study, the dog walkers also had greater mobility inside their homes.

Having a pet can provide some structure to your day, since they rely on you for scheduled care. Walking a dog is also a great conversation starter and may help you make social connections in your community. Pet owners may be less susceptible to feelings of depression and isolation. The companionship and unconditional love a pet provides is priceless.

Even if you don’t own a pet, just spending time with one can elevate your mood and reduce anxiety. It makes sense that pet therapy is becoming more commonplace in hospitals and retirement communities. Caregivers have noticed that a visit from a pet can lift an ill patient’s spirits and bring joy to a lonely resident. After playing with pets, people have increased levels of the mood-improving serotonin and dopamine, and reduced levels of harmful stress chemicals such as cortisol and norepinephrine.

Therapy dogs are welcome guests at Shell Point in The Larsen Pavilion Skilled Nursing Center, as well as in the assisted living residences: King’s Crown, The Arbor, and The Springs. And many Shell Point residents bring their own dogs to the community’s dog park for “Yappy Hour” each afternoon for socialization…for the dogs and themselves!