‘Really has a positive effect on pet owners’: Pets help ease effects of pandemic

Buckley Report

(WGHP) — What we’ve sensed for generations now has scientific evidence.

“We’ve known forever that pets are really very positive for people’s mental health as well as their physical health. And it’s not just dogs. It’s virtually any kind of pets,” said Cone/LeBauer Health psychologist, David Gutterman. “There has been study after study demonstrating the positive effect of having a pet.”

And that seems to have its greatest value in high-stress times like the pandemic. Gutterman’s already busy office is seeing a surge in patients.

He says that although the pandemic is increasing the need for mental health services, more people than ever slip through the cracks in times like these.

“One of the challenges is fewer people are going to their doctor’s offices, which is frequently where depression or anxiety would be diagnosed and then referred to a mental health professional, so a lot of people are suffering silently,” he said.

And the good news is the kind of anxiety, and even depression, that our current state of affairs creates is one of the things mental health experts like Gutterman can deal with best.

“Anxiety is very responsive to psychotherapy. To cognitive-behavioral therapy as well…for some people, medications, so it is a very treatable condition,” he said.

And although any pet seems to help in tough times, it does seem as if dogs have a unique ability for this.

“Having a routine is really helpful. Your pet can really help you establish a routine, so use that. Use that to your advantage,” Gutterman says about the exercise that a dog needs. 

But that’s not all. 

“Let’s face it – dogs are completely unaware of the pandemic. So, for them, life is going on just as normal, and that really has a positive effect on pet owners, too,” he said.

See more about how dogs help us through a pandemic with a couple of examples in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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