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Scot & Diego

Five benefits of owning a furry friend

Purina’s very own PetCare Advice team member and trained vet nurse Scot Marchant-Ludlow discusses why having a pet can be so important for your health and wellbeing…

One of the most delightful and rewarding experiences in life is to own a pet. Despite the financial cost and the time taken to care for your friend the rewards tend to outweigh the negatives. A pet who will be very grateful to you and can amaze you with its tricks and personality, and which you will nurture and take care of can provide great joy and happiness. But why is having a pet so important and what are the benefits of having a pet around?

If you’ve ever owned a pet, you already know how much fun and affection they can bring to your life. But did you know that pets can also provide some pretty powerful mental and physical health benefits?

1.     Pets can help us deal with stress, anxiety and depression

You may have heard about a hormone called cortisol, which is released when we’re stressed out, and is often coupled with heightened blood pressure. Over time, these factors can lead to high cholesterol and hypertension. Luckily, reducing stress can be as simple as interacting with a dog, which may help lower cortisol levels and improve your immune system’s functions.

Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. A study found that when people took care of dogs for just 3 months, they showed significant drops in blood pressure and reactivity to stress.


A 20-year study found that people who owned a cat were 40% less likely to die from a heart attack.

2.   Dogs Can Increase Our Happiness and Well-Being

You may get a sense that hanging out with a dog or even looking at pictures of a dog gives your mood a boost – and there’s proof that it does. A chemical called oxytocin, which has been found to reduce stress, fight depression and create feelings of trust, increases significantly – for humans and dogs alike – when they spend as little as 30 minutes together. Glad the feeling is mutual!
Additionally, caring for a dog can help children grow up more secure and active or provide valuable companionship for older adults.

DID YOU KNOW? Dog owners were found to experience a spike in oxytocin just from meeting their dogs’ gazes.

3.  Pets Can Keep the Doctor Away

A study found that dog owners visit the doctor 8% less frequently than non-owners and cat owners visited even less – 12% less frequently.

Need More Proof? Look to the research on pets in animal-assisted therapy. When pets were present during therapy sessions:

  • Depressed patients were more social and experienced decreases in depression.
  • Children with severe ADHD showed increased attention spans.
  • Autistic or developmentally disabled patients were more social, and showed increased attention spans.
  • Patients with Alzheimer’s experienced decreases in depression and anger, with increased attention spans.

4.  Pets Can Be Good for Our Children

Evidence reveals that when kids imagine how a pet feels, may help them learn to empathise with their peers and take their feelings into account. Also teaching children to confide in their pets as if they were friends may help them recover from trauma and showing kids, and learning to care for a pet helps them to be more cooperative and willing to share. Lastly it seems that many kids who own pets may have higher self-esteem.

5. Get a dog, lose weight

Numerous studies have linked dog ownership to weight loss:

  • One year-long study found that walking an overweight dog helped both the animals and their owners lose weight. Researchers found that the dogs provided support in similar ways to a human exercise buddy, but with greater consistency and without any negative influence.
  • Public housing residents who walked therapy dogs for up to 20 minutes five days a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds in a year, without changing their diets.
  • Another study found that people who got a dog walked 30 minutes more a week than they did before.

Of course, having a pet isn’t always right for everyone. But if you’re in the right place in life and have love to give, you might be surprised by the ways your life improves.

For more information, please visit https://www.purina.co.nz/

References provided on request

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