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How do pets help with mental health?

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 and more research showing us that pets can have a positive impact on our overall physical and mental wellbeing. 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 wellbeing.

Are therapy dogs/cats/rabbits really effective?

Yes! There is research that 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 be of great benefit to 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 provides 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 a real 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. There is a range of fantastic charities that can help match the right dog to assist you. The dogs are usually fully trained and the charity will support you whilst 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 and/or treated?

If 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 seen as a symptom of depression or loneliness. We have seen a general increase in behavioural issues 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 1-2, 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 of time alone can help grow their confidence and help in situations when there is no choice to be apart from their owners such as trips to the groomers, or staying at the vet’s. Puppies that do not experience time alone can become destructive, stressed and urinate and/or defecate 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 it is.

Nonetheless, pets, particularly dogs, are incredibly bonded to their owners and easily 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 of time.