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Pets Positive Impact on Mental Health

Bringing a new best friend into your home is an exciting time. A pet becomes an integral part of your life, as a friend, a family member and, most of all, a companion that can have a great impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Research has shown that human-animal interactions can reduce anxiety and protect against negative feelings. Pets have a way of knowing when we need them most. Our social support and ability to heal in the long-term improves just with their presence. Researchers suggest that animals offer unconditional acceptance, making them a calm comfort to all.²

Over the years, LifeLine adopters have frequently shared updates with us about how their pets have changed their lives for the better. Below is how Flora and Cindy Lou, adopted dogs from our Fulton County Animal Services shelter, have helped their mom on her journey: 

Flora and Cindy Lou

I adopted my first dog, Flora, through LifeLine five years ago, when I was dealing with a rare disease and associated mental health challenges. It was love at first sight, and Flora’s been my ride-or-die ever since. She is my registered Emotional Support Animal and helped me get through the most challenging years of my life, including the pandemic. When I recovered, I started fostering through LifeLine and recently adopted my second foster dog, Cindy Lou! Now the three of us are a little family, and the dogs and I could not be happier. I would highly recommend fostering or adopting through LifeLine — it really saves lives, including your own!"

Did You Know? ¹
  • Playing with your dog has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase dopamine and oxytocin, the feel-good brain chemicals that produce well-being sensations.
  • Older pet-owning adults have improved cognitive function.
  • Pet ownership can also help to reduce anxiety and PTSD symptoms.
  • Maybe your pet encourages you to go outside and bask in the sun, reminds you to rest when you need it, or provides a listening ear and hug at any time. No matter where you’re at in life, pets are practically essential to improving our mental health.

A poll by The American Psychiatric Association (APA) revealed that pets had a positive impact on their pet owners’ mental health because of their calming presence, true friendship, unconditional love and support.  The benefits of pet ownership to many Americans seem to outweigh the stressors,” according to APA CEO and Medical Director, Saul Levin, MD, MPA.

These pet owners recently shared their stories about how their pets have brought peace and love into their lives. 

Gigi and Lia

“I got Gigi and Lia as a gift for Christmas and although it’s only been 5 months, it feels like forever. They fit so perfectly into my life at a time when I was at my lowest. Being a student in college can feel lonely. And after losing contact with friends due to distance, I would feel so lonely at school and I dreaded going home. Now that I have my girls, I wish I could be with them 24/7. They may make messes and have pee accidents, but I would gladly clean up after them for the rest of my life. They’ve become my best friends and I feel best when I’m with them. I don’t know how I lived life before them since they’ve become essential to me.”

Bella

“We adopted Bella 2 years ago and she has been an absolute joy. In times of stress, she is always supplying us with cuddles, pets, and laughter. She helps us everyday by reminding us to take a break, go outside, and most importantly take plenty of naps. We can’t imagine life without her.”

Companions For Life

LifeLine reached out to an incredible community partner, Pets for Patriots, an organization that goes above and beyond to support veterans and companion animals, for a reflection on this important topic. 

2022 10 13 Molly Weasley adoption-1

Molly Weasley on her adoption day at the LifeLine Community Animal Center. This special moment was made possible through our partnership with Pets for Patriots!

"Companion pets are natural boosters of our mental health. They accept us without boundary and love us unconditionally. And because they live in the present they are a powerful reminder to neither dwell on the past nor fret too much about the future. Every day through our work we bear witness to the powerful and positive mental health impacts that "ordinary" shelter pets have on our veterans' mental health. The simple acts of caring for a pet -- providing sustenance, exercise, play, and affection -- give veterans a renewed sense of purpose in their lives. Pets help veterans form social connections as well, allowing individuals who may be more isolated to re-engage with the people and world around them."

Another wonderful organization helping pet families in Atlanta is Ahimsa House. They are dedicated to helping the human and animal victims of domestic violence reach safety together. Shannon Oxford, Associate Director of Ahimsa House, was kind enough to share with us the lifechanging impact pets have on the survivors they meet: 

"We so often see pets being their owner's saving grace. A survivor shared this with us as she exited our program. She said “It made me feel so empowered to get my dogs out of there. I couldn’t have done it without your help.”

More information and research on how having a pet can boost your mental health can be found at:

¹Eastside Veterinary Associates

²Human Animal Bond Research Institute

³News in Health’s “The Power of Pets” newsletter

American Psychiatric Association

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