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Dr. Jasmine Streeter, DVM
Published: 02 March 2017

The 45th president has had a tumultuous start in the last 30 days to say the least.  A sense of uneasiness, fear, and stress has encroached itself upon the hearts and minds of many Americans because of recent actions taken by the new administration.

According to an American Psychological Association survey which was released Feb. 15, two-thirds of Americans reported being stressed about the future of our nation.  This month, I wanted to spotlight the benefits of pet ownership for reducing stress. Hopefully you are comfy, cozy and cuddled next to a warm happy fur ball while reading this article. 

Not many people will dispute the positive contributions that human-animal interactions have on society. Seeing-eye dogs giving sight to the blind and therapy dogs helping children with autism are just a few examples of how pets enhance our lives.  Take a moment to think about your pet, does a fond memory come to mind? Hopefully it does because pets have the ability to make us feel great.

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that interacting with animals can influence you in a positive manner. Staying on task and creating goals were shown to be easier when pets were present.  

In addition, animals have the ability to increase positive social attention from others. If you don’t believe it, try walking down the street with a puppy in Portland and see how far you get without someone engaging you and your dog in conversation.

Pets have been shown to decrease anxiety, stress, fear and lower blood pressure when they were present during a stressful situation. Aquariums are commonly placed to reduce anxiety in doctor’s offices because of their relaxing effect on patients. (Have you ever watched a scary movie with your cat or grabbed the dog while checking out a weird sound you heard in the bathroom? Don’t feel embarrassed, I have too.) Regardless of their size, just knowing your pet is there with you in that moment can make you feel like you can handle anything that comes your way together.

Loneliness and depression have also been lessened by interaction and ownerships of pets. Elderly residents in assisted living and nursing homes that owned pets or participated in dog-assisted therapy reported decreased loneliness and less depression than their counterparts with no animal interaction. In addition, survival rates of pet owners who had previously had a heart attack were higher than non-owners.

If the potential to lower stress, fight depression, and live longer haven’t convinced you to cherish your pet, then I don’t know what will. The love and loyalty that our pets give us each day can not be measured. So next time you’re feeling wound up, unappreciated or down, take a deep breath, pull your pet in close and whisper, “It’s going to be OK.”

I bet your furballs with their wet little noses, whiskers and sweet kisses will be glad you did.

Have a question for Dr. Jasmine Streeter? Send an email to [email protected].

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