Search our Blog

Search our Blog

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Pets in the Pandemic

Pets are helping people cope during one of the most isolating events mankind has ever known.

Fallout from the coronavirus has led to loss of routine, loss of socialization, and for some, the loss of a dear friend or family member. There’s never been a time when we needed a buddy more. For many of us, a pet has filled that void. Adoptions have soared as the demand for dogs has skyrocketed. “Within my circle of friends, there are at least five people who have gotten a puppy,” says Tess Karaskevicus, a schoolteacher. She got a boxer pup in late May and has been inviting friends over to play with her new canine while staying socially distant. “They’re getting a puppy dosage of happiness,” she says. “It’s been really amazing.”

Neighbors are making dates to walk their dogs. It’s an opportunity to get together safely outside on a regular basis. Everybody gets fresh air and exercise along with some human (and doggy) interaction.

Pets Bring Health Benefits

Interacting with our pets during the pandemic has benefits rooted in science, according to Megan Mueller, co-director of Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction and a senior fellow at Tisch College. She says that studies show “contact with pets helps reduce stress and anxiety, particularly when you are experiencing a stressful situation.”

Older adults are particularly vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Often, they’ve lost friends and/or a spouse, and they no longer have co-workers. They may also be isolated due to transportation limitations or health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the following benefits pets can provide:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Lowered cholesterol levels
  • Reduced levels of triglycerides, a type of body fat
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
  • Improved opportunities for social connection

“Pets can motivate you to do things that are good for your own mental health,” said Mueller. “And activities with animals that you enjoy or that are part of your routine help bring back some degree of normalcy.”

Survey Confirms Positive Interactions

A recent survey by the British Kennel Club confirms the benefits of a canine companion during the pandemic. Strikingly, almost two-thirds of the 2,622 owners surveyed said their pet was a “lifeline” during the nation’s lockdown, while nearly half said their pet helped them feel less lonely. Having a dog reduced the anxiety of more than one-third of respondents. 

Pets don’t judge, so perhaps it’s not surprising that 61% of owners found more comfort in their dog than in their fellow human beings. Nearly one in three said their dog was there for them when no one else was. Survey respondent Tracey Ison credits her dog, Scout, with pulling her through a breakdown. “Scout has been a great support to me during lockdown. He gives me a reason to get up every morning and stick to a routine whilst I am furloughed from work,” she says. “He really is the best buddy I could have asked for.”