January 21 is National Hug Day

National Hug Day was first celebrated in 1986, and was created to encourage family and friends to hug often. And while it’s not an official holiday in terms of getting the day off from school or work, it is widely recognized throughout the US and even internationally.

Hugs are celebrated because they’re known to elevate our mood and decrease stress. And it stands to reason that similar benefits can come from hugging your pet—so don’t forget to include your furry best friend!

Here are a few reasons to give your dog or cat some extra love and cuddles for National Hug Day…

The human animal bond makes our lives better

Of course, some pets may love hugs while others aren’t so crazy about them. But no matter which category your pal falls into, you can still celebrate your special friendship by giving them extra affection—like playtime, petting, or just hanging out together and watching a movie.

As a pet parent, you can probably attest to the fact that your pal makes you smile, and that a wagging tail or soothing purr can cheer you up when you’re having a bad day. So, it’s not surprising to hear that research indicates the benefits of pet ownership are very real…

How pets benefit your physical health

According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, pet ownership has saved us human beings approximately $11.7 billion in health care costs.

There are many ways that being a pet parent can improve your physical health. Here are a few examples that have been documented in scientific studies…

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Lower heart rate and lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased opportunities for physical activity and exercise

As if that’s not reason enough to be amazed at how pets change our lives for the better, there’s also a notable improvement in mental and emotional health for many pet owners…

The mental health benefits of owning a pet

Research has shown incredible results. Here are just a few of the mental and emotional benefits of owning a pet…

  • Decreased stress
  • Companionship, and decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased social opportunities (for example, while walking a dog)
  • Calming effects from petting or just being near a furry friend

Some of these effects are probably why emotional support pets have become so common in recent years. Having a pet nearby certainly can make us smile and give us something positive to focus on when life gets challenging.

Also, pets can have a very beneficial effect on the wellbeing of children, including children affected by developmental disorders. Noted benefits include…

  • Lower anxiety levels
  • Increased positive social behaviors among children with autism
  • Improved motivation and outlook for children undergoing cancer treatments
  • Helping children learn to schedule and take on responsibilities—a good skill for any child to learn, but this has also been shown to have a positive impact on children with ADHD

Of note, although the care of a furry friend can help your child learn responsibility, be sure to supervise and don’t leave your pet’s care entirely up to a child. With appropriate supervision, your child may really enjoy caring for a pet.

More ways that pets can improve our lives

Whether at home, in the office, or anywhere in between, here are a couple more amazing things pets can do…

  • Specially trained service dogs can help with a variety of medical conditions. In addition to seeing-eye dogs for the blind, some dogs can be trained to alert their pet parents to oncoming seizures, diabetic episodes, and even episodes of narcolepsy—all of which can greatly improve the lives of those pet parents.
  • Pets in the workplace: More and more organizations are recognizing the benefits of bringing pets to work! Not surprisingly, some pet-friendly companies like Nestle Purina have already embraced pets in the workplace whole-heartedly, quoting benefits such as reduced stress, improved productivity, and better collaboration among employees. Amazon headquarters is also dog-friendly, with as many as 7,000 dogs reporting to work with their human companions.

With all the benefits of pet ownership, maybe other workplaces will start to catch on to this trend, too! But either way, you can make the most of you time at home with your furry friend and give them some extra attention to thank them for their unconditional love.

Looking at the benefits we listed above, we’re guessing the research is probably just telling you something you already know very well as a pet parent…

That is, the special bond with your fur kid can really add more love to your life. A wagging tail and greeting at the door can warm your heart even on the most hectic of days. And life is better with a furry friend snuggled up next to you on the couch.

So in honor of National Hug Day this January 21—and all year long—be sure to give your pal plenty playtime and affection. And give them an extra hug from all of us here at UrgentVet Westchase or any of our other Florida or Carolina locations!