By Tia Norris, August 2019 Issue.

Whether

it’s cats, dogs, birds, horses, reptiles, or otherwise, almost all of us can

say, at least, that there’s an animal out there we identify with — or, if

you’re like most pet owners, there’s an animal or several that our world

revolves around. The unique bond between us and our animals is as old as time

and has the potential to enrich our lives in incredible and countless ways. It

may seem like a no-brainer to some, but the interplay between our health, our

pets’ health, and how we affect each other is something worth discussing. Here

are some talking points about how it all fits together:

Ways pets improve our

health:

Interaction with

pets releases endorphins, which produces an amazing biological chain reaction

of good health: having higher levels of endorphins has been linked to lower

cortisol, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and a myriad of other

positive health markers. Many universities, workplaces, and therapy-focused

institutions are already incorporating the power of animals to deliver

happiness by including them in wellness-focused initiatives. Personally, I make

time every day for my cats, not only for them, but also because of the

stress-busting benefits for me, too. Ask any pet owner how they feel after

spending quality time with their fur babies – it’s undeniable that the

unconditional, simple nature of our pets can give us all the feels.

Taking care of pets can provide

accountability for our fitness programs. Now, this point mostly applies to

dogs, horses, and other animals that you can actually exercise with … but, this

is a big one! Dogs are easy on this point, and of course some breeds are better

suited for this than others, but heading out on a W-A-L-K or run every day or

multiple times per day can obviously help to keep us on track with our own

goals. They love it, and it helps keep us moving without the choice to skip —

that’s a win-win!

Pets and other animals can provide

interesting variety for new fitness ventures. Cat yoga, dog yoga, equestrian,

and more — if you haven’t tried them yet, what are you waiting for? There are

plenty of ways to pursue your own fitness while in the company of the animals

we love. When you exercise with pets, it’s like doubling your benefits: you get

the mental and emotional payoff from endorphins while also working on yourself

physically along the way. Yes, please!

Ways we can improve our

pets’ health:

Pets need physical

and (usually) social activity in the same ways that we do. Make playing with

them a priority — don’t forget! If you have a busy schedule where you’re not

around as much, buy toys to accomplish a similar goal or consider hiring a pet

sitter/dog walker to play with your pets for you. Dogs might want to walk, to

run, to play fetch with a ball or frisbee, to wrestle, to socialize with other

dogs at the dog park, to swim, to hike, and more! Cats definitely want to run,

climb, scratch, hunt, dig, and chase. Get creative in the ways that you keep

your pets active — they want, need, and will be overjoyed with variety,

consistency, and careful thought into ways to keep them moving.

They also need good food, hydration, and

recovery just like we do. Talk to your veterinarian and do some research on

your own, too. While pet nutrition may not be quite as complex as human

nutrition, it does matter. There are crappy, cheap foods out there for

our little babies just like there are tricky, garbage options for us humans.

Find some trusted resources who can educate you on what your pets actually need

and follow through just as much as you would on your calories and macros for

yourself.

Phoenicians: be as heat-conscious for your

pets as you do for yourselves. This means that if your pet goes outdoors, they

might need extra water, cooling towels, foot pads/booties, special formulas for

heat exertion, and more. Don’t you dare leave your pet in a hot car or make

them walk on hot asphalt/rocks without adequate protection! And don’t forget

about your pets indoors, too. I know we’re all trying to cut corners by not

running the A/C during the day, but be mindful about the indoor temps, amount

of shade, access to water, access to cool tiles/floors, etc., to keep your

loved ones cool during the annual heatwave.

Don’t forget about regular check-ups, too.

It’s easy to ignore or forget about taking our little ones to the vet when they

aren’t complaining. Remember, they can’t speak for themselves — whether they’re

showing subtle signs of distress or not, they need to be monitored by

your trusted team of docs and specialists at just as regular intervals that you

do, with your dentists and doctors.

With all the benefits of owning or interacting with pets, it’s no wonder that so many of us are so attached to our animals. Remember that making time for them also is making time for yourself, as well — and take care of them the same way that you treat yourself to ensure a long, happy, healthy life for you both.


Photo courtesy of The Dinah

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Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

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