By: David Lister, RPhT

We love our pets; they make us feel better. But did you know that they can improve our mental and physical health?

According to the Canadian Veterinary Journal1, enough studies link improved human health with pet ownership that the connection now has a name: zooeyia. Pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol and are more active and healthier than their sedentary counterparts.

In a 2011 study2, psychologists found that pets provided “many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.” Therefore, pet people were more conscientious, less fearful, enjoyed better well-being, greater self-esteem, and increased resistance to social rejection. Even petting or interacting with our animal friends helps lower stress and anxiety, a view that has grown the popularity of pet therapy in Canada by 17% since 2020.

Children see those benefits too. A 2015 study3 found a marked improvement in children with ADHD who read to animals. Another showed increased social behaviours in autistic children when pets were part of the study4. Ontario veterinarian and pet advocacy expert Dr. Mike Bondar adds, “Children raised in a pet household are more empathetic, less anxious, and better prepared for the social rigours of adulthood.” That notion is backed by both Psychology Today Canada5 and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry6, with pet ownership “contributing to a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence, aiding in the development of non-verbal communication, compassion, empathy, and helping build trusting relationships with others.

Do you want to feel better? Adopting a furry friend may help! For pet adoption information, contact the Ontario SPCA. For pet health and rearing information, visit www.petwellnessadvocate.com.

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