How Pets Affect Mental and Physical Health

The stressors of high school can be eased with the help of a canine pal.


Haley Rasmussen

A pooch rests on the couch beside its owner at the end of the day.

Haley Rasmussen, Staff Writer

Students’ school days can be full of homework, drama, and stress. Hectic days call for relaxation. Students need to take their minds off of the things they constantly stress about. Pets can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise, and even improve cardiovascular health according to the article “For Better Mental Health, Experience the Pet Effect”. Specifically, dogs are able to interpret the tone of a person’s voice and body language. The dog’s ability to interpret someone makes the pet owner feel needed and wanted. 

Owning a pet provides companionship and sensory stress relief. According to Robinson and Segal–who wrote the article above–touch and movement are two helpful ways to deal with stress. Someone dealing with stress or anxiety may pet, play, or spend time with a pet to keep them company in times when they need to feel needed and wanted. Sophomore Addie DeArment spends time with her dog, Roxie, to brighten her mood and make her happy.

Sophomore Katy Rothfusz commented on high school students benefiting from the company of pets. She said, “High school is stressful, so it is important to have something to calm you down. Pets are a productive way to relieve you from stress.”

Along with relieving stress and anxiety, pets can also benefit a person physically. Owning a pet adds structure and routine to a person’s day by taking the responsibility to care for the pet. Caring for a pet can also increase the amount of time a person exercises. Studies have shown that dog owners are more than likely to meet their daily exercise requirements by deepening their connection with their dog and taking them for walks and runs. This not only keeps the pet fit and healthy, but also the owner. AHS students, like Rothfusz, walk their pets everyday to exercise themselves and their pet. 

According to the article “For Better Mental Health, Experience the Pet Effect”, it goes into depth with statistics on how “Positive human-animal interaction is related to changes in the physiological variables both in humans and animals.” Examples of this include “reduction of subjective physiological stress and an increase oxytocin levels in the brain.”  

Pets are not only helpful to teens, but children also. Kids may feel important and wanted when having a pet around them, as it is a loving companion. Kids are also better able to create and build relationships with other people if they have previously had an emotional connection with a pet. 

It goes back to pets being cared for, and giving you unconditional love and attention

— Guidance counselor Alyssa Dovenspike

Guidance counselor Alyssa Dovenspike said during her school supervision, she worked with a woman who used a therapy dog at an elementary school. Dovenspike said, “Students who didn’t communicate well with others, more specifically young students with autism, instantly had a connection.” Dovenspike also said pets can be a way to help students with low self-esteem. “It goes back to pets being cared for, and giving you unconditional love and attention,” Dovenspike said.