Why Social Distancing With Our Pets Keeps Us Healthier

As we’re all spending more time at home, it’s important to keep yourself not only physically healthy, but mentally and emotionally healthy as well. Pets and companion animals have the amazing ability to keep everyone feeling good, not just those with a physical or mental disability.

Pet Licking Face of Man

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey, 67 percent of households – an estimated 84.9 million homes – own at least one pet. Not only do these animals provide love and affection, they also help keep us healthy. Studies have linked pet ownership to lower blood pressure, reduced stress, less incidence of heart disease, and lower overall health care costs.

Right now, as we’re being advised to stay inside our homes, it’s harder than ever to stay physically and mentally healthy. But luckily for those of us with pets, this also means more time spent with our furry friends.

Here are all the ways our pets and companion animals help keep us healthy during this time of social distancing:

Physiological Benefits:

  • Pet interaction tends to lower anxiety levels in subjects, and thus decrease the onset, severity, or progression of stress-related conditions.
  • Petting animals, and even watching fish in an aquarium, have been demonstrated to provide cardiovascular benefits such as decreased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • After just 30-minutes of interacting with a dog, studies show increased levels of dopamine and endorphins associated with happiness, and decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
  • Other studies show that children exposed to pets early in life experience enhanced immune function, including fewer allergies and less wheezing and asthma.

Psychological Benefits

Family with Dog
  • Findings from studies often indicate that pets play a significant supportive role in reducing depression and loneliness, providing companionship, a feeling of responsibility, and a sense of purpose.
  • Studies reviewing the relationship between animals and children have been shown to positively alter a child’s attitude about themselves, and increase their ability to relate to others, along with many other positive benefits.
  • Service dogs have also been shown to improve overall quality of life for their human companions, including increased independence and self-esteem, and decreased loneliness.

Keeping Your Pets Healthy

Although social distancing may be a new and different experience for us as humans, it’s also important to consider how this new lifestyle has affected your pets.

Anxious Pets?

If your pet tends to be nervous or anxious, it’s best to give them some time alone while you’re social distancing. A pet gate can help keep your animals safe, secure, and comfortable while teaching them boundaries throughout the house. And if you’re working from home or doing online learning, a separate space may be beneficial to you as well.

Recently Adopted a Pet?

It’s nice to be able to spend plenty of time with your recently adopted pets, but eventually most of us will have to go back to work or school. To prevent separation anxiety in pets – especially dogs – who have been recently adopted, make sure your puppy is spending a little bit of time away from you every day. If they get used to being around you constantly during their critical learning period, and then suddenly things change down the road, they’ll most likely develop separation anxiety. Practice crate training or leaving them in a different room for an hour or so every day.

Thinking About Fostering?

Now is a great time to foster pets—shelters in your area may need to send animals to foster homes and many of us are spending more time at home. People who foster animals can be lifesavers for pets whose needs are beyond what busy shelter staff can often provide at this time. If you do decide to foster a pet, be sure to puppy-proof with pet gates, furniture straps, and childproof latches to keep little paws from prying open cabinets and doors. For more information and resources on adopting and fostering pets, check out petfinder.com.

Dog with Easy-Close Petgate
Easy-Close Petgate

Photo Credit: Sheila Hippe

At this time of uncertainty, we understand the importance of keeping ourselves, our families, and our fur babies healthy – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Please be sure to check with your state’s health officials for best practices and processes moving forward in your area.