The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to stay indoors, which can mean prolonged days without face-to-face social interaction with our family and friends. As this health crisis continues, many of us are finding solace in our furry companions. Since people started to stay at home, feelings of loneliness and isolation have increased. There has been a rise in the demand for adopting or fostering pets, particularly dogs, worldwide. According to PetPoint, the number of foster pets in U.S. homes increased by 8% between March and September 2020. (link “PetPoint” to https://www.petpoint.com/)

For some of us, the pandemic has turned our dogs into our only companions. Before we understood much about the virus, pet parents became anxious and worried as the possibility of COVID-19 transmission through domestic animals was a serious consideration. Thankfully, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there is no evidence domestic pets can transmit the COVID-19 virus. (link “World Health Organization” to https://cms.qz.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/mythbuster-1.png) Upon the release of the report, pet owners around the globe were relieved to know their dogs’ health is not in harm’s way due to the virus—and they won’t have to cut back on bonding time.

The Health and Mood-Boosting Benefits of Owning a Dog
There’s no arguing that dogs bring endless joy and unconditional love to our lives. But beyond the warm cuddles and tummy rubs, our furry friends may be offering us more than meets the eye.
Here are some of the ways dogs help us improve our physical health and bring warmth to our souls.

1. Dogs Help Lower Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Dogs need their daily dose of exercise, pandemic or not. And when you get up and take your Fido outside for his own needs, you’re also doing yourself a heart-healthy favor without even realizing it. According to a survey by the Australian National Heart Foundation, people who own pets, especially men, tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (link “survey” to https://www.health.com/condition/cholesterol/10-ways-to-lower-cholesterol) Aside from lowering cholesterol levels, spending time with our four-legged friends also helps reduce blood pressure. In a study conducted by researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo, they discovered that in people already taking medication for hypertension, blood pressure response to stress was cut by half if they owned a cat or dog. So the next time you pet your pooch, you can think of it as a win-win situation. You get to improve blood pressure levels while also caring for your dog and spending quality time with him or her! (link “study” to https://www.health.com/condition/hypertension/tricks-to-lower-blood-pressure)

2. Dogs Help Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
In 2013, the American Heart Association reviewed studies examining the effects of owning a pet on cardiovascular disease risk. From these studies, they concluded that having a four-legged companion, particularly a dog, is associated with a reduction in risk and increased survival among cardiovascular disease patients. (link “effects of owning a pet on cardiovascular disease risk” to http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/127/23/2353) With COVID-19 restrictions in place, a lot of individuals, especially young professionals, have become less physically active. This sedentary lifestyle increases our risk of cardiovascular illness. But thanks to our beloved pooch who demands time for daily walks and who acts as our fluffball of sunshine, we can keep our heart healthy in a fun and sometimes, spontaneous way.

3. Dogs Help Relieve Stress and Depression
When we spend time with our fur babies, the brain releases oxytocin. This powerful neurochemical brings us feelings of joy. Aside from that, cuddling with our doggy friends is accompanied by a decrease in cortisol, a kind of stress hormone. It’s no wonder why playtime with your favorite canine companion can easily melt away the mental exhaustion from Zoom meetings! In recent studies and surveys, it was also discovered that dogs have their own way of providing social support for their owners. Limiting our face-to-face interaction with family and friends has led to feelings of loneliness and anxiety in much of the world’s population. Thanks to our dogs, we have something else to focus on instead of entertaining negative thoughts caused by the health crisis.

Be Your Best Friend’s Best Friend
Finding activities for your dog is essential to keeping them healthy, happy, and emotionally content. Here are some ideas to make your dog feel special and loved:

● Take your dog for an extra-long walk. (link to https://topdogpetsit.net/pet-care-services/dog-walking/)
● Treat your dog to extra playtime this week while you’re working at home. (link to https://topdogpetsit.net/pet-care-services/dog-sitting/)
● Pamper your dog at a nearby pet salon/
● Surprise your pooch with a personalized dog leash or collar. (link “personalized dog leash” to https://www.dogids.com)
Dogs truly have a unique ability to provide us with an endless amount of love and emotional support. They offer us an outlet for fun and play while bringing lots of laughter and levity into the home to keep us in the present moment rather than obsessing on an uncertain future. As we try to settle down in this new normal, let’s not forget how our dogs helped us get through these trying times!

Pallarito, K. (2020, April 1). 10 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol. Health. https://www.health.com/condition/cholesterol/10-ways-to-lower-cholesterol
(2021, March 8). Tricks to Lower Blood Pressure. Health. https://www.health.com/condition/hypertension/tricks-to-lower-blood-pressure
World Health Organization. https://cms.qz.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/mythbuster-1.png

About the Writer
Dani Smith is a content creator for dogIDs. Aside from writing, you’ll find her mountain biking with her dog Crash, binge-watching her favorite series, or food prepping her next high-carb meal. (link “dogIDs” to https://www.dogids.com/).