(This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.)
It’s estimated 56 percent of households in the United States own a pet. This is not surprising considering the joys pet ownership can bring, but did you know owning a pet can also improve your health? Pet owners reported improved health-related outcomes, including more frequent exercise, better sleep, fewer sick days, and fewer doctor visits. Many studies confirm what pet owners already know — there are many benefits to pet ownership.
Fido isn’t going to walk himself. Having a dog that needs to be walked daily is a great way for you to get in your 30 minutes of recommended physical activity every day. With man’s best friend as your running partner, you’ll never have to miss a run. Getting regular exercise is good for you and your pet. It’s also a great way for you two to bond. If you think running is too much, start with just walking Fluffy around the block.
There are lots of other ways to be active with your dog, too, like hunting, dog agility, or hiking. If you do decide to make your pet your exercise partner, make sure he or she is properly trained and up for the challenge. If your pet is out of shape, lots of exercise can be tough for it, just like it would be for you. Make this the year you get in shape together.
There are other animal companions that are great for exercise, too. Horseback riding can be a great workout, and caring for large animals is a workout in itself.
Do you ever feel lonely and wish you had someone there to hang out with? A pet can be the perfect companion. Your pet wants to spend time with you, and will listen to anything you have to say without judging you. Having a chance to share your feelings and experience closeness with a pet can lift your mood and improve your mental health. Sometimes, at the end of a long day, the joy of a cat curled up and purring in your lap can make you feel appreciated and needed, and that can help your health.
For many, simply relaxing with their furry (or slithery) friend can make them feel happy and relaxed. Less stress can lead to increased feelings of happiness, greater satisfaction, and better cardiovascular health.
Even though many people believe there are positive healthy aspects to pet ownership, it’s important to remember pets present health risks as well. Many animals may carry diseases that could make them – or us – sick.
Here are some tips to protect yourself:
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after petting your animal or handling pet food.
• Make sure your pet is up-to-date with vaccines. In Carson City, pets must at least have a rabies vaccination.
• Avoid playing rough with your pet to reduce the chance of an accidental scrape or bite.
• Take your pet to the veterinarian for check-ups or if it’s sick.
If you are interested in expanding your family to include a pet, consider adopting a shelter dog or cat. The Nevada Humane Society recently took over animal care in Carson City and is open for adoptions every day. For more information about other health department services, visit us online at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CCHHS.