This article is written by Frankie Wallace.
Dealing with a chronic illness can be both difficult and overwhelming. Depending on the type of condition you face, it could impact almost every aspect of your life, limiting what you can do on a daily basis, as well as how often you can spend time with others.
You might think that having a pet would be a daunting task when you’re trying to manage a chronic condition. While there may be challenges, there are also plenty of benefits. The human-pet connection can improve both your physical and mental well-being and add more to your life than you think.
With that in mind, let’s cover some of the benefits of pet ownership, especially for someone with a chronic illness. We’ll also cover a few of the potential risks, so you can make an informed decision, and offer some tips on how you can effectively care for your pet, no matter your condition.
Benefits of Pet Ownership
There have been countless studies on the benefits of owning an animal. Physically, they can keep you active and boost your motivation. When you’re dealing with a chronic condition, you might not be able to go to the gym or do intense workouts every day. However, walking around the neighborhood with a four-legged friend is low-impact and beneficial, and can also help mitigate risk factors for certain vein diseases like spider veins and varicose veins.
Mentally and emotionally, pets can help with:
- Reducing stress
- Increasing feelings of relaxation
- Reducing the risk of depression and anxiety
They can also help to fight against feelings of loneliness and isolation. If you have trouble leaving your home or aren’t able to interact with others as much as you’d like, your animal companion can serve as a source of constant comfort and friendship. That’s a big deal for people with chronic conditions since loneliness has been known to weaken the immune system and increase your mortality rate.
Finally, a pet can help you to maintain a sense of independence. A service animal can be trained to help you with daily tasks, if needed. But, even a pet that has the most basic skills can encourage you to stay both physically and cognitively active, improving your overall quality of life.
Are There Any Risks?
While there are clearly countless benefits to pet ownership, there are some potential risks to consider when you have a chronic condition. First, you have to decide if you are able to take on the additional responsibility. Depending on the type of pet you get, it can be a lot of work just to make sure they have their basic needs. If you have limited mobility or are easily worn out, a “pocket pet” or smaller animal might be your best option.
With smaller pets, you can also designate a specific area in your home to keep them safe and comfortable. The perfect pet room should include things like:
- Pet-friendly furniture
- Plenty of toys to keep them entertained
- Food and water
- Storage space
- A comfortable bed
If you find that you’re allergic to certain animals, letting them have their own room will also keep them comfortable at night without having to be in your bedroom, so you can breathe easily.
Pets might also expose you to certain pathogens and diseases. Fleas and ticks are a major risk for furry animals, and the illnesses often caused by those pests can transfer to humans. Thankfully, most flea and tick preventatives are extremely effective, and if you don’t feel comfortable applying them yourself, a veterinarian can do it for you.
If you have concerns about getting a pet or you want a breakdown of what the risks might mean for you, talk to your doctor before making a decision.
Providing the Right Kind of Care
In addition to having a pet room for your four-legged companion, there are several things you should keep in mind when it comes to managing care. Your own health should be your top priority. If your pet is making it hard to manage your health, consider reaching out for help. There are shelter programs all over the country that have pet-owner assistance programs. You can also find a qualified local dog walker if you have an active pet that needs to be walked and/or played with each day, and you have limited mobility.
It’s important for both you and your pet to maintain a consistent routine. Doing so will make life easier for you, and as your pet gets used to it, they’ll be calmer, more consistent with their behavior, and might even be able to help you with some of the actions in your own routine.
Finally, consider in-home veterinary care if you have difficulty leaving the house. If you truly want a pet and are looking forward to how they might improve your quality of life, don’t let mobility issues keep you from getting one. Weigh out the pros and cons and don’t be afraid to ask for the help and support you need when it comes to caring for your companion.
What helps you to manage pet care with chronic illness?
For more practical tips on how to live a good life with chronic illness, sign up for free weekly health sessions delivered straight to your inbox.
Thank you for including this post in your weekly round-up Claire! And for supporting other health bloggers by sharing their work. https://painpalsblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/7404/
Great post and information - I have shared a link on my regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire (PainPalsBlog) x
Thank you soo much may God bless you in many ways ☺
I'm sorry, the blog post is a few years old so the giveaway has been closed for a while now. Perhaps you can use some of the tips above to create a care package: puzzles or magazine, (free) samples of body care products if your dad is still in the hospital, a gift card for iTunes? I also like the Gifts in A Tin from DIYMommy: https://thediymommy.com/a-gift-in-a-tin-christmas-baking-kit-gift/ (Scroll down for an overview) or an edible gift like the five bean soup IF he's medically allowed to eat that of course!: https://thehealthsessions.com/healthy-edible-gifts/ Hope your father feels better soon!
I was going to leave a comment for the give away... For my dad cuz he had his gull bladder taken out a fue hrs ago but congrats... Is there a cheep way i can make something for him?
Being careful with what you eat might be a good idea if you're feeling sick or have stomach aches. Luckily, there are still plenty of things listed you can do to entertain yourself :-) Feel better soon!
When I am I'll myum doesn't let me eat so some wouldn't work 😢🍕
Hi Darci, thank you for your message. Unfortunately the guide is not available yet as a hardcover and a paperback. If that changes in the near future, I will let you know. Warm regards, Jennifer
I would like to buy this book in hard cover or paperback instead of e-book for a friend
Super useful habits Nat! I also need to mentally unwind before bedtime or I'll be laying awake all night with thoughts racing through my mind.
A few things that help me ( I suffer from insomnia) is by not taking my phone to bed with me, i finish checking emails, social media etc in the living room and go to bed to switch off. Something else I do is turn on my essential oils diffuser an hour before bed so the room is scent with a relaxing mist of essential oils such as lavender, or vetiver which is like a sedative and incredible for helping me unwind. Another thing that work well when i can't switch my brain off is to write a quick list of everything i think i need to be dealing with now and highlighting only the ones that need to be taken care of the next day. Helps me not to feel so overwhelmed and in turn helps me fall asleep easier.
I'm touched by your kind words Darla, thank you. It's perfectly normal that you're resentful and feel sorry for yourself. You've had a lot to deal with. Not just experiencing horrible symptoms on a daily basis, but also having to adjust the plans you had for your future and your sense of identity. To me, positivity in the face of adversity is not about having an irrealistic rose-colored view of life. But I do believe that trying to find the good in little things each day can help make the bad ones more bearable. It's a challenge, but your insightful comment tells me that you're up for it ;-) Let me know if there's anything I can do to help. Good luck, be gentle with yourself and take care Darla!
Dr.Jen the Zen one, first off you rock! Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 4 years ago and 2 years ago double pneumonia that left me with heart failure with 28% left undamaged it has seriously limited my mobility energy patience and unfortunately my positive attitude. 52 years on this planet, I lived a happy-go-lucky , look on the bright side, things will be better tomorrow, or crack a silly joke and get over it type of life. Now for the first time in my life I find myself having to work at being positive. Anger and resentment and even the dreaded " poor little me" mindset is trying to set up permanent residence. And tonight I find your blog and it gives me hope I just want to say "Thank you" Darla