With so many still working at home, more people have the time to adopt and take care of a new pet. These new pets are more than just cute and fun to play with: there’s evidence that owning a dog can benefit mental health management while simultaneously supporting physical health.
Health benefits of dogs
Last month, The Washington Post reported that “as the coronavirus pandemic has kept more residents at home, it has created such a high demand for adopting dogs that the supply is increasingly limited.” Since in-person adoptions have shifted to more virtual meet-and-greets, some shelters see twice as many adoption requests. The increase aligns with the loneliness, boredom, and amount of free time that comes from quarantine.
Mirah Horowitz, executive director of Lucky Dog, responded to the demand by boosting Lucky Dog’s online adoption services. She attests to multiple benefits a person or family can get from adopting a pet. She added, “Anyone who felt like, ‘I can’t adopt an animal because I’m at work all day’ is now finding they’re at home. People want a pet for companionship and to give kids a sense of responsibility and a playmate.”
Even before quarantine, most households in the United States had at least one pet. About 38.4% of American households have a dog, more than any other kind of pet. While owning a pet can undoubtedly cure loneliness and boredom, it also has many tangible health benefits. The CDC points out that the bond between pets and owners fosters numerous positive health effects, including:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization
Can dogs transmit the virus?
Your patients may be concerned about getting COVID-19 from their pet or vice versa. So far, there have been a small number of cases of dogs contracting COVID-19 from humans. The CDC recommends keeping dogs from interacting with people or animals outside their household. If someone in the house gets sick, they should be isolated from everyone else, the dog included. The reverse is also true if the dog gets sick. It isn’t necessary to disinfect a dog’s fur or make them wear a mask, as these things are ineffective and can cause dogs harm.
So far, however, the benefits of owning a dog seem to outweigh the risk. If you have the time and resources to care for a pet, a dog can be an excellent addition to any household, during quarantine or otherwise.