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Pet Companionship | Health Benefits & Healing Power

Ask any pet owner, and they’ll tell you that their furry friend is an important part of their life. In fact research has shown that having an animal companion is not only enjoyable – pets can actually help improve your mental health!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we are highlighting the important role pets can play in our mental and emotional wellbeing. Pet ownership has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. That is very encouraging for the approximately 40 million adults in the United States who are affected by depression and anxiety. Here is a look at the science behind healing powers of the human-animal connection.

  • Animal interactions boost the mood. Oxytocin and dopamine, the neurochemicals associated with positive feelings and bonding, have been observed in both dogs and people after enjoyable interactions like petting and playing.
  • Pets reduce stress. Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure.
  • Having a pet can reduce feelings of loneliness. According to a survey by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 87% of respondents, both pet owners and non-owners, reported that interactions with an animal help combat feelings of loneliness. Additionally, dog owners can feel more connected to other people since walking your canine companion or taking him to the dog park can create chances for socialization, which can ease symptoms of depression.
  • Walking a dog is especially helpful. Walking increases endorphins, which fight depression. Owning a dog can lead to a daily exercise routine that can help reduce stress levels, increase self-esteem, and help develop better sleep patterns.

While pet ownership is no substitute for professional medical treatment, it can provide a boost in your emotional health. And when you adopt an animal from the VBSPCA or any other animal shelter, you’re not the only one who benefits from the adoption – you’re providing a second chance for a homeless animal.

This month we’re teaming up with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Coastal Virginia for our Pets Make Life Better Initiative. For more information on how you can participate, click here