By Lisa Tolarchyk, B.S.,ACSM HFI | Cenegenics Phoenix
No matter the day, I can always rely on being greeted with love from my eighty five pound black Labrador retriever, Elvis. Elvis brings my family joy and pleasure. He serves us all as a stress reliever and healer.
Dr. Edward Creagan, oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, is a strong believer in the healing power of pets. Dr. Creagan asks patients to list their pet’s name on their health history form. He believes that asking an ill patient about their pet can often result in a change in their overall attitude and help alleviate depression. Dr. Creagan stated that there is a surge in hormones in the center of the brain that provokes a calming effect for the patient that helps lower the signs of depression, too.
According to the NIH (1) there are numerous psychological and physical health benefits from owning a pet. Owning a dog increases your physical well-being through daily walks and play. This study showed that cardiovascular patients who own a dog have a greater chance of living one year after the cardiac event compared to those without pets.
In addition, owning a pet, (dog, cat, or rabbit) can also reduce your blood pressure, decrease your heart rate, and alleviate symptoms due to stressful situations. One study (2) revealed that married couples who own a pet often find it easier to manage stress more effectively.
Pets are also being used to assist wounded soldiers in their recovery from war injuries. The Rocky Top Therapy Center in Keller, Texas is known for this. Here, horses accompany doctors in patient therapy sessions to help the wounded recover from physical injuries and post-traumatic stress. For example, the center has a 37 year old veteran who served 17 years in the Army. He served several deployments from Kuwait to Baghdad. He suffers from severe panic attacks and uses a therapy horse to recover from injuries and cope with panic attacks. (3)
Final thought: Evening walks with your pet can help alleviate stress, while bond with a significant other. A pet can bring you inner peace at the end of a hectic day.