How My Pets Help Me Cope with My Psoriasis
When my wife, Lori, and I were deciding about whether to give in to our kidsâ€™ pleading and get a pet, we debated about the impact on my chronic health conditions â€” eczema, asthma, and psoriasis.
Allergists had cautioned me that animal dander could worsen my asthma and eczema. Dermatologists had been more reassuring, telling me it was unlikely that pets would trigger a psoriasis flare. (The National Psoriasis Foundation says that some people suspect allergens worsen their psoriasis.)
Eventually our three children wore Lori and me down. Teddy, a 4-month-old terrier mix, joined the family as a post-Christmas gift to the kids in 2010.
I thought Teddy would be enough, but the kids wanted a cat, too. That ongoing discussion ended a couple of years ago when, on a spring evening, my oldest child, Lydia, invited a 5-month-old kitten into our front entryway. The kitten looked lost and needed a home. Sure enough, Pippin soon became the family cat.
Pets Can Help Keep Anxiety and Depression at Bay
Iâ€™ve experienced bouts of anxiety while battling chronic psoriasis, and Iâ€™m clearly not alone. The National Psoriasis Foundation notes the connection between psoriasis and mental health, citing a statistic that people with psoriasis are 39 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression and 31 percent more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than those without the disease.
While I enjoy the company of my family and friends, there is something special about having a dog or cat to talk to. In their presence I can be myself even when Iâ€™m not feeling my best.
I especially appreciated Teddy and Pippinâ€™s companionship during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when they helped me through stressful days worrying about my health. Their calm presence also assisted me when my asthma and skin flared during the California wildfires last year.
Research supports the positive impact of pets on emotional health.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), interacting with pets has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, a hormone related to stress, and lower blood pressure. Researchers have also found that pets can make you feel less lonely and socially isolated and provide a mood boost.
Pets Can Be Good For Your Heart Health, and Thatâ€™s Extra Important for People With Psoriasis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that pets can be good for heart health, noting that walking or playing with pets regularly can decrease a personâ€™s cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as reduce blood pressure.
Since psoriasis significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (the problem may be inflammation throughout the body, the National Psoriasis Foundation states), owning a pet can be especially beneficial.
My pets motivate me to go outside to exercise. Teddy has slowed as a senior dog, but he still enjoys walks at the park across the street from our house. Pippin is my companion when I walk in the evening, following me around the park and the greenbelt trails and sprinting past me to let me know she is tagging along.
During the coronavirus stay-at-home orders I struggled with getting back into my exercise routine, gaining weight from stress eating and my sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to go out for walks but didnâ€™t know if it would be safe.
The Downside of Having Pets
Thereâ€™s no question that having a dog and a cat has enhanced our family life and my health. But living with animals also comes with ongoing responsibilities and considerations.
Caring for pets takes energy and resources that I donâ€™t always feel like I have as I juggle the demands of work and family life on top of managing my multiple health conditions. Teddy and Pippin need grooming, feeding, and vet visits. Costs add up, especially when they are sick. Owning pets is a commitment that becomes a lifestyle.
Unfortunately, living with Teddy and Pippin hasnâ€™t been great for my asthma and eczema. Blood allergy tests confirm that I am allergic to both cats and dogs; their skin flecks, or dander, and saliva seem to be the culprits. Teddy and Pippin are not allowed in my bedroom any longer and Iâ€™m careful to wash my hands after I touch them.
Finally, itâ€™s harder to travel with pets and stressful to make sure they are cared for when we take a trip without them. We typically donâ€™t take them with us, so we need to find friends who are willing to help us out. On longer trips we miss them and worry about how they are doing.
Bottom Line: Should You Get a Pet if You Have Psoriasis?
Deciding to get a pet isnâ€™t just about deciding whether or not one is good for your health; itâ€™s assessing whether a pet is a good match for you, and under what circumstances, as Megan Mueller, co-director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction in Grafton, Massachusetts, told CNN.
While I recognize the downsides of pet ownership, Iâ€™m still glad Teddy and Pippin are part of the family. I have plenty of reasons to believe they are good for my skin and my heart, too.
The Latest in Psoriasis
Picking at Your Psoriasis Scales? Do This Instead
Itâ€™s tempting to peel and pick at those itchy scales, but if you can help it, there are better ways to cope.
What Black Patients Need To Know About The Effects of Psoriasis
Psoriasis can look differently on darker skin than on lighter skin â€” and knowing how to spot the symptoms is an important first step of the treatment ...
Ways to Protect Your Eye Health â€” and Preserve Your Vision â€” With Psoriasis
How to keep the skin condition from negatively impacting your vision.
7 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Your Next Hair Salon Visit if You Have Scalp Psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis symptoms can make a routine trip to the hair salon stressful. But with the right approach, you can have an easier visit â€” and a healthy...
Do You Need a COVID-19 Vaccine Booster if You Have Psoriasis?
Psoriasis drugs that work by suppressing the bodyâ€™s immune response may raise the risk of COVID-19 complications. If youâ€™re already immunized, can a booster...
Psoriasis Awareness: A 2021 Special Report
Psoriasis flares have been on the rise in 2021, according to a survey of ishonest readers who have the skin condition. Hereâ€™s what might be to ...
Psoriasis: How to Deal with Cracked, Bleeding Skin
Take these steps to heal your skin and avoid future fissures.
Your Psoriasis Diet: Best Foods for Spring and Summer
Ready to break out your favorite warm-weather recipes? Here are delicious anti- inflammatory ingredients you should consider using.
Read more on: psoriasis