Pet love really is good for your health

We all love our furry friends. Nothing beats that heart-warming wiggy, waggy welcome when we get home and those adorable eyes gazing gratefully at ours. But did you know there´s a real chemical attraction that helps to form this bond with our pets? Simply playing with our pets releases the “love hormone” oxytocin. It´s called the “love hormone” because it´s released during orgasm (for both men and women) and fosters feelings of bonding, contentedness and well-being, it even reduces anxiety.

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Miho Nagasawa and Takefumi Kikusui, both dog lovers themselves, decided to examine what happens to human levels of oxytocin when we pet and play with our dogs. Their experiment involved 55 owners who brought their dogs to the lab. Urine samples, taken before and after a 30- minute play session were tested for the presence of the hormone. In order to make comparisons a control group was asked to sit in a room with their dogs but avoid all eye contact. The researchers found that levels of oxytocin were around 20% higher in owners who held the gaze of their dog, on average for 2.5 minutes, compared with those who held the gaze for 45 seconds or less. That´s an increase in oxytocin equivalent to that when a parent holds their child. And even more convincingly, the owners who were told to avoid their dog´s gaze entirely showed a decrease in oxytocin levels. So gazing into the eyes of our dog isn´t just an affectionate trait it’s actually good for us!

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And bonding with your pet may lead to the release of other useful hormones. In a separate study owners were asked to stroke their dog for half an hour. This time the researchers observed an increase, not only of oxytocin, but also a whole range of other hormones linked to feelings of euphoria, pain relief, bonding and the sensation of pleasure. As if this weren´t enough, the owners´ blood pressure dropped too, sadly they didn´t measure the dogs´ blood pressure – but I bet they´d have found a nice corresponding drop in our dogs.

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However, the researchers did measure oxytocin levels in the pets before and after the session. Guess what? Our dogs get the same “high” that we do! So you were right, your dog really does love you and it´s chemical.

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Stay healthy

Respiratory Physiotherapist
Colegio de Fisioterapeutas (6968)
M.Sc Post. Grad. Dip. Physiotherapy. PGC Teaching and Learning

‘The contents of the above is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for specific medical or legal advice on a particular matter. This blog is provided by a third party, Rachel Garrod, and therefore we accept no liability for the above content or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of any such information’.

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