Not gonna lie. I am so OVER discomfort in my own body given my recent total knee replacement. However I am grateful that I have not been in much pain since my surgery several weeks ago. In fact I was able to come off pain meds while still in the hospital. While I attribute my nearly pain-free recovery to eating well and exercising regularly, one other unusual and surprising reason comes into play. Any guesses what allowed me to skip (ok limp and hobble) past pain and straight to its lesser cousin, discomfort? Hint – fur and bad breath are involved.
Apparently having a pet, especially a dog reduces pain in owners. Don’t have a dog? Well go get a furever friend aka “pain reducer” from your local shelter. Or not, as even non-owners can reap the benefits of interacting with a dog according to this study from Pain Medicine.
In my case, the desire to resume walking my dogs daily continues to be a big motivator to do my #^*$&(@#$ physical therapy. I admit that the whimpering coming from my house is NOT my animals. (Flex, extend, hold. Gaaaahh!!)Are there more overweight dogs, cats, or people in the US? #PurinaPartner Click To Tweet
Between therapy, dog walks, and working to get back to step, indoor cycling, and low impact aerobics classes, I had the fortune to attend a live chat on pet health and active aging. Hosted by Dr. Kurt Venator, a vet and fellow dog lover who works for Purina, he shared two Fido Fit Facts that caught my attention:
- An estimated 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese (Don’t believe me about cats? Take a look at Peppermint Patty, who was deemed unadoptable given her obesity. My daughter found this out, adopted her and put PP on a vet-directed exercise and nutrition program).
- A whopping 85% of pet owners find exercising more enjoyable with a pet at their side.
Do you consider exercise a pain in the keester? Then isn’t this good news that you might actually like exercise just by adding fur and four legs?Want less pain, especially post surgery? Get a pet or at least pet one #PurinaPartner Click To Tweet
Yes, pets can improve our comfort, health, and happiness in many ways, including:
- Decreasing emotional distress during a painful medical procedure (I attest to this for sure)
- Improving mood, which may secondarily improve pain
- Enhancing cognitive functioning such as increased attention and memory
- Reducing stress hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine
- Increasing endorphin levels (the body’s natural opiates)
- Reducing blood pressure and heart rate
- Increasing levels of oxytocin, a hormone that can change your stress response and pain experience
- Improving self-esteem and motivation
Bow wow WOW to all those benefits! Dr. Kurt did NOT mention increasing guilt if I don’t walk my dogs. He did comment on the fact that he and Purina are committed to the health and well-being of pets and their owners so both pets and humans can live bigger, healthier, tail-waggier lives together. (By the way, this post is sponsored by Purina. My dogs are sponsored by my husband and me until they can find employment.) To be entertained and uplifted even more, read Midlife Fitness and Health Lessons from my Dog.
If it weren’t for my pup pups, I can guarantee I would not have donned a raincoat, iced my knee, and set out in yesterday’s rain for a 40 minute walk. Pleading, trusting eyes are the ultimate motivators to move. Sure, we all came home wet. But I was pain free afterwards. Dog chow and treats all around! Uh, just the latter for me, of course.
Eager for you and your pets to be smarter as well as healthier? Chase this link:
ACTION: Get more scoop on ways you can improve your health and the health of your pet when you check out both this nifty infographic and run over to purina.com. Seriously, the infographic is worth taking a look at.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA