The National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) said the rise of loneliness and isolation during the COVID-19 lockdown has reinforced the value that pets can bring to our mental health, giving us attention and love, keeping us active and enabling us to keep to a routine.
With this week being Mental Health Awareness Week, NOAH said it recognises the benefits that companion animals bring to owners, helping them keep going during such unprecedented and uncertain times, helping calm anxieties and worries.
Jon Neal, chief executive of mental health charity Suffolk Mind, said: “Maintaining good mental health is all about getting key emotional needs met. For many people, a pet is their way of meeting their need for emotional connection.
“We all need someone in our lives who accepts us, warts and all, for who we are. Someone we can count on when the chips are down and that we can be ourselves around. For many people, their animal companion serves that function, and many more. Lots of us feel we can confide in our pets, rather than the humans in our lives.”
Dawn Howard, NOAH’s chief executive, added: “Our pets have been invaluable to us during these times of extreme stress. As we start to come out of lockdown, we need to make sure we take stock of their own needstoo.
“Being at home with our pets, we are in a good place to be able to watch for any small changes: a slight limp, a change in eating or drinking patterns, discomfort when eating, lack of energy on a daily walk or an unusual urge to withdraw from us.
“Changes like these can be indicators of an underlying problem which may be impacting our pets’ welfare. It’simportant to contact your vet to discuss these and other matters, such as vaccinations and parasite control that may have slipped as we have been staying at home.”