Dr. Ducharme’s Blog March 12th, 2018 Get Healthy…Get a Dog

Get Healthy…Get a Dog

March 12, 2018

Dogs are amazing. They bring us great joy, teach us about true love, are great companions and can certainly help kids learn to take on responsibility. But they actually do so much more to help support their human caretakers.  An article on  helpguide.org  (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-...)points out the many health benefits of owning a dog. In particular:

Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.

People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.

Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.

Heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without.

Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

These are amazing statistics. The article goes on to point out that one of the reasons dogs have such therapeutic effects is that they fulfill the basic human need to touch and be touched. Even criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with dogs.

There are many other benefits for dog owners. They generally help us get exercise since they need to be walked. And when we are out walking with our pets, it is so easy to meet other people. You are definitely more likely to strike up a conversation walking with your dog or even sitting on a bench with your dog than if you were just by yourself. Some men even think of their dogs as “chic magnets”. Others feel that “if you like my dog you are probably OK”.

Taking care of a dog also can add structure to your life.  They need routine. They need to be fed and exercised and have time to rest and sleep. This can be particularly important for elderly individuals who may be feeling a loss of purpose and even a sense of isolation after their families have grown and moved on. Dogs, and to a lesser degree cats, encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy.

 If you think owning a dog would be a idea for you, consult with a veterinarian  or go to a reputable pet shelter to see what type of dog would be a good match for you. Then be prepared for a lifetime of joy!