The important roles animals play in helping people to live with and overcome physical and mental illness are becoming increasingly recognised. More research is being conducted into the extraordinary ability some animals have of being able to sense when their owner’s health is at risk, whilst just stroking and interacting with a pet can improve your stress levels. It seems that owning a pet may have more health benefits than has ever before been realised. This is why Vintage Inns is so passionate about their boutique pubs, and the dog-friendly atmosphere they provide!
Pets can help to combat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Sufferers can often become withdrawn and find certain tasks difficult, such as getting out of bed in the morning. A pet enables those with mental illness to establish a routine, and gives them a reason to get up. Studies have shown that exercise is particularly helpful for people with depression and walking a dog provides a means for this, as well as a reason to leave the house. Meeting other dog walkers also creates social opportunities, and therefore helps to build confidence in those who may have lost it through illness. A pet is a non-judgemental companion providing unconditional love and a listening ear for their owner in need and in doing so, boosts their self-esteem. Mental health campaigner Marion Janner’s dog, Buddy, helped her to overcome her own issues. Remembering that Buddy needed her stopped Janner from committing suicide when she didn’t know what to do after the London Underground station she needed to use was shut. Cases like this emphasise how vital a pet can be in aiding someone’s recovery. This also means that holidays without your pet might not be nearly as relaxing as ones with them. Why not find out where your nearest Vintage Inn is, so you can take a trip together?
A massive factor that contributes to ill health is stress, and just stroking a pet can improve stress levels and lower blood pressure. Contact with a pet releases various hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin that help to reduce stress and anxiety. It also decreases cortisol levels, the hormone synonymous with stress. A pet can also be a useful distraction from everyday problems as stroking, playing or walking them can provide something else to focus on.
The common misconception is that pets increase the likelihood of ill health through spreading germs, especially in children. However, studies have shown that growing up with animals can boost the immune system, actually making children healthier and less susceptible to allergies and asthma. Pets also prove beneficial for children with conditions such as autism and ADHD. There is evidence to suggest that pets help to improve an autistic child’s ability to socialise, sometimes just by providing them with something to talk about. A child with ADHD can be restless with lots of excess energy, and a pet provides them with an outlet for that.
Although not much is known about how they do this, many pets have exhibited the ability to detect certain medical conditions and in doing so, save their owners’ lives. There has also been evidence of some pets’ capability to sense when their owners are going to have an attack related to their condition and are able to alert them. Maureen Burns’ Collie cross Max would stiffen after sniffing her breath, and his temperament changed from friendly to reserved. After he nudged at Burns’ right breast she decided to visit the doctor, where tests revealed she had a tumour. There have been other instances of animals detecting when their diabetic owners’ blood sugar levels are dangerously low, or when their owner is about to have an epileptic seizure. Humans are becoming increasingly more reliant on animals, and the skills we didn’t realise they have.
Emotional Support Animals
The value of having animals as emotional support pets is becoming increasingly recognised. Their presence instils a calming effect on their owners in situations where mental illness would usually make them feel stressed or unable to cope. However, whilst assistance animals that help their owners to live with a physical disablement are allowed the privilege of unlimited public access, emotional support animals are not. There is call to action a change that grants the same level of access for emotional support animals as assistance animals. Although the US has recognised their importance by allowing them to have the same privileges, the UK have yet to follow suit. For instance, it can be difficult to gain permission for an emotional support animal to reside in rented accommodation where pets aren’t allowed, as well as public areas such as restaurants. However there is evidence of a shift, as emotional support animals are now approved by some airlines.
In order for your pet to receive the status of an emotional support animal there are several steps you need to comply with, so check the airline you will be using. Some only allow assistance animals, so ensure you are clear on the airline’s policy before booking any tickets. Usually, airlines that allow emotional support animals on board require various documents that have to be dated a year in advance of your scheduled flight, including a letter from a medical professional stating what the condition is and confirmation that an emotional support animal is required. Always check the airline you will be using can fully accommodate your pet and all of their needs, and observe any restrictions put in place as these can vary a lot between airlines.
It is worth insuring your pet before travelling with them, so you can have peace of mind that you will be covered if something unexpected were to happen. At Animal Friends we offer a range of pet insurance policies for dogs and cats travelling overseas.