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The Role of Pets in Healing and Coping When You Have Psoriatic Arthritis

When you aren’t feeling well, taking care of a pet can seem like just another insurmountable obstacle. But the reality of owning a pet when you have psoriatic arthritis (PsA) actually has quite a few health and overall well-being benefits. Pets, particularly cats and dogs, seem to have a 6th sense that lets them know when their owners are in pain or unhappy.

I’ve had my dog, Lucie Rae, for about 6 years before my official diagnosis. Lucie is a mix of Bichon and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Bichons are known for their happy and friendly disposition and King Charles Spaniels were originally bred to keep the feet of royalty warm as they are most content lying around. Put them together and I have a very happy warming blanket.

My saving grace

Seriously though, Lucie has been my saving grace more often than I can count. She listens without judgment and offers great company without me feeling like I have to “entertain” her. The times when I have felt the most pain, and don’t want to burden my family with my complaining, she is there. When I just need to get the words out, without judgment or feeling crazy, she is there. Simply having her near me is a comfort.

Benefits of caring for a pet

Like any relationship, when you have a pet it is a two-way street. Yes, pets offer great comfort and emotional support but they do require care. They obviously require feeding and cleaning up after. They need attention and exercise. However, if like me, you struggle with feeling useless and helpless with this disease, caring for a pet can provide purpose and meaning. Having something in your life that relies on you for care and nutrition can give you a reason to fight through the pain, get out of bed, and give your body some movement. Studies have shown that regularly moving your body, even though it is sometimes very difficult, can help relieve some symptoms and combat the fatigue of living with PsA.

Unquestioning emotional support

Lucie has seen me at my worst, at my lowest points, especially from an emotional perspective. I tend to keep most of my pain inside. I don’t like to burden others with my pain or my fears. I don’t like them to see me feeling useless or weak, especially my children. It is in those late hours, after everyone else has gone to bed that Lucie is there, silently snuggling with me, keeping me company in those dark moments, letting  me know that I am not alone. With Lucie, it is okay if I am sad, it is okay if I hurt, it is okay if I’m scared for an uncertain future. She doesn’t try to fix it. She doesn’t try to make things better. She doesn’t brush off my fears with positive platitudes and promises that one day things will get better, or heaven forbid, compare me with others who are much worse off than I, reminding me to count my blessings.

Yes, caring for a pet when you are tired or in pain can be difficult. Yes, it is a big responsibility when at times it feels like doing one more thing will break you. But if you take a chance on a pet, you may just find that your efforts will be rewarded tenfold.

My sweet Lucie Rae

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.