How a Pet Can Help You Stay Healthier
COPD can change your life in so many ways. Sometimes, as the disease progresses, it requires you to become more of a homebody. Your world might become a bit smaller and you might have trouble participating in social activities as much as you used to. You might begin to consider adopting a four-legged friend to keep you company.
Pets can bring a lot of happiness and comfort into your life, but it’s not necessarily all roses. This is a decision you should enter into carefully, and you need to think about both the pros and the cons of adopting a pet.
First, a Look at the Health Risks of Owning a Pet
Experts will tell you there are many reasons to not own a pet if you have COPD. These reasons are definitely worth listening to. After all, pets, especially cats and dogs, shed tiny flakes of skin called dander. In sensitive people, this pet dander can be an irritant to the respiratory tract and can worsen your symptoms or cause an exacerbation, or flare. But not everyone with COPD is sensitive to pet dander.
Another reason not to have a pet when you have COPD is simply that they can be a lot of work! Dogs need to be fed and let outside to do their business frequently. Cats also need to be fed and watered. If they are indoor cats, litter will need to be changed on a regular basis or outdoor cats will need to be let in and out. Depending on the breed, pets may need to be combed, brushed, groomed and/or bathed regularly. And dogs often require regular exercise.
If you are having trouble finding the energy and stamina to take care of yourself, you might find that caring for a pet is beyond your limits. However, if you live with someone else, such as a spouse, sibling or one of your children, perhaps they can assist with the care of the pet.
Positive Health Benefits of Owning a Pet
Provided you are not allergic to pet dander and that you have the ability to provide care for your new four-legged friend, there can be many positive health benefits for adopting a dog or cat. Here are a few:
- Socialization & companionship. Pets provide unconditional love and can perk us up on even the dreariest day. A cuddle from a warm body, their silly antics as they play with their toys, their steadfast devotion at your side as you move from room to room… these are all qualities that can make you feel less lonely, happier and comforted. You might even think of them as a stress management tool!
- Exercise. Provided you are able, a pet can give you a fun excuse to be more active. Most dogs will benefit from regular walks. And so will you. Even a short walk up and down your driveway or on the sidewalk in front of your house will do you both good. Another way to increase your activity tolerance is to play with your pet indoors. Throwing a ball or tossing toys might not seem like much, but if you spend 10 to 15 minutes a day doing it, you may find your tolerance for such activities increases. And your pet will certainly enjoy it.
- Regular routines. When you’re not feeling well, it can be easy to fall out of your routines, to forget or not care about taking care of yourself. But tying your treatment schedule to your pet’s care can help you stay on track with a routine. For instance, preparing your meals when you feed your pet… or taking your medications when you let your pet out to toilet in the morning and at bedtime. Those are just a couple of examples. Knowing your pet is dependent on you may help you be motivated to take care of yourself at the same time.
- Helping with treatment. If you own a dog, it might even become part of your treatment plan. Service dogs can be trained to help with a number of health issues these days. For example, they can be trained to wake you up while sleeping if you’re having trouble breathing or to remind you to check your oxygen level. They can also be trained to get help in the case of an emergency, and some can even carry your medications. In some cases, they may provide comfort and security during a COPD flare.
There is no right or wrong answer as to who should or shouldn’t have a pet. Consider the pros and cons and make the best decision for you. Of course, if you are allergic to pet dander, you’ll definitely want to proceed with caution. You might still decide to keep or adopt pets, but take measures to decrease the amount of dander by getting rid of carpets and overstuffed furniture or by wiping down the pet or bathing it often.
If you have no sensitivities, you must still consider the amount of work involved with a pet, particularly a youngster. Adopting an older, more mature and less active dog or cat can be a great compromise. In any case, owning a furry companion can certainly have a number of healthy benefits!
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