Sign In

Adopting A Pet Can Be Comforting

June 3, 2020

As many across the country shelter at home during the coronavirus, it can be especially trying for those going it alone.

The challenges of living and working in isolation with little outside social contact begin to weigh heavily.

While businesses and organizations open back up, animal shelters too are resuming in-person adoptions for dogs and cats.

Each year, 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide, according to the ASPCA, while just over 3.2 million of those animals are adopted. For those grappling with depression or anxiety, a new pet can be a great companion to offer unconditional love and break the lonely cycle.

But there are new responsibilities that come with pet ownership to keep in mind, mental health professionals advise.

“It’s an excellent option to cope with loneliness and a loss of interactions, but it’s something you need to really think about when everything lifts and goes back to normal,” shares Prairie Conlon, a licensed mental health professional and animal- assisted therapist.

Conlon works with patients through her own practice while also working closely with Therapetics, a nationwide company which helps those in need of an Emotional Support Animal.

She says adopting a dog or cat is a great way to deal with anxiety and depression issues that may have developed during the coronavirus shutdown.

But before bringing a new furry friend into your home, Conlon says to consider that an animal is a long-term commitment which will continue long past the pandemic.

“It’s important to remember that relationship will be at least 10 to 15 years long,” Conlon advises. “It’s going to have it’s up and downs, but it can be very rewarding for animal lovers who need a healthy routine and a healthy distraction.”

And pets can certainly have many positive effects on the mental health of their owners. A 2014 study published by BioMed Central, an online medical journal publisher, found of more than 5,200 seniors surveyed, those who owned pets reported far less signs of loneliness.

In fact, many studies show pet owners experience a range of positive benefits beyond the mental health effects which include lower blood pressure, decreased allergies and more opportunities for exercise.

Those benefits can add up to a more positive outlook, and longer, healthier lives. Conlon says pets can be a positive source of love and routine for those grappling with depression, which often manifests itself as lethargy or apathy.

“A lot of times, working with people with depression, one of the biggest hurdles is once they can get up and move around a little bit, it becomes easier, and that dog or cat is there needing to be fed and attended to which is a helpful first step,” she added.

For those suffering from anxiety, owning a pet can also be a great way to take your mind off excessive worrying, Conlon says.

“Animals are really good at interrupting that pattern,” she said. “They demand attention or they’ll do something funny or want to go outside for a walk – they can really help break up that viscous cycle of worry.”

If you’re thinking about adopting a new companion, Conlon recommends first making sure your apartment or housing rules allow for pets. Also, consider how a dog or cat will be cared for work returns to an office.

Will you be able to provide doggie day care or return home at lunch to walk the dog? If those plans don’t come to fruition, that failure could actually exacerbate any mental health issues, Conlon cautions.

“It’s an exciting thought to get a new pet if you’ve been dealing with anxiety or depression, but you need to consider the animal too,” she advised. “As with any form of clinical treatment, weigh the pros and cons, and what’s it going to look like down the road.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more