Man’s best friend reduces anxiety levels



Now happy and healthy, Govi, 11, recently played with his "best friend," his dog, Jeter, on his family's farm in Platte County, Mo. (Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/TNS)

Petting a dog can often put a smile on one’s face, but scientists have found that interacting with animals, especially canines, can medically improve one’s health.

Studies have shown that owning a dog increases not only physical health, whether you take your pet on daily walks, runs, or hikes or not, but also mental and emotional health.

According to, playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of stress-reducing hormone, oxytocin, and decrease production of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Therefore, schools and hospitals have been utilizing therapy dogs for many years to help people with seizures, anxiety, depression, and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The consistent companionship and joy that dogs provide is helpful in preventing disease in the elderly. said, “Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets, [and] heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without.”

Also, the daily routine that is necessary to care for a pet brings structure to their owners’ days; dog owners suffering from severe depression can feel a sense of purpose and find motivation to be productive on a regular basis.

To instantly lower anxiety levels, high schools and colleges have begun providing students with furry friends during exam week, and elementary schools bring therapy dogs to help reduce stress when kids read aloud.

School principal Eula Baumgarner said, “You can always talk to the dog, and the dog’s not going to judge you.”

Once children have grown comfortable reading aloud to their four-legged friends, it becomes easier for them to read to classmates.

It is also growing increasingly common for schools to bring in dogs during exam week to aid older kids in reducing stress.

Sophomore Thea Ferdinand said, “Whenever I take a break from homework and walk my dog, or even just pet him, I feel happier and I’m reminded to be more mindful; dogs live in the moment and are constantly seeking joy and love. Humans can learn a lot from their pets.”