Health and Wellness: Health advantages of pets

Ann Cochran - Dallas County Health Department
Special to Dallas County News and Perry Chief
One of the cats available to be adopted at the Raccoon River Pet Rescue on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, in Perry.

Pets add quality to the lives of their human families. Whether it’s a child learning the responsibility of caring for another living being, or an older adult enjoying a constant companion in an otherwise lonely time, pets provide so much.

Pet companionship can decrease cortisol, a stress-related hormone and lower blood pressure. Watching fish swimming in an aquarium can be calming. Physical activity as you play with and walk your pet is another heart healthy benefit.

Additionally, interaction with pets helps children develop social and emotional skills by interacting with pets that intuitively sense emotions, and offer empathy and security.

A consideration: What’s your ability to care for and interact with an animal? If your family is gone all day, a pet requiring much supervision or needing to be kept busy is a poor match for your lifestyle.

Other cautions to consider: children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of getting sick from being around an animal. Everyone should wash their hands after touching an animal. Persons at higher health risks should avoid kissing pets, and have someone else clean litter boxes and birdcages.

Pet lovers are always welcome to volunteer at local shelters.