I can not imagine life without my two fur babies. I hear from many of you that when you travel you take your baby along. Having your pet along can pose a problem when it comes to housing but a little research will generally find a pet-friendly rental. There is nothing like coming home to a pet companion. They provide unconditional love and can do more than keep you company. It is generally known that a pet may also decrease stress, improve heart health, and may help with emotional wellbeing.
According to the CDC most households in the United States own at least one pet. The bond between a human and their pet can increase fitness, lower stress and create happiness.
Possible Health Effects
There are health benefits to owning a pet. Some of the benefits can be:
- A decrease in blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- A decrease in feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization
We have known for years that being a pet owner has benefits but research on human-animal interactions is still relatively new. Results of these studies have shown positive health effects but they have been mixed.
Researching Human-Animal Interaction
According to Dr. Layla Esposito of NIH “There’s not one answer about how a pet can help somebody with a specific condition.” She explains “If your goal is to increase physical activity? Then you might benefit from owning a dog. You have to walk a dog several times a day and you’re going to increase physical activity. If you are interested in reducing stress, sometimes watching fish swim or birds in an aviary can result in a feeling of calmness. So there’s no one type fits all.”
I think nurses have learned that interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Personally, I have found that my animals reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost my mood.
Animals Helping People
Whenever I hit the road for a road trip I plan on taking my 2 small dogs, Lizzie and Freddy. They serve as a source of comfort and support as I travel no matter how many miles. Pets can keep you company and are great to reminder to stop frequently for rest. They remind you to get out and walk them on each stop so helping you to stretch.
I think most of us have seen the positive effects of therapy dogs. They are good at providing comfort for the elderly and children. They’re often brought into hospitals and nursing homes to help reduce stress and anxiety for a patient. Many residential care facilities now have resident animals like dogs, cats, and birds.
Helping with Social Interaction
Animals may also help with social interaction. Travel nurses change locations frequently making it necessary to develop new relationships with each move. Having an animal can become a way of building a bridge for a new social interaction. You might need information about a local dog park for your pet. Perhaps you can join others as they take their pet out for walks.
Of course, if you have other pets such as cats or birds you may not have this same opportunity for a meetup. Try striking up a conversation with others who have pets to find local pet stores, veterinarians, or groomers. Most people like to chat about their animals so look for a chance to brag about your fur baby.
RV Travel with Pets
Many nurses have opted to buy an RV for housing while on assignment. RVs can certainly make stress-free trips for owners who don’t want to pay the expensive boarding fees. Also good for those pets who don’t like to be left behind. Like with us humans it gives plenty of space to store pet food and toys.
Unlike housing in an Airb&b or apartment, most campgrounds welcome pets. Make sure you check out the campground rules before you get there. Also, it is important to have up-to-date shots, collars and ID tags with a mobile number in order to track if you get separated.
Helping Each Other
Pets bring new responsibilities for the owner. Knowing how to care for and feed your animal is part of owning a pet. Planning ahead as you travel is important. Finding safe places to park for those times when you have to leave them unattended in a vehicle. In today’s world, people do not think twice about breaking your vehicle window to “rescue” your pet.
Remember that your pet can feel stressed and fatigued, too. Make sure to provide water on those frequent stops. My pets do not eat as well when we travel so I keep treats to give them while on the road.
According to NIH researchers will continue to explore the many health effects of having a pet. Dr.Esposito explains “We’re trying to find out what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s safe—for both the humans and the animals”.