Health Advocate Blog

The Healthy Benefits of Pet Adoption

Valentine’s Day is on the way, and everyone’s focused on doing kind things for their loved ones. But don’t just focus on the humans you love most—consider sending some love to a furry companion as well. If you don’t already have a pet, there are so many great reasons to adopt one. Whether you’re a dog lover or a cat lover, read on to learn why adopting animals from shelters is a loving, helpful gesture—and how having a pet can actually benefit your health!

Why should I adopt a pet from a shelter?

According to the Humane Society of the United States, the top reasons to adopt a pet are:

  • You’ll save an animal’s life. The number of euthanized animals can be drastically reduced by more people adopting pets.
  • You’ll get a healthy pet. Most shelters vaccinate pets and give them a physical examination when they arrive; some shelters even spay or neuter the animals.
  • You’ll save money. Adopting an animal from a shelter is often more cost-effective than buying a pet at a pet store. Plus. If the shelter has already paid to have the animal spayed or neutered, that’s one less thing you’ll have to pay for out-of-pocket.
  • You won’t be supporting “puppy mills.” Puppy mills are dog-breeding facilities that operate “factory-style,” often prioritizing profit over the dog’s health and welfare. If you adopt a pet from a shelter, you will be getting a pet from a place that puts the animals’ welfare first.

How can having a pet help me be healthier?

When you adopt a pet, in addition to doing something kind for your new pet, you’re also doing something beneficial for yourself and your health. Here’s how having a pet can help you be healthier:

  • Better immunity.Studies have shown that if you have a child, and that child grows up in a home with furry animals, they’ll have a lower risk of allergies, eczema and asthma.
  • Lower levels.The CDC reports that pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.
  • Decreased stress.Recent research indicates that when people are trying to do stressful tasks, they experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when loved ones (even their spouses) were present. This may be due to pets’ unconditional love and that they are non-judgmental.
  • More frequent exercise.Pets increase your opportunities for exercise…and better yet, since walking the dog or playing with the cat is fun, this type of exercise doesn’t feel like a chore. And, of course, more exercise can lead to fewer extra pounds and better overall health.
  • More brain exercise, too.Having a pet increases your mental acuity. You have to remember to walk the dog or change out the cat’s litter box and give the pet fresh food and water every day, as well as remember to take your pet to the vet for checkups and any necessary shots.
  • Social support.If you’re out walking your dog, not only do you get the health benefits of walking, but you’re also more likely to be approached to stop and chat. This gives you the opportunity to increase your social network by making new friends and, therefore, also increase your happiness.
  • Mood booster.If you’re an animal lover, how can you stay in a bad mood when you have a purring kitty in your lap, or a happy dog who wants to play fetch? Plus, caring for your pet can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Would a new pet be a good Valentine’s Day gift for a loved one?

Thinking of getting a pet for someone as a Valentine’s Day gift? Don’t do it! It’s never a good idea to surprise anyone with a pet adoption. Having a pet is a big responsibility, and the animal can suffer if its new owner doesn’t have time to properly take care of it. If you think a pet would benefit a loved one, talk to them about it. If they do want a pet, offer to accompany them to the shelter—and then let them choose their own pet that fits their needs and lifestyle.

For more healthy tips, visit the Health Advocate blog. If you’re a Health Advocate member, call us today for more healthy tips and advice, or to find an in-network doctor near you, get help with a medical claim, obtain a second opinion, and more.