How Pets Help with Depression

Depression – it’s way more than just a “bad day”. Depression can range from a short period of feeling down to much longer periods of feeling weighed down and unable to mentally and/or physically function at your full capacity. Depression is disabling, and as an invisible health condition, it may not always be obvious to others that you up to feeling up to par.

What causes depression? It is thought to be a combination of biology, psychology and/or social factors that trigger depression. It’s not a one size fits all kind of condition. Depression can affect people in different ways, and what triggers one person into feeling depressed, may not be the same for someone else.

Fortunately, there are many strategies for tackling and treating depression. If you’re feeling depressed on an ongoing basis, it’s very important to reach out and find ways, and people to help you get better.  Depending on your symptoms and what is going on in your life, health professionals may recommend different types of therapies and strategies to help you overcome your type of depression.  

Over the last few decades, the benefits of animals in helping with a range of mental help conditions have not only been recognized, but they are also being recommended by health professionals as part of people’s treatment plans. This is perhaps no surprise to many people who have ever lived with a pet, who already understand from their own experience that sharing your life with a domestic pet can bring immense joy and pleasure into your life!

What’s more, there have been many studies in the United States, Europe and around the world that back up the benefits of animals on mental health. Living with a pet not only has psychological and social benefits. There are physical improvements that happen in our bodies as well! So long as you like animals, and taking care of what makes them tick, it’s a win-win kind of thing!

Pets Are All About Unconditional Love

People with depression may feel that they are not loved, are judged and not appreciated by others in their life. Animals by nature are non-judgemental beings through and through. They don’t care what you look like and what you’re wearing.  They are always with you in the moment, right here, right now. They won’t be hung up on your past, or what you may be planning for your future. Sure, you may question this notion of unconditional adoration from time to time when it is their mealtime and you are near the pantry and their food and water bowls, but by and large, their company is all about loving you just the way you are!

Pets Help With Routines and Structure

A lack of ability to ‘get-up-and-go’ can be a sign of depression. When you bring a pet into your life you are responsible for helping to take care of their needs. And their needs, no matter what type of pet, are going to involve sticking to some regular routines. On a daily basis, there are basics of feeding and making sure your pet is hydrated. They may need grooming and exercising daily or weekly, and planned visits to the vet for vaccinations and check-ups and so on.

Pets Help With Human Happy Hormones!

The ability of our brain to regulate the chemicals that affect our moods is thought to be one possible cause of depression. The interaction and affection shared with a pet can affect some of the same neurotransmitters that influence how we feel mentally.  It is has been found that levels of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, things that make us feel good, go up. Levels of the cortisol, the stress hormone go down.


Pets Help With Sociability

Someone with depression may find themselves withdrawn from other people or feel isolated and disconnected from others. Pets help with our need to have some level of interaction with other living beings in a couple of ways.

  • First, there is the one on one interaction you have with a pet. Pets such as dogs and cats all have their own unique personalities that you soon get to know, and interact and respond to. Depending on the type of pet, and their personality they will talk to you vocally, and communicate with their eyes and bodies. A pet is a companion animal through and through. Many people feel that their pet is their best friend and or a close member of their family, for good reason.
  • Second, pets can help with interacting with other people. If you are struggling to converse with others, a pet can be a good talking point and common ground to share tidbits on to care for them. If you have a dog, it is hard not to interact in some way with other people when you are out walking your dog from eye contact and a smile to saying hello to other pet parents while your dogs suss each other out.

Pets Help Us Physically

People with pets have been found to have lower blood pressure rates. This is all good for the health of your heart, and your ability to manage stress. Lower blood pressure rates with a pet are associated not only with the exercise you may get, such as walking a dog, grooming and feeding. Just the very simple and pleasurable act of petting and stroking a cat or dog is not only relaxing and calming, but it also helps manage blood pressure.

Are You Thinking About a Pet for Depression?

If you like animals and think taking care of one might help with your own depression, talk with a mental health professional. They may recommend an emotional support animal to help you manage your symptoms, or time with a therapy animal. If you’ve never taken care of a pet before, time with a therapy animal or someone else’s pet can give you an idea of how you feel around animals and whether it might be a good strategy to bring one into your life.