How good are pets? From the way they look at you like you’re pure magic to the way a cuddle can make a truly awful day seem as through everything is right with the world again, our furry friends are seriously are the bomb-digity! But did you know that our beloved pets can do far more than just cure a bad mood and can actually have a significantly positive impact on our health and wellbeing. How? By incorporating them into your Active Living routine! We caught up with Dr. Alex Hynes, an emergency vet at Animal Emergency Service, to find out how – and more importantly why you should incorporate your pets into your Active Living routine.
What are some of the benefits that animals can have on our health and wellbeing
There is nothing better than coming home after a big day at work and receiving an enthusiastic welcome from your dog or cat, but did you know research has shown that owning a pet has benefits for both our physical and mental wellbeing? People with pets have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and pet owners report less depression and cope better with stress than non-pet owners. A study of children found those that grew up with pets were more empathetic and had higher self-esteem while being around dogs during infancy has been shown to strengthen the immune system and may reduce the risk of allergies. Pets are also great conversation starters! If I go for a walk with my dog at least a couple of people are sure to come up and say hi. They enhance our social connectedness and build friendships.
Why is it so important to spend quality time with your pets (for both pets and owners) and what are some of the best ways?
Pets just love it when we give them attention and that isn’t always easy especially in our busy lives. Dogs and cats are social creatures so playtime keeps their spirits up and gives them a sense of purpose. Dogs in particular are great motivators (as good as any personal trainer!) to get us moving and enjoying the outdoors. Because obesity is a risk factor for many major health problems such as diabetes and heart disease, keeping active with pets can help prevent these diseases. There may not be time to go for a long walk with but even a game of ball in the backyard with a dog is guaranteed to leave you both with a smile on your face.
Cats are natural hunters and playtime allows them to tap into that instinct. They will often play with a piece of string dangled from the air for hours pretending it is prey and daily activity like this keeps them from getting bored.
No one will love you more unconditionally than your pet. They never disagree with you and always accept you for exactly who you are. No matter what you’ve done or what has happened that day – a stressful day at work, a fight with your partner – they are there to give us attention and affection. Spending quality time even just snuggling up with a pet in front of the TV makes you feel wanted and needed.
How can a pet improve and benefit your Active Living practice?
My dog thinks I am the most amazing person in the world. That kind of confidence is infectious – how can I not believe in myself!
What are some of your favourite ways to get active with your animals?
Running has always been a great stress reliever for me and taking along a four -legged friend is great companionship and also adds a bit of security. It’s important not to run too far with a puppy as their bones are still developing, but training them to run beside me from a young age means that when we are ready to go the distance they are not getting tangled under my feet. When I lived overseas and didn’t have a dog I used to take my neighbours dog running with me. He loved it and so did they!
My daughter Tori plays hide and seek with her cat. She hides and then makes little scratching sounds like a mouse and the cat goes crazy trying to find her. We all end up on the floor laughing.