On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

The Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Dogs aren’t called “man’s best friend” for nothing. Pet owners know how wonderful it is to have a pet in their lives. If you have a pet, you have a companion, a workout partner and someone who is always glad to see you — all in one furry package. About two-thirds of U.S. households are home to at least one pet, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some pet owners develop such a strong bond with their pets they include their animals in milestones and life events, like family portraits and even weddings. Oklahomans and their pets at life events Left photo: The Big & Bright, right photo: Rachel Photographs

Physical benefits

Pets need exercise, just like humans. Taking your dog for a walk is not only good for you, it’s good for your dog. Even simply petting a dog can reduce your blood pressure and heart rate, according to a Harvard Medical School Special Report.  Plus, the dog will benefit from it, too. The CDC says pets can decrease your cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness, while also increasing opportunities for exercise and socialization. Pets can actually help with animal-related allergies. Infants who live with pets like dogs and cats are less likely to develop animal-related allergies later in life.  For example, a study in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy found children who grew up with cats were half as likely to be allergic to them as teenagers. Not only does owning a pet have physical benefits, pet ownership has mental benefits as well. A pet needs your care and relies on you for nearly everything.

Social benefits

If making conversation is sometimes difficult for you, a pet can help. Bringing your dog to a pet-friendly place like The Bleu Garten in Oklahoma City can help you make a few new friends. Other Oklahoma City spots that allow dogs include The Pump Bar, Fassler Hall, Chae and Fat Dog Kitchen & Bar. A pet can be a great conversation starter. You may get questions like: What’s his name? What kind of dog is she? Is it a boy or a girl? Can I pet him? Dog parks are as much for people as they are for pets. Owners can form bonds with other owners, chatting about their pets and the crazy things they do, in a place where their dogs can also have fun and get some exercise.

Pet Therapy at INTEGRIS

Because pets have such a profound impact on our health, there are even pet therapy programs across the country. Therapy dogs at INTEGRIS provide comfort to both patients and families during times of physical, mental and emotional stress, because experts agree the emotional health of the patient is just as important as physical health. These animals provide comfort and relief, helping their human companions to maintain positive mindsets. Even physicians and staff count seeing the therapy dogs as a highlight of their day. Watch Pet Therapy in action at INTEGRIS:

Choosing your new pet

If you’ve decided to become a pet owner, there are many more decisions you need to make before you bring your new family member home. Once you’ve chosen the kind of pet, you’ll need to decide if you want a younger pet that will likely need house training or an adult pet that may already be housebroken and well-trained. Keep in mind these factors when you’re considering adding a pet to your family:
  • Cost of food
  • Cost of veterinary care
  • Time and energy needed to properly care for your pet
  • Any allergies you or your family members may have
If you’d like some of the benefits of having a pet but can’t commit to having it at home full-time, contact a local shelter or animal society about volunteer opportunities. You can still enjoy the health benefits of owning a pet even if you’re only able to volunteer your time for a few hours a week. The Central Oklahoma Humane Society is always looking for volunteers. Many rescues also need temporary foster homes for cats and dogs that are waiting to get adopted. Often the rescue will provide food and medical care for the animals, so all you’ll need to do is provide love and care. The Bella Foundation is a great local nonprofit fostering operation if you’re looking for more information. Each week you'll get the most popular I On Your Health articles sent straight to your inbox.

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