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Pets for Depression and Health

Service DogCan your depression problems improve when you interact with your pet?

Fellow mental health professional, Kathleen Doheny asks, in MD Health:

“Could a kitten’s purr or a dog’s wagging tail help with your depression? It might.”

“Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression,” says Ian Cook, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.

Studies show that animals can reduce tension and improve mood. Along with treatment, pets can help some people with mild to moderate depression feel better. If you’re depressed, here’s a rundown of how pets could help:

(Source, Teri Wright, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Santa Ana, California)

  • Uncomplicated love. Are your relationships with family and loved ones complicated and frayed? A pet can be a great antidote.
  • Responsibility. Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance,. It will remind you that you are capable — that you can do more than you might think.
  • Activity. Are you barely getting off the couch these days? You need to get more physical activity. Pets can help.
  • Routine. Having a daily schedule helps people with depression. An animal’s natural routine — waking you in the morning, demanding food or walks — can help you stay on track.
  • Companionship. If you have a pet, you’re never alone. That can really make a difference.
  • Social interaction.  Pets are natural icebreakers, and other pet owners love to talk about their animals.
  • Touch. Studies show that people feel better when they have physical contact with others. Pets offer something similar.
  • Better health. Research has found that owning a dog can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and boost levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain.

The Drawbacks of Getting a Pet for Depression

“Pets aren’t for everyone with depression,” Wright says. If you’re depressed, think carefully before getting a pet. If you have a loved one with depression, don’t assume that surprising him or her with a kitten will help. It could make things worse. Here are four things to ask yourself before getting a pet to help ease depression.

  • Are you comfortable with animals? If you’ve never had a pet, it may be less likely to help now.
  • Will having a pet make you worry? Dwelling on death is a common sign of depression. If getting a pet just means that you’ll worry constantly about it dying, that won’t help.
  • Is your depression too intense right now? If your depression is so severe that you can’t take care of an animal, it’s not a good idea to get one.”
  • Can you afford a pet? Caring for pets can be expensive.
  • Are your relationships with family and loved ones complicated and frayed? A pet can be a great antidote. “With a pet, you can just feel.  You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting advice you don’t want.”


We agree…but what is best for you???

Would a service animal alone be enough?  How about combining it with personal counseling?

This is where Counseling on Demand comes in. You need not go through this alone. With our support, you may get through these times in surprisingly short order.

We can help. You needn’t leave your favorite/private place.  Nor must you wait for an appointment.  We are there 24/7. You can begin in 24 hours or less.

Please contact us at the information below. Your first consultation is free.

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I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!