Your dog offers unconditional love, companionship, and lots of fun. You have no doubt felt the joy of being greeted with a wagging tail, doggy kisses, and a loving nuzzle. The pleasure experienced with such a welcome definitely lifts your spirits. It also changes your body chemistry and greatly benefits your emotional and physical health by increasing your feel good hormones, serotonin and oxycotin.
The Feel Good Hormones
Petting your furry friend releases the feel good hormones oxytocin and serotonin in both you and in your dog. Oxytocin or the “love hormone” is released when lovers and friends gaze into each other’s eyes. Takefumi Kikusui, an animal behaviorist at Azabu University in Japan, studied the changes in oxytocin levels when dogs and owners gazed at each other. He measured oxytocin levels in the urine of 30 owners and their dogs and 5 owners and their pet wolves before and after each owner interacted with his pet for 30 minutes.
Serotonin and Oxytocin
There was a 130% rise in oxytocin levels of both male and female dogs and a 300% increase of oxytocin in their owners in pairs that spent the greatest amount of time gazing at each other. These pairs produced a lot of happy hormones and elevated their moods! There was no increase of oxytocin levels in dogs and owners that spent little time gazing at each other or in wolf-owner pairs.
Serotonin influences most of our approximately 40 million brain cells including those that affect our mood. Some researchers believe that a deficit of serotonin leads to depression. Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a nursing professor and associate director at the Center for Animal Wellness, Missouri University College of Veterinary Medicine, wondered if stroking a dog could mediate serotonin levels and help depressed patients. She had 50 dog owners and 50 non-dog owners sit for 15 to 39 minutes with either their own dog or a friendly, but strange dog. Human serotonin levels increased when owners pet their own dog but not when participants pet a strange dog.
The Human Canine Interaction
The human canine interaction revealed the additional benefit of lowering the blood pressure of both dogs and their owners. Dogs responded with a drop in blood pressure as soon as they were pet. Humans took a little longer. Their blood pressure dropped about 10% within the first 15 to 30 minutes after the petting began.
Your dog makes a positive impact on your health every day. He lifts your spirits and enhances your emotional and physical health. There is a lot of chemistry behind that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you snuggle your dog. You can use it to your advantage. If you feel a little down, cuddle your dog and look into his soulful eyes to stimulate your happy hormones. You will be feeling better in no time.
Perhaps you should return the favor. Help boost your dog’s immune system and overall health by giving him NuVet Plus. It is such a simple way to say thank you and help him maintain a quality life full of good health, vigor and vitality.
Watch how NuVet Plus can start your pet on the path to perfect health!
C. Sue Furman, Ph.D. spent 40 years at several major universities including the University of Maryland, School of Medicine and Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences teaching future physicians and veterinarians and conducting research involving nerve and muscle. Learn more about Dr. C. Sue Furman here.