Dogs and Cats can relieve stress in their owners. Here’s how…

April is stress awareness month, and we all know stress can be caused by either external factors or can come from ourselves. Even living in a family might contribute to increased stress levels. According to a 2020 survey in the UK, family stress was experienced by 48% of the respondents. However, work stress was the most common type of stress experienced (79% of respondents) followed by monetary stress (60%), health stress (45%), and relationship stress (35%).

These figures show that stress is prominent problem in our daily lives and whatever the cause, we have to find ways to relieve it. The good news is that our pets can help us to do this – let’s take a closer look at how.

Pets as de-stress boosters!

Even having a beautiful family life with children can lead to considerable stress. Consequences might be poor health and unhappiness. Many physiological ailments derive from stress, which negatively impacts our lives. A study found that people who work on a stressful task but have their pets with them, feel significantly less stress than when they are with a spouse, family member, or close friend. A pet, especially a dog, helps people reduce their stress perception compared with people who don’t have pets.

When we are very stressed our stress hormone, cortisol, increases. A study of women showed that their cortisol levels were significantly reduced when stroking their dogs, even when it was just for ten minutes. Moreover, just three minutes stroking of a dog leads to increased levels of the “love” hormone oxytocin. This leads to reduced stress and increased pain tolerance. And both, humans and dogs can benefit from that. Therefore, our furry companions are great de-stress boosters!


Pets as an antidote to depression!

In 2014, 22.5% of women in the UK suffered from depression. This figure is much higher than the worldwide depression rate of 3.4%.

Pets in general have been shown to be effective antidotes to depression and can also help us with milder conditions and mood swings. In a survey, 90% of respondents reported improved mood when spending time with pets.


Pets as a happiness and wellbeing booster!

The “happy hormone”, dopamine and “wellbeing hormone”, endorphin are the hormonal triggers that let us experience happiness and pleasure. After just five minutes interaction with our pet, people experience an increased excretion of those happy and wellbeing hormones. Women have been shown to benefit even more from the physical interaction than men which is great news for London Mums readers!

Talking to our furry friends is also a fantastic way to relax and to air our problems. We don’t have to worry that they will judge us or talk back.


Pets as life savers!

The American Heart Association regards dog ownership as a possible causal role in reducing blood pressure. Dog owners showed significantly reduced systolic blood pressure compared with people who did not have dogs. However, you do not have to play with a pet to significantly lower your blood pressure. Even watching fish in a tank versus a bare wall for thirty minutes will do the trick! Our pets can lower our triglyceride levels by almost half. They can also help to reduce our cholesterol levels.

Our pets, especially dogs, can be life savers. Pets have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular diseases with a 36% lower cardiovascular disease risk in dog owners. Dogs can also help us reduce mortality rates from cardiovascular disease by one quarter. A study showed that one year after a heart attack, only 3% of dog owners had died compared with 28% of non-dog owners.


Pets as pain killers!

Stress leads not just to mental problems and exhaustion but also increases pain in our bodies. Pets can act as natural painkillers as even five minutes with our pets increases our endorphin levels. Endorphins are natural hormones produced in our body that are similar to morphine. They are therefore considered natural painkillers as they activate opioid receptors in the brain and reduce pain.


Pets as a laughing medicine!

“Laughter is the best medicine.” This common saying is true, particularly when it comes to our pets. Studies have found that dog owners laugh more frequently than people without pets. And dog owners laugh spontaneously more often than cat owners. People who own both dogs and cats laugh even more. Laughter is well-known to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, pain and to improve our immune system.


Pets as a sleeping pill!

If worries are invading your dreams and are keeping you from sleeping well – then get a pet! Research reveals that 56% of pet owners allow their pets to sleep in the bedroom. Of those, 41% do not feel disturbed by their pets and have even noticed they sleep better. However, sleep improves more when a pet is in the room, but not in the bed.

Do you think you sleep better when your partner is in bed with you? Think twice, because science found that especially women sleep better with a cat in the bed than with their partner!


In conclusion, if you’re feeling stressed and don’t know how to cope, the answer could be getting a loving pet. Their beneficial impact on our lives and their ability to reduce our stress levels is amazing. Therefore, our pets are not just our best friends and companions, they are also a great solution for relaxation and stress reduction in our lives!


Article by Dr Margit Gabriele Muller, leading vet and award winning author of Your Pet, Your Pill: 101 Inspirational Stories About How Pets Lead You to A Happy, Healthy and Successful Life, out now, available on Amazon.

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