Health Advantages and Disadvantages of Owning a Pet

There are plenty of good reasons to bring a pet into your life, but you should know the flip side too, especially health risks

Woman playing with her pet cat at home

If you have never had a pet before or are thinking of bringing one into your household, you may be wondering what the health implications are of keeping an animal in your living space. While some pets, such as chickens, horses, and others, are not usually given free access to the home, many types of pets are. This inevitably means that having a pet will raise some health questions. Let’s take a look at a few advantages and disadvantages that owning a pet has in terms of your family’s health and wellbeing.

Health advantages of owning a pet

There are plenty of reasons to bring a pet into your life, including these potential health benefits.

1. Improved Mood

Studies repeatedly demonstrate that interacting with pets on a regular basis is good for lowering blood pressure and heart rate, both of which result in feelings of calmness and peace. For people who experience ongoing low moods, depression, or anxiety, having a pet can be a welcome distraction from these mental health problems. This is in part due to the fact that pets require care and attention, encouraging people to stick to a healthy routine so their pet is looked after properly. Many people also find comfort in a companion animal accompanying them in public, either for emotional support or for health reasons such as seizures or visual impairment.

2. Opportunities for exercise

Playing with a lively animal is a great way to get more exercise. Dogs in particular require regular walks, meaning that their owners need to go for walks too. Cats should be played with on a daily basis and often have high energy levels, especially if they stay indoors. Small animals, such as ferrets, may even like to be taken for walks. Horse riding is another surprisingly effective way of keeping fit as you use muscles to stay balanced.

3. Aids parenting

Including a pet in your family can help your child develop a sense of responsibility and learn what it means to love unconditionally.

Health disadvantages of owning a pet

Of course, owning a pet also comes with its fair share of possible downsides for a person’s health.

1. Allergies

If you have never had a pet of your own or interacted with the type of animal you plan to adopt, you may not know that you or a member of the household is allergic. Fur, in particular, can cause allergic reactions that can sometimes be serious. Fortunately, there are services available that offer allergy solutions that make symptoms more bearable. There are also types of pets that you may not be allergic to, so do your research to find out which animals would be safe to enter your home. It isn’t as simple as whether it has fur or not since there are so many varieties and breeds within each category of pet.

2. Poor hygiene

If you allow your pet complete access around your home, their poor hygiene may impact your health. Reconsider letting them share your bed or standing on kitchen worktops unless you are prepared to keep everything, including your pet, diligently clean.

3. Risk of infections

Animal stools may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious infections in humans. Also, many animals are infested with parasites that can affects humans. Cats, in particular, are often infested with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which can find its way into human brain and cause a condition known as toxoplasmosis; if your immune system is compromised, your risk of this is higher.

Should you get a pet?

There are usually ways to work around the obstacles that pet ownership entails. It’s up to you to decide whether the health advantages of owning a pet listed above outweigh the accompanying disadvantages.

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