Pets and Mental Health

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August 30, 2022

Writers and Researchers: Raven Gavino and Christopher Jan Dumaguin
Editor: Rafael Reyes, Richardson dR Mojica
Peer Reviewer: Alvin Joseph Mapoy
Graphics: Mitz Sabellano, Sarah Mondoy, Krystle Mae Labio
Tweetchat Moderators: Christine Joy Salva Cruz, Aiah Osana, Marian Lorrice Apostol, Pat Sevilla
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Nothing in the world compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. As the coronavirus creates a line between people, pets can improve one’s mood, alleviate anxiety, and ease loneliness. They can love and provide companionship to people of all ages in good and bad times.

The Power of Pets

“We are trying to tap into the subjective quality of the relationship with the animal—that part of the bond that people feel with animals—and how that translates into some of the health benefits,” explains Dr. James Griffin, a child development expert at News in Health (NIH) [8]. Scientists are looking at the potential physical and mental health benefits for different animals—from fish to guinea pigs to dogs and cats [8].

Being a responsible pet owner is not a chore — it is a relaxing routine that helps people focus and organize their days [1]. Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood [8].

While pets may not work for everyone due to health risks and adverse allergic reactions, they can bring a wider range of benefits and new responsibilities.

Pets on Mental Wellness

Companionship. Pets can be someone we can share the day with. Taking care of them can help us feel wanted and needed. This works especially for older people and for those who live alone [2].

Sense of Achievement. Feeding, exercising, and caring for a pet can help you keep to a daily routine. This routine can help you feel more grounded and focused. It can give your day purpose and a sense of achievement [2].

Make you exercise. For example, dogs require their owner a lot of activity while cats may be content to hang out on the couch all day. Small animals like rodents or reptiles can always stay in their small habitats. Choose a pet whose activity level matches yours [2].

Interact with new people. As you walk down the street with your pets, you can meet new people who can talk to them. You can also meet people while enrolling in classes to train your pets in an online group and pet shops [2].

Help you boost your confidence. Pets can be great listeners too. They can also offer you the unconditional love that you can feel whenever they touch your skin. This can help your self-confidence, especially if you feel isolated or misunderstood [2].

Stress reduction. Petting your dogs, cats, or pets is a quick way to lessen the feeling of distress. This is not just hearsay, but a scientific explanation exists. Being around pets can lower cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress and anxiety, at high amounts [2].

May reduce anxiety. A pet’s companionship can help ease your anxiety [2].  In 2015, one study found that only 12 percent of children with a dog met the criteria for anxiety, compared to 21 percent of children without a dog [4].

May help people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). People with ADHD may benefit from the day-to-day routine that a pet needs. It is a great way to release their excess energy, whether by walking a dog or running around with a kitten [2].

May help people with Autism. Children on the autism spectrum can involve their pets in sensory integration activities to help them with their sensory issues and get used to how something feels against their skin or how it smells or sounds [2].

May help lessen symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One study by O’Haire and Rodriguez in 2018 found that service dogs can help ease the symptoms of PTSD in veterans by lowering their depression, improving their resilience, reducing their loneliness, and overall psychological well-being [3][5].

Pets as Part of the Family

Having a pet in your life is a commitment [1]. Animals, not limited to cats and dogs, are part of the family. They are the ones who gave protection to us at times. They are more than just cute animals. People who take care of animals see them as important as siblings or children. People usually take care of them as they give them a sense of security and companionship.

You must agree to take care of them even for the rest of your life, considering the time and money you will need to invest in pet care [1]. On the other hand, having a pet has a lot of rewards, including mental health benefits.

Pets as Part of Self-Care

Stay connected. Maintaining a social network is not always easy as you grow older [9]. Retirement, illness, death, and relocation can take away close friends and family members [9]. And making new friends can get harder [9]. Pets are a great way to spark connections and foster quality time by having them as one of your priorities.

Boost your vitality. You can overcome many physical challenges associated with aging by taking good care of yourself [9]. Dogs, cats, and other pets encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy [9].

Find meaning and joy in life. As you age, you will lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose [9]. You may retire from your career or your children may move far away. Caring for a pet can bring pleasure and help boost your morale, optimism, and sense of self-worth [9]. Choosing to adopt a pet from a shelter, especially an older pet, can add to your sense of fulfillment, knowing that you have provided a home to a pet that may otherwise have been euthanized since they have a short life span compared to humans.

The quandary for not Having Pets

Sometimes people want to have a pet but cannot afford the expense it can cost them. On the other hand, some people have medical conditions that prevent them from owning a pet. Others reasons are: you live somewhere pets are not allowed, or you are worried about having times where you are too unwell to care for a pet.

Legal Adoption of Pets in the Philippines

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is a volunteer-based non-government organization that aims to prevent animal cruelty through animal sheltering, education, and advocacy. The PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Center is currently a dwelling place for cats and dogs rescued from neglect or abuse [6].

Other places where you can legally adopt or donate for pets:

    1. The Philippine Animal Rescue Team (PART)
  • San Mateo Pound

 

Republic Act (RA) No. 10631 “The Animal Welfare Act of 1998”

As our pets benefit us from different areas of our lives, let us also give them what is due to them. Let us protect animals from harm and abuse by following the law mandated in RA No. 10631. 

Section 1 states that it is the purpose of this Act to protect and promote the welfare of all terrestrial, aquatic, and marine animals in the Philippines by supervising and regulating the establishment and operations of all facilities utilized for breeding, maintaining, keeping, treating or training of all animals either as objects of trade or as household pets. For purposes of this Act, pet animals shall include birds [7].

Humans and animals live on a single planet where they share their existence with one another. As we receive benefits from having animals as our pets, let us always remember that they are just like humans who can experience emotions. 

  

Pre-session Activity: 

Share your pet/pets with us through a picture and describe them in your tweet.

Session Questions:

Q1: What is your favorite thing to do with your pet? 

Q2: How does your pet help you cope with your stressors?

Q3: How can you encourage others to take care of a pet?

Cited Works: 

[1] Claussen, K. (2021). How Pets Affect Mental Health. Web MD. Retrieved from: https://pets.webmd.com/how-pets-affect-mental-health

[2] Mental Health Foundation. (2021). Pets and Mental Health. Retrieved from:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/pets-and-mental-health

[3] Scully, S. (2022). 10 Mental Health Benefits of Pets. Psych Central. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/health/pets-and-mental-health#8.-They-can-help-reduce-symptoms-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

[4] Ehrenfeld, T. (2019). Your Dog Can Help Your Anxiety. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/open-gently/201910/your-dog-can-help-your-anxiety

[5] O’Haire, M. and Rodriguez, K. (2018). Preliminary efficacy of service dogs as a complementary treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder in military members and veterans. Retrieved from:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29369663/

[6] Petallano, A. (2021). Adopt, Don’t Shop: Adopting a Pet in the Philippines. Modern Filipina. Retrieved from:

https://www.modernfilipina.ph/pets/pet-adoption-philippines#:~:text=Where%20to%20Adopt%20Pets%20in%20the%20Philippines%20Philippine,that%20have%20been%20rescued%20from%20neglect%20or%20abuse

[7] Republic of the Philippines , Fifteenth Congress (2013). Retrieved from:

https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/10/03/republic-act-no-10631/

[8] National Institute of Health of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Retrieved from:

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets

[9] Lundgren, K. et al. (2021). HelpGuide Org. International. Retrieved from:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.htm#:~:text=Pets%2C%20especially%20dogs%20and%20cats,valuable%20companionship%20for%20older%20adults.

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