Pets with a Purpose

Dr. Stephen Goykovich

Dr. Stephen Goykovich

The expression “a dog is a man’s best friend,” proves to have some scientific truth. According to Harvard Medical School experts, pets have a substantial influence on human health.

Being a pet owner can positively impact a persons’ psychological, physical, and social health.

Psychological Impact
Having a pet to come home to after a long and stressful day significantly reduces depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness. Sometimes, venting to someone who can only attentively listen is just what the doctor ordered.

Pets also help children develop emotionally, teaching them about attachment, love, and responsibility.

Women that have a history of domestic or sexual violence reported that their animal friends are a great emotional support and provide a feeling of security.

Alzheimer’s patients with pets displayed fewer mood disorders, less aggressiveness, and stress levels were lower.

With all things considered, our pets seem to ease our worries and remind us that at the end of the day, they are there for us to lean on.

Physical Impact
The physical implications of being a pet owner are greater than most would assume. Of course, as you would imagine, being a pet owner can make you more active.

“For instance, if you’re a dog owner, taking your dog on a walk is a motivational way to get active, and stay active,” says Dr. Goykovich, Family Practice provider at the Avis Medical Center. “People become emotionally attached to their dogs; therefore, physical activity with a pet feels like a less dull, and more inviting way to exercise.”

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people that own pets are more likely to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides. The National Institute of Health has also conducted studies finding that dog owners had an easier time recovering from a heart attack, as compared to those who did not own dogs.

Social Impact
Social well being is another rewarding aspect to being a pet owner. Often, animals facilitate social interactions between people.

Disabled people, elderly people, children, and people who suffer from severe illnesses have shown social growth from the assistance of a pet. Being a pet owner gives two strangers common ground, and it can help plant friendships.

One study examined the presence of having an animal around children and the difference it made in matters of socialization. The study revealed that pets help children to feel more secure in a home, and as a result, they are more prone to develop superior social skills. Having a family pet can increase the self-esteem of a child, help a child to become more in tune with their emotions, and ultimately influence a child’s comprehensive development.

Of course, it’s understandable that not everyone can have a pet. Allergies, time restraints, financial burdens, and other factors sometimes come into play. However, considering the array of health benefits a pet can add to your lifestyle, it’s always a good option to consider.

Having a pet can be a lot of work, but the psychological, physical, and social health gains far outweigh any trials or tribulations having a pet may bring.


Dr. Stephen Goykovich is a family medicine physician with Jersey Shore Medical Associates, a partner of Jersey Shore Hospital. For more information, or to request an appointment, please call 570-753-8620.

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