How do pets help with mental health?
Welcoming a pet home is a joyful and life-changing experience. There are many benefits to having a pet, and we’re seeing more research showing us that pets can positively impact our overall physical and mental well-being. From more time spent outside walking our dogs, adding structure to our days and providing companionship, these benefits have all been shown to support our well-being.
Are therapy dogs, cats, and rabbits effective?
Research shows therapy dogs can help raise children’s reading abilities – when a child reads a book aloud to a therapy dog, the dog is a non-judgmental listener and gives the child a positive learning experience. It is well known that pets, in general, make us happier, which can significantly benefit residents in care homes – therapy pets can provide moments of elation and are a good distraction from reality.
Stroking a pet has been shown to lower blood pressure and deliver something else to focus on for a few moments. Therapy pet visits can also bring welcome relief and happiness to staff in care homes and hospitals – seeing their patients have a positive experience is an absolute pleasure, and again a welcome distraction from the daily grind.
There are a variety of assistance dogs to help with various needs and health issues. A range of fantastic charities can help match the right dog to assist you. The dogs are usually fully trained, and the charity will support you while your new four-legged friend settles in. Assistance dogs can help give people independence, confidence and provide unconditional love.
Can dogs get depressed? How can this be prevented or treated?
Suppose pets don’t get the right balance of love, attention or physical and mental stimulation they need. It can lead to behavioural issues, which are a symptom of depression or loneliness. We have seen a general increase in behavioural problems for dogs but found that puppies under one are more likely (62%) to claim for a behavioural issue compared to just 16% of dogs aged one-two, with volumes dropping significantly after the dog reaches three years old. This shows just how much commitment puppies need in the first few years as they get used to their new homes and the world around them.
Separation anxiety is one of the most common behaviour issues seen in adult dogs, and this can stem from not having any time alone as puppies. Short periods alone can help grow their confidence and support in situations when there is no choice to be apart from their owners, such as trips to the groomers or staying at the vets.
Puppies that do not experience time alone can become destructive, stressed and urinated or defecated in the home because of their anxiety. If you notice any behavioural issues, take your dog to the vet. Your vet can recommend a certified pet behaviourist to help you and your dog improve together.
Do pets suffer from Blue Monday too?
Many pet owners will swear that their pets can tell the time due to their knack at remembering meal or walk times and their helpful reminders (aka cats pawing at the face at 3 am or dog helpfully bringing food bowl over). This is because pets rely on their internal clock or circadian rhythm, which will give them indications on when to wake up, sleep, and eat. However, this doesn’t mean pets are aware of time and definitely won’t know what day.
Nonetheless, pets, particularly dogs, are incredibly bonded to their owners and quickly pick up on all sorts of cues from their owners, from smells, tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. If you’re having a stressful day, it’s likely your pet will pick up on this. And while they may not know it’s Christmas day or a stressful Monday morning at work, pets do get lonely and blue if left alone for long periods.
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