The UK is a nation of pet lovers. 45% of households in the UK have a pet, but why do we as a nation love our pets so much?
Many people say they feel calmer and happier when they are in the company of their pet. Pets can certainly have positive influences on our health – both mental and physical.
There can be some negatives to owning and caring for a pet. For some already suffering from a mental health condition and finding it challenging just to look after themselves, having the added responsibility of caring for an animal who is dependent on them, may be too much. Large animals, such as horses, that require much more care and a financial commitment, can instead become a burden rather than a pleasure. There are also the emotional and psychological effects of losing a cherished pet which has become a big part of someone’s life. If not handled properly, the bereavement of losing a pet can in some instances worsen a mental health condition.
Overall however, the positive effects and joy of having a pet are important and the influence they can have on mental health should not be underestimated. It’s no surprise then that animal therapy is thought to be beneficial as a treatment for depression. Some mental health professionals also advocate that pet owning should form a part of mental health care plans for some patients. In places like New York, you can even join special pet day care centres as a ‘pet buddy’ and have all the benefits of playing with a dog without the responsibility and commitment of owning one. Perhaps it will catch on here too.
Both Dr Winbow and Prof Hale have many years’ experience in diagnosing and treating a variety of mental health conditions. To make an appointment, please contact our head office in Leigh in Kent.