Do pets really help us live longer?

Pet Health

Laura Vissaritis

What is the recipe for a long and happy life? Well, if you ask a cardiologist, they will say healthy food and regular exercise. Ask a geneticist and they will tell you that much of it is inherited. Question a psychiatrist and they'll add Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness to the list of ingredients. But ask me, and I'll say, 'Rescue a Dog'. 

There is increasing evidence in the realms of psychology and physiology that a dog can make you live longer. Even with modern Western medicine, a four-legged fur ball still remains one of the top panacea for a range of illnesses including cardiovascular disease, immunodeficiency’s, anxiety and depression. Are dogs saving our lives? 

Research has found many benefits of dog ownership including a reduction in blood pressure simply by petting a dog for a few minutes. People are also more likely to raise children without respiratory problems, and have a significantly increased immune system, resulting in getting sick less and having less time off work. Some may argue a dog not only benefits their owners but also takes the pressure off pharmaceutical and medical industries, by reducing the presentation of chronic disease illnesses. Not only are dogs improving our lives, they could be saving the world money. 

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But whilst I am the biggest advocate for everyone rescuing a pet from a Shelter, I do believe that the relationship should not be one sided. Pets certainly make our lives happier and healthier, but it is just as important to ensure we make their lives happier and healthier too. Increase your exercise regime for your dog as well as yourself. Cuddle them and pat them in a way that benefits their mental health as well. Remember that whilst your pet is looking after you as a therapist, best friend and physician, they also require the same from you. 

Here are four ways you can mutually increase the well-being of yourself and your pet.

  1. Play with your pet. This not only increases your heart rate and smiles, it also increases the endorphins and oxytocin in your brain. 
  2. Eat well. The occasional naughty snack is welcomed by our pets as much as us, but pet obesity is an increasing epidemic just as it is for humans. A well-balanced diet for both is essential. 
  3. Be mindful. Learn from your pet about how living and focusing on the 'now' can benefit your mind and body. Spend just a few minutes a day together focusing on the moment.
  4. Exercise together for at least 30 minutes a day. The more active we are, the more active happy chemicals become. Pets benefit from these chemicals too, with evidence they experience the same chemical activation in their brains as well. Enjoy your relationship with your pet and let it bring out the best in you. A mutual relationship based on trust and respect may not just save your life, it might end up saving the life of your best four-legged friend too. 

HIF Pet Insurance Cover

We all love spoiling our fur-kids, yet only 26% of dogs and 19% of cats in Australia have pet insurance - and that could be very hurtful when the vet bill arrives! With HIF Pet insurance, you'll enjoy affordable cover for cats and dogs of all ages. Plus, claiming is easy thanks to our online member Pet Pawtal!

Laura Vissaritis

Please note: Laura's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your veterinarian.

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