Pet Therapy – How cats and dogs can lower levels of stress

Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death

When the end of a calendar year approaches and friends and colleagues discuss what they’ll do differently once the clock chimes midnight on December 31, you very rarely hear anyone say that their new year’s resolution is to reduce stress. Which makes no sense at all when you consider that chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung issues, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

In America, over 75% of all GP visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. It’s a problem of major significance and of epidemic proportions – the bottom line is, we must all actively be looking to reduce our levels of stress.

The Science

Khody Damestani, co-founder of mental health and well-being company, MyMindPal, is a huge advocate of pet therapy.

“You can lower stress using various methods which we’d also highly recommend, from meditation and mindfulness, to staying present by focusing on just one task at a time. But having a pet is a huge positive, with studies showing that petting and playing with animals actively reduces stress-related hormones,” says Khody.

“Playing with a dog or cat raises our levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are hormones that calm the nervous system. And these benefits can occur within no time at all – just a few short minutes.

“Interacting with a family pet also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increasing the rate of oxytocin release, which naturally reduces stress. On top of that, stroking a pet lowers blood pressure, and if you’re lowering your blood pressure then you’re inadvertently lowering stress.”

Final thoughts

Most people’s new year resolutions are, by now, a dim and distant memory. However, the desire to lower levels of stress should be a 365-day a year, 24-7 commitment, because stress is a killer; pure and simple.