Lifes Abundance content relating to 'dogs and mental health'

Appreciating The Joys Our Pets Bring

puppy and kitten

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a ton of time lately with my dog’s head in my lap. I’ve lived with many dogs over the years, but it seems like no matter if I’m petting a lab, a Lhasa, or a coonhound, one fact remains- they always know when I need them there.

This has been an extraordinarily challenging time for everyone, no matter where you live or what you believe. Finding common ground and a sense of unity feels darn near impossible sometimes- until you start talking pets.

Like anyone who’s worked in a field where you interact with the public, I’ve met all kinds of people. One of the things I love most about veterinary medicine isn’t just that the medicine is cool- which it is- but to me, the joy is really in the immense honor and privilege I have in hearing the stories of what pets mean to us.

When I began working as an in-home hospice veterinarian, that took on an even deeper level. Unlike when someone brings a pet into the clinic, I was being invited into their homes to be present for a very momentous moment in their family’s life. I’ve sat on leather couches and corduroy; patio chairs and grassy blankets; sat in joy and sadness and dawn and dusk and no matter who, where, or when I was helping, I felt the same love and connection every time.

girl with pets

With COVID, this connection has taken on even greater meaning, as so many people find themselves spending much more time home in the company of their pets than they ever did before. Here in San Diego, our local Meals on Wheels partners with a rescue organization to deliver pet food to the seniors who rely on the program for healthy meals. Why? Because the volunteers realized many seniors were feeding their meals to their pets, choosing to do without themselves rather than have to give up the companionship of what is, for so many, their main source of emotional support.

When I feel frustrated with the state of humanity and start to wonder if things are as much of a lost cause as it sometimes feels like, I like to think that dogs and cats really do cause us to reveal our true natures. When no one’s watching, how do you interact with your pet? As hard and as rough as things can get, that answer remains constant. We all have the capacity to both give and receive a deep and unconditional love.

This belief has allowed me to be online talking with pet owners all over the world for over a decade, and allowed me to treat every family I encounter with the same dignity and respect. When it feels like there is so little space for common ground, nowhere to start and build upon, this love we share with our pets has consistently served me well for many years, and I hope it does for you as well.

When I first met the Life’s Abundance team and began writing and getting to know you all, I knew right away that this family felt the exact same way I did when it comes to how we honor and love our pets and each other. I’m so grateful to be here with all of you and get to celebrate all the little joys that our pets bring into our lives. Be safe and well!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V

If you found this interesting, check out these related stories:

The Many Health Benefits of Living with Dogs

Why People Prefer Cats



3 Ways Dogs Help With Mental Health

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Millions of people around the country love having dogs as a part of their family — what they may not know is how greatly their furry friend can benefit their mental health.

Recent studies exploring the bond between humans and animals have started revealing what so many of us have suspected all along - having a dog has many benefits! This research is how we found that dogs are great at interpreting our mood through our tone of voice, body language and gestures. 

Now we have started to better analyze precisely how our furry friends benefit us mentally and emotionally. Here are three ways dogs can help with our mental health:

1. Early exposure to dogs decreases the chance of psychiatric disorders

A recent study showed that adults who had a dog during childhood were 25% less likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.  

The apparent effect of exposure to a pet dog is the most evident when the dog is present at a child’s birth or joins a family before the child turns three years old. Exposure to a family dog during this time was associated with a 50% less chance for a schizophrenia diagnosis.

2. Dogs can help battle depression

Studies have found that dog parents are less likely to suffer from depression than those without dogs. Playing with dogs and even feeding them treats has shown to raise levels of serotonin and dopamine, which helps pet parents relax and be happy. 

Companionship from a dog can help fend off some triggers of depression such as isolation and loneliness. Studies have shown that having a dog can even prevent illness and add years to your life!

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3. Dogs promote a healthy routine and self-care

A lack of routine and structure in a person’s life can make them feel unorganized or anxious. Many people who struggle with maintaining a healthy, normal routine may benefit from bringing a dog into their life.  

If you don’t wake up early enough, your dog most likely will! Going for a walk in the morning and eating breakfast is a staple in every dog’s life. This gets you up and out of the house for walks, hikes or runs — just being outdoors provides its own mental health benefits. Taking care of a pet reminds us to take care of ourselves. 

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Of course, bringing a dog into your home isn’t the answer for every person or family, but people should be aware of the mental health benefits that come with the furry package! Remember, dogs can help us just as much as we can help them.