Adopting a dog is something many people will do in their lifetime, for a wide range of reasons. Some people choose a dog because they want companionship, while others will get a dog for their children to grow up with, or because they simply want to add another pet to the family.
Regardless of your reasons, dogs are definitely ‘Man’s (or woman’s) Best Friend.’ They will love you unconditionally, always stay by your side, are fiercely loyal, and are amazing protectors.
Dogs are also incredibly intelligent, picking up on your daily habits and schedules quickly and understanding when you need them nearby for emotional support.
If you are still on the fence about getting a dog – as they are quite a lot of work – you should also know that owning a dog can also have health benefits.
There are both physical and mental benefits of having a dog, from them recognizing certain health problems in their owners, to being more active with a dog.
Here are 8 of the top health benefits of having a dog.
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1. You Get More Exercise
The first health benefit to having a dog is a physical one, but it can also help you on a mental and emotional level as well. That is that you will get more exercise by having a dog.
When you own a dog, they aren’t like cats where they might remain most of the time indoors, using the bathroom in a litter box. Dogs need to get more exercise and empty their bladders outdoors.
So whether this means you are spending more time in your backyard or taking them on walks around the neighborhood, you are bound to get more exercise.
If you have been sedentary for a while and looking for a reason to get more exercise, dogs are a perfect motivation. It is good for both of you to spend quality time together by going on walks, even short ones.
Of course keep your dog’s health in mind, keeping the walks slow and short if you adopt a senior dog. Also, be aware of snow or hot pavement, so your dog doesn’t burn its paws. Try to take your dog for a good walk at least once a day, but let them outside to potty several times a day.
2. They Help to Boost Your Mood
This is more of a mental benefit of having a dog. When you adopt a dog, regardless of where you adopt it from or what type of dog you get, it can help to boost your mood. Dogs are amazing companions, always there with you, making you feel loved, happy, and no longer lonely.
You can also get small bursts of mood-lifting magic just by spending more time with your dog. They are entertaining, funny, and charming a lot of the time.
If you are having a bad day, take your dog out for a walk, or just head to your backyard or patio and play with your dog. Even cuddling indoors with your dog can really help a lot with your mood.
You might also be interested to know that studies have shown playing with dogs can actually increase the serotonin levels in your brain, which literally makes you feel happier.
3. You Get More Vitamin D
This is another physical benefit from having a dog and is the result of taking your dog outside for walks and potty breaks. If you work indoors (like most people) or simply spend a lot of time in your house or office, you probably don’t get enough vitamin D.
While you can get a vitamin D supplement or drink more calcium, the best source of vitamin D is sunlight. When you have a dog, you are spending more time outdoors, getting a lot of vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays.
This helps your bones and teeth to grow stronger, supports a healthy immune system, helps with diabetes, and of course, can boost your mood as well.
A lot of people have a vitamin D deficiency and don’t realize it, so adopting a dog is one of the best ways to ensure you get adequate sunlight.
4. Dogs Help Improve Your Cardiovascular Health
Many studies have been done to look at the physical effects of having a dog, and one of the benefits to your health is to improve your cardiovascular health.
The cardiovascular system includes your heart, arteries, and veins, so it is extremely important you have the best heart health possible.
In addition to getting more exercise with dogs, which also helps the blood flow to your heart, owning dogs is often linked to having better cardiovascular health.
You become more active in general with dogs, not just taking them outside for walks, but even the act of feeding them and giving them fresh water, playing with them, and spending time with them.
Studies have shown that owning dogs can be linked to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as experiencing fewer heart attacks. Your dog can quite literally help to save your life.
5. They Help With Anxiety and Depression
Now it’s time to move onto some of the mental and emotional health benefits of dogs. This includes helping with both anxiety and depression.
A lot of people struggle with anxiety, which comes in many forms. You might have generalized anxiety disorder where you experience overwhelming worry every day, have severe panic attacks or suffer from specific types of anxiety-like PTSD or claustrophobia.
No matter what your anxiety is like or where it comes from, dogs can help tremendously. If you are someone that has trouble leaving your house because of agoraphobia, then you can feel comforted when your dog is with you.
If you tend to get a lot of panic attacks, it really helps to have a dog with you during those moments so that he or she can be with you until it is gone.
You can even train your dog to recognize the signs of an anxiety or panic attack and sit by your side until it is over. This is one of the many amazing things about having dogs.
If you feel that you need a dog for mental health, such as anxiety, you should also be able to live anywhere with your dog, even if they have strict no-dog rules. This is definitely something worth looking into.
Another mental health benefit of having a dog is if you suffer from depression. Dogs help with depression in various ways, which often depends on you and what you need from the dog.
Some people find that simply not being alone and being in the company of their dog helps during depressive episodes, while others experience less severe depressive symptoms just by having a dog around.
They are particularly useful for seniors who are isolated and need companionship, as well as people with chronic pain or life-threatening illnesses which can have a dog near them even at their worst times. In this way, the dog is considered a therapy animal, and can even go with you to the hospital.
6. Stress Levels Are Reduced
In addition to helping with anxiety and depression, having a dog can also help to reduce your stress levels. Just about everyone deals with stress in some form, but many people have a higher than normal stress level.
This is not only frustrating but can be hard on your body and your mind. You can actually put your health in jeopardy from too much stress that is not dealt with.
Here are some different ways dogs help with your stress:
When you get more exercise with your dogs, you release endorphins, which helps you feel happier and more relaxed.
Having a dog at home helps to ease family tension and reduce arguments and frustration between significant others.
They give families with kids more healthy activities, thus reducing everyone’s stress levels.
You get a boost in serotonin levels, which can help to reduce your stress.
Playtime with your dogs helps to relax you, lowering your emotional stress.
They help to manage stressful tasks and tense situations.
7. Dogs Can Help Detect Health Problems
Going back to the physical health benefits, let’s talk about something dogs can do that you might not know; they can actually recognize certain health problems.
There have been many studies that look at how dogs can sense something is wrong because of how you change, whether in your smell, your behavior, or even your voice.
Your dog spends a lot of time with you, paying attention to everything you do. Many dogs are even trained to look for signs of health conditions like cancer and diabetes.
If you are at high risk for health issues, you can get a service dog that can look for problems and alert you when you need immediate medical attention. Other dogs will change their behaviors when they sense something is wrong, so you shouldn’t ignore this.
8. They Can Help With Your Seizures
Lastly, let’s talk about one of the specific benefits of having a dog, which is that they can help keep you calm when you are having a seizure. Many people who have epilepsy, also have dogs, because they become a comfort and companion during the seizures.
While dogs are usually there to help you through a seizure you already have, many people believe their dog warns them even before the seizure begins. This can help you get to a safe place before the attack comes on.
Regardless of whether or not this is true, one thing is for certain: having a dog near you when you go through these seizure attacks can be comforting and make you feel safer.