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Why pets are good for your health

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Pets not only provide us with companionship, they also offer unconditional love and affection, perfect for those times we can't enjoy the company of others but don’t want to be alone either.

Aussies are a nation of pet lovers – we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. Research has also shown ownership of cats and dogs has saved Aussies approximately $3.86 billion in health expenditure over a year.

Pet owners report feeling happier and appear to cope with grief, stress and loss better than non-pet owners; and those that share their abode with a pet have been shown to have higher self-esteem.

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Dogs are boffins at building social networks within the community; creating opportunities for greater social interaction - most dog owners have experienced chatting to a complete stranger about their pooches quirks and habits. This interaction is especially beneficial when work and distance leaves less time for family and friends.

Adults aren’t the only ones that benefit from pet ownership. Research shows growing up with a dog assists in the social development of children, improving both social skills and self-esteem and providing daily opportunities to learn responsibility, empathy and respect by living with and caring for a dog.

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The stats also show teenagers who own pets have a more positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness, despair and boredom.

Physically speaking, the health benefits of pets are varied.  Research has shown that owning a pet can improve cardiovascular health - from lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides and in men, lower cholesterol. 

Number crunches have shown children who have pets are less likely to miss days of school due to illness, and growing up with a dog during infancy may help to strengthen the immune system and may reduce the risk of allergies. Research has also suggested pet owners enjoy fewer visits to the doctor.

Why does pet ownership improve your health?

Numerous studies demonstrate that possessing greater social support (such as the companionship provided by a pet) improves psychological and physiological health – including cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune functioning, while poorer social support increases mortality rates.

Pets are excellent caregivers, helping us feel protected and less lonely when home alone, and they are brilliant at giving us unconditional love and a non-judgemental ear when we are upset. This can mean lower stress, which is great for blood pressure and your ticker.

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And the most obvious reason dogs are great for your health? Dogs require very regular walking, thus forcing us to get out and enjoy the great outdoors while getting some regular exercise ourselves. As anyone with a dog will know, they are great motivators and never want to miss a walk, no matter how much you might!