Can Owning A Pet Help Improve Your Health?

National Love Your Pet Day is celebrated on February 20th. Although I don’t have a pet of my own, this special day reminds me of the fun times I have dog-sitting my cousin’s dog. Gili, is a poodle mix and she is incredibly playful and energetic. One of the many things I adore about Gili is the instant excitement she shows every evening when I arrive home from work.  Even though only 8 hours went by, she acts as if she has not seen me for weeks or months! This kind of greeting always brightens my mood within seconds of walking in the front door.

I am only with Gili for one or 2 weeks at a time, so I can only begin to imagine how it must feel for someone with a pet of their own.  The bond between a pet owner and their furry friends is one that is very special. This, of course, got me thinking – if a pet can improve a person’s mood, what other health benefits could pet ownership provide? More specifically, could having a pet help improve diabetes management?

The following is a brief list of some of the possible ways owning a pet may help improve your health and diabetes control:

Having a pet may promote more physical activity:

  • Physical activity has numerous health benefits, including: improving cardiovascular health, blood glucose control, and weight management.
  • According to The Journal of Physical Activity & Health, dog owners are more likely to reach their fitness goals than those without dogs.
  • Research from the University of Western Australia found that 70 percent of adult dog owners reached 150 minutes of physical exercise per week, in comparison to just 40 percent of those without dogs.
  • Walking 150 minutes throughout the week meets the adult (ages 18 to 64) physical activity guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Having a pet may help with depression

  • Depression is nearly twice as common in those with diabetes. Being depressed can negatively impact diabetes management resulting in poor glycemic control, thus increasing the risk for chronic complications.
  • According to the World of Psychology, pets may help relieve depression in the following ways:
    • Pets offer a soothing presence
    • Pets help make us more responsible, which helps promote mental health
    • Pets offer acceptance and unconditional love
    • Pets promote touch
    • Petting a cat or dog may help lower blood pressure and increase the release of serotonin and dopamine (naturally occurring chemical that impact happiness).

Having a pet may help you sleep better at night

  • Poor sleep has been linked to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • In a recent study, researcher Dr. Lois Krahn found that pet owners who sleep with their pets may sleep better, as their pets give them a sense of security.

How has your pet helped improve your health/diabetes control? Please share you story with type2diabete.com community.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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