Animals Help Hurting People with Chronic Illness

It’s a well known fact that animals are a great source of unconditional love and compassion. Many patients with chronic illness turn to furry friends for support in ways they cannot get from another human. They’re probably the best listeners you’ll ever come across as well; but why are we so connected to our animal friends and why are they so protective of us in our time of ailment when we need them the most? There’s more to this puzzle than meets the eye. Studies have shown that animals can help with a variety of different things such as those who are in need of a service dog such as those who are blind, deaf, immobile…ect, they also help in combating depression, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, and more. We are grateful beyond imagine for not only the compassion they show to us but also they’re company. In times of turmoil they can be the best friend to turn to, even if you just need a good cuddle. Let’s elaborate a little about some of the positive benefits of owning an animal friend.

Animals are natural stress reducers:

According to recent research…and good old fashioned experience…what we do know now is that our body actually goes through physical changes in that time that make a difference in our mood. The level of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, is lowered. And the production of serotonin, a chemical associated with well-being, is increased. Reducing stress saves your body wear and tear. Pets have been shown to reduce this increased stress to levels that our bodies can tolerate. Making getting a furry friend of your own worth it.

 They need us, as much as we need them:

Consider the miracle you could possible create in the life of a pet. You can rescue a homeless, or injured animal and nurse them back to health. Simply opening up your doors and arms to a dog, cat, rabbit or whatever is comfortable for you will give you the same stress relieving feelings as stated above except there’s an added benefit…your new found friend will be scared at first, but eventually you are both learning how to teach each other a valuable lesson in how to trust, comfort each other in your times of need and just as your pet will be there for you, you will be there for them as well making this a two way street and you can’t ask for anything better than changing the life of your new friend because the change they will bring to your life is everlasting.

Lowers Blood Pressure:

Did you know that the stress-reducing properties of being around an animal that makes you feel comfortable can have great effects on reducing your blood pressure? “In one study of 240 married couples, pet owners had lower blood pressure and lower heart rates during rest than people who did not own a pet. That held true whether they were at rest or undergoing stress tests. Another study showed that children with hypertension lowered their blood pressure while petting their dog. (WEBMD)”

Helps Lower Cholesterol:

Doctors recommend that you follow specific guidelines for exercise and a healthy diet to manage most of your cholesterol. However researchers have noted lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in people who own pets compared to people who don’t. However, this also could be because of the lifestyle factors of people who own pets.

Pets are good for the heart:

There was a 20 year study done once that concluded that people who had never owned a cat were 40% more likely to die of a fatal heart attack, than those who had owned a cat. In another study done, they showed that dog owners actually had a significant better rate of survival one year after a heart attack so people who own pets have a lower risk of dying from cardiac disease including heart failure. It’s truly phenomenal!

Calming Heat for Chronic Pain:

“A Mexican hairless dog called a Xolo is known for generating intense body heat. An organization called Paws for Comfort trains Xolos to be service dogs for people with fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain that respond to heat. People get relief just by placing their hurting limbs against the dog’s body or lying up next to it. Some dogs have even been trained to ride around wrapped around the neck of a person with chronic neck pain. (WEBMD)” Also, Diane Dike from Second Chance with Saving Grace has an Italian Greyhound dog who has the same warming feature. Diane suffers from a condition known as cryoglobulinemia vasculitis​, a life-threatening blood disease that almost took her life and limbs.

Dr. Diane Dike’s dog Gracie, when held to her chest provides a warmth that helps Diane circulate her blood because she needs to keep her body very warm or else any sort of coldness can turn her blood into a Jell-O-like substance that is extremely painful for Diane. Please check out her cause at http://www.dianedike.org her story is truly fascinating and we are also very honored to be affiliated with her organization SCwSG.

Combating depression:

I know from personal experience how calming my own pet can be for me. I have a cat, her name is Mrs. Bigglesworth (Biggles for short) and I love that girl with all my heart and soul. I honestly don’t know what I would do without her in my life. What she has given to me is something no human ever could. The compassion is so deep and the love is so constant, I honestly feel like she’s my best friend in many ways. She has such a significant impact on my depression. When I’m feeling down even if she doesn’t pick up on it, she’s still there if I need to cuddle and sometimes she does sense my sadness and she’ll try to make me feel better by just being her sweet self. There’s nothing better I could have asked for in a fur baby.

Great Physical Fitness:

A lot of those with chronic illness have a difficult time getting out of the house and going for those walks. Often enough we have to put on headphones and listen to music just to distract us from the pain. However studies have shown that those with chronic illness who walk dogs have better distraction levels than those who do not making walking a dog not only a great source of physical fitness, but a great source of pain distraction. However do keep in mind there are still some chronic illnesses that would make handling a leash very difficult so this is different for different people’s conditions.

Animals can make the difference

So what have we learned from all of this? Animals are compassionate, a great source of medical relief, they can help us combat depression and other ailments, they’re great for fitness and as service dogs for the sick and hurting…but most importantly…they need us as much as we need them. The blessing of adoption is one of the greatest joys you can give to an animal friend and one of the greatest joys you can also bring to your life. If you are suffering from chronic illness it may seem like such an incredible responsibility opening up your doors to an animal and at first it very well might be. I would actually suggest that you adopt a pet that’s already a year or older so that you don’t have to worry about little things like potty training, however it is important to remember to choose an animal that is comfortable for you. Sometimes they even find you! I can promise you that you will never have one single moment of regret, your health is worth is, and your future new found furry friend is worth it too. Animals teach us that survival is possible and that no matter what, we all deserve comfort, understanding, and at the end of the day…probably the best listener you’ll ever come to know, love and welcome into your family.

  • Author: Haullie Free-Volker

www.voicesoffibromyalgia.org

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3 comments

  1. My Golden’s have been my life saver’s many a day’s when i have been really down and sad!!!! I look at their little faces and know I am their parent and have to take care of them—therefore a purpose when you have days like you feel like giving up when things are going bad ………you know you r really sick yet you get hassles from workmans comp-etc….extra stress to depress you!!! You are in so much pain you cannot stand it and you cannot give up—charlie horse muscle all over the body spasms r the worse—plus the other pain—-etc……..yet-I cannot give up……….Nerve pain-head aches wrapping over the top of your head feels like your eye ball are gonna pull out…..that’s not the asthma-the smells and all the other stuff from all the chemicals….etc…..those little faces give me a purpose!!!!!!!!!! Never give up!!!!!

  2. I’ve had Crohn’s Disease for 24 years. Three different dogs have helped me during that time. One, a Manchester Terrier, also has an autoimmune condition. We actually take the same medication, and we definitely help each other every day.

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