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How Pet Ownership Helps Transform Your Mental Health: Benefits and Considerations

Cute Dog

Have you ever thought about pet ownership? The saying that “dogs are man’s best friend” is, in fact, backed with data – and also applies to cats, rabbits, iguanas, and other pets.

Polls from the American Psychiatric Association reveal that nearly two-thirds of pet owners say that their animals, are true friends, offer companionship, and a source of support and unconditional love.

Overall, the large majority – about 85% – say that their pets have a positive impact on their mental health. It’s no wonder that so many people decide to get a pet for themselves or for a family member with the goal of improving mental health.

What are the Benefits of Pet Ownership?

The benefits of pet ownership are many, and depending on the type of pet chosen, may include:

  • Reduction in Stress and Anxiety: Petting a dog or a cat has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.

  • Unconditional Love and Support: Pets are non-judgmental and accepting, and some types of animals such as dogs and cats are visibly happy to see you.

  • Companionship: The presence of a pet can guard against loneliness and isolation.

  • Encouragement to Be Physically Active: Dogs need to be walked each day, giving their owner a concrete reason to get out and get moving.

  • Added Structure to Daily Schedule: A pet’s need for meals, playtime, potty breaks, and/or walks can help create structure to one’s day, which is beneficial to mental as well as physical health.

  • Increased Social Connections: Pets can be a great conversation opener, can create bonds between people based on shared interests, and be a source of mutual joy and laughter that can form connections. Studies have also shown that interaction with animals can help improve a child’s social skills.

Considerations Before Getting a Pet

While it is clear that there are benefits to pet ownership, the decision to get a pet, as well as the choice of pet, is not one to be taken lightly. Pet ownership comes with worries about pets aging and passing away as well as their health conditions; there are also logistical concerns such as arrangements while traveling, and expenses including healthcare.

The specific choice of pet is also important. Different animals offer different benefits and challenges. For example, cat owners are most likely to report that their pet offers companionship and a calming presence. Dog owners more often say that their pet encourages them to be physically active.

There is significant variability in the amount of time and effort required for upkeep, the degree of interaction that can be had with a specific type of animal, the associated expense, and the animal’s lifespan.

 These factors should all be researched and considered to ensure you receive the benefits you seek from pet ownership. This way, you can avoid creating an undue burden that could counteract your purpose

Consulting with a Therapist about Pet Ownership

If you are considering getting a pet to help improve your mental health or that of a family member, and you are working with a therapist, it is worthwhile to discuss the decision together.

This approach ensures that you consider all the important factors and utilize the opportunity to meet your mental health goals while ensuring the well-being and safety of the pet.

Meet Winston, Our Resident Therapy Dog

Perhaps getting a personal therapy dog is not something you are comfortable with but you’d still like to try this approach to therapy. At Hellenic Therapy Center, we offer the unique experience of pet therapy with our Resident Therapy Dog, Winston.

Winston is a friendly and cuddly Pekingese and he is our Clinical Director of Canines. He specializes in helping both adults and children feel more comfortable sharing their feelings.

Winston, affectionately known as "Winnie," loves treats, playing with toys, car rides, hugs, and traveling in his mom’s purse. His sessions are therapeutic and fun. That’s why many clients eagerly look forward to their next visit with Winnie.

Benefits of Pet Therapy with Winston:

  • Reduction of Anxiety: Pet therapy is proven to help reduce anxiety in all age groups.

  • Improvement in Social Skills: Especially beneficial for children and adults with ADHD and Autism.

  • Support During Difficult Times: Helps with managing panic attacks, loss, grief, and depression.

  • Aid for the Elderly: Reduces signs and symptoms of dementia.

Winston is available for sessions anytime. To book a session with our resident therapy dog, please ask when you call for your next appointment, or request one online via our website.

Schedule an Appointment with Us Today

Located at 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, Hellenic Therapy Center has a team of licensed professionals available for individual, couples, and family therapy.

We offer day, evening, and weekend hours to accommodate your schedule.

For more information, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram. You can also call us at 908-322-0112.



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