We are connected more today than ever. What that means is that it’s easier to reach out into the world and grab any and all information with just a few keystrokes. But, that access goes both ways. The world can intrude into our lives and invade our thoughts as well.
While you can state unequivocally that you’re good enough and smart enough, that won't always cut it. Anxiety is bound to creep in and possibly take over. You can, however, employ the talents of some very helpful animals for relief. Which pets are aptly suited for the job of lowering stress and anxiety?
Let’s take a glance and review some of the furry and feathered friends that best fit the bill as service animals and beyond!
Understanding Why We Stress Shows Us How Pets Can Help
We should start by saying that anxiety is normal. You shouldn’t feel like an alien just because something has triggered you mentally or physically. It’s how we deal with this stress that will help us sleep better at night.
According to Medline, a government site, anxiety “is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat.” For some, this isn’t a passing phase but one that happens at any time and can be debilitating.
Mayo Clinic outlines the common signs and symptoms of anxiety:
Feeling nervous, restless or tense
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Having an increased heart rate
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilating)
Feeling weak or tired
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having difficulty controlling worry
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
There are a number of causes of this anxiety as well. Everything from environmental factors to physical ailments, substance abuse to your body’s genetic chemistry. Gender, race, etc. can be contributing factors as well. At the end of the day, these emotions can hit anyone walking down the street no matter who you are.
If you’re experiencing an issue and are in immediate need of assistance, don’t hesitate. There are many resources out there that will help you on the path to better health.
Should Your Service Pet be Small or Large?
Once you’ve discovered you have an anxiety disorder (science’s word, not ours), you can decide on a service animal to help alleviate the stress of whatever comes your way. Size can be a big consideration in this process.
Ask yourself, “How much space and time do I have to dedicate to my pet that is giving their all for me?”
We’ll lay it on the table. Unless you are blessed with an extremely large sum of money and have the acreage to support them, a smaller animal is going to be your best bet. A silverback gorilla is most likely not in the cards.
You might be in the market for a furry friend. Why not a rabbit? They’re great companions. The right breed will allow you to pet and hold them without much fuss. Compact, easy to train while also cuddly and living longer lives, they’re superb as emotional support animals.
Sticking with the fur, guinea pigs and hamsters have therapeutic uses. They only take up a modicum of space while helping to build your self-esteem. Once they feel comfortable and sociable with you, you can carefully lift them from your homes and rest them against your chest.
Finally, don’t forget about ferrets. They aren’t for everyone as they do have a certain musky odor that comes with them. Their snuggly natures and knack for kind companionship lend to the ferret’s ability to help with depression and anxiety.
We should also mention our fine feathered friends. Parrots aren’t just for pirates anymore! While most animals don’t talk, this one can actually talk back. Feel free to tell them all about your day. The University of Exeter, in conjunction with other scientific organizations, concluded that birds along with other natural occurrences lowered depression, anxiety and stress.
Outside of our choice for the perfect pet to assist with anxiety - we’ll get to them in just moments - one of the most prolific pets to help ease anxiety is cats.
Fighting off feelings of loneliness, lowering blood pressure, and even coping with PTSD - all are benefits that come with feline friendship. Simply petting your cat can melt away the tension that you might have gathered after a long day at work.
Unusual Pet Options for Stress and Anxiety Relief
The most cursory exploration on Google will show you a cornucopia of animals that have been adopted as a means of coping that you wouldn’t see down at your local shelter. Flying with those who need their zoological guidance, you’ll see people with chickens and turkeys. You may see miniature horses or full-sized ferrets; even llamas and kangaroos.
You might not know this, but pigs have a similar emotional and cognitive understanding to humans. They’re actually one of the more popular and easy-to-manage animals on the market for anxiety. Don’t believe us? Just ask the American Mini Pig Association.
Something to consider. Yes, all the animals that we have discussed and will discuss, help you, but you need to think about their needs as well. They might make the same connections we do mentally, but they feel and have anxieties of their own.
When choosing an animal, confirm with your vet and your trainers that the specific animal and/or breed is up to the task to provide comfort without feeling uncomfortable themselves. You wouldn’t want to concern your human friends if they were also in a bad state. Keep your animals well-being top of mind.
Why Do These Pets Help with Anxiety?
We could go into some long explanation, but let’s keep it simple. HelpGuide, a nonprofit organization for mental health and wellness states the following points:
Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
Playing with a dog, cat, or other pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
Dogs: A Man’s Best Friend
You can blame King Frederick of Prussia for the above. He spoke these words in 1783: “The only, absolute and best friend that a man has, in this selfish world, the only one that will not betray or deny him, is his dog.” And so it ever was.
We can’t say we disagree. Dogs provide such unconditional love and loyalty, it’s easy to see why they received this reputation. Interactions with your puppy pal can raise dopamine and serotonin. We’ve even shown you proof that your dog helps you to live longer.
Dogs can be utilized in several different ways as well. Some will be multipurpose service dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support animals. Others will have a specialized set of skills such as sniffing out foods that their owner is allergic to or early detection of seizures.
For a more comprehensive list of dogs that are best suited to these tasks or the different training that these dogs have available to them, check out sites like the United Disabilities Services Foundation or Service Dog Certifications.
Doodles are Dogs Too!
But you already knew that. What we mean when we say that is certain Doodle breeds are very well suited to being trained as service dogs.
Poodles, Labrador Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs are all excellent service dogs. The same can be said about their Labradoodle, Bernedoodle and GoldenDoodle counterparts. Just like their parent breeds, they’re easy to train and ready to work with you.
We all need a little help in our day-to-day lives. It’s okay to admit that. As long as you’re ready and willing to cohabitate with a friend who can assist you as much as you need them, you’re one step closer to leading a mentally healthier existence.
But you don’t have to take our word for it. Spend a few minutes with a pet and feel the stress dissolve from your memory.
Jenna and the JLDD Team