The Healing Power of Pets: Ways How Pets Help With Migraines

Pets can bring not only joy to our lives; they are confirmed to be the best therapists. Pets encourage us to move more, go outside, socialize, and take care. Regular walks and interacting with pets reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels and make “good” hormones be released in our bodies. There are plenty of studies confirming that pets are able to help people recover from different health problems, like strokes, heart diseases and mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Moreover, having a pet may help you cope with chronic pains, such as a migraine.

A migraine is not a common headache as people who have never experienced it might think. A migraine is a strong throbbing pain usually on 1 side of a head. A migraine attack is usually preceded by an aura (in the form of light, taste or sound sensations). Sometimes a migraine can last a week, and a person is completely disoriented for this time. Different treatments can be applied to the migraine sufferers, like triptan-based therapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs, as well as animal therapy. Indeed, pets can help prevent migraines and make it easier to overcome the pain. People suffering from migraines feel helpless and lonely. They are not keen to communicate and maintain discussions. The only desire when you have an attack is lying on the bed in a dark and silent room. Every sound, any kind of irritations are unbearable.

Nevertheless, despite the pain, migraine sufferers want to have someone alongside. They need support and understanding. That is why pets can become perfect companions: they accept you with no judgements, provide unconditional love and support. But what empowers pets to do that?

Pets Reduce Stress and Boost Your Mood 

Being a culprit of restless nights and irregular appetite, stress in known as a number one reason that triggers a migraine. Of course, pets can’t solve your problems at work, improve your relationships, but they can become your sedation and motivation. Have you ever come back home from work or a failed date being stressed and anxious, on the verge of mental breakdown? And maybe feeling lonely? But when you approach the door and see your dog/cat wagging the tail and circling around your feet, you suddenly feel better, calmer, happier. Pets give you the sense of home, comfort and the feeling of your importance. They seem to bring us back to ourselves, reminding us to take care and relax. When you interact with a pet, your body releases happiness-associated hormones such as: serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. They calm nervous system and naturally reduce stress level. And these benefits are registered after just 5 minutes of interacting with a pet. Pets boost our mood by making us smile. Stroking a pet reduces blood pressure. 

During one popular study, stressed people were given a toy, turtle and rabbit. When they touched inanimate objects, nothing happened. But when they stroked animals, they felt better. Even those people who didn’t like pets at all.

Pets Are a Source of Distraction

Having a pet is not only about fun time and petting. You have to care for your furry friend: feed, spend time playing and walking. These simple regime things seem to be minor, but not for people suffering from migraines. For them, performing these actions are monumental. They help take outside the pain and depressive thoughts. Of course, when you experience a migraine, you want all people to leave you alone lying on the bed with an ice pack on your head. You need silence and a minimum of irritation. If the attack lasts for a long time (during 2-7 days), then the pets could become a good source of distraction from pain, discomfort and loneliness. It’s so hard to stay motivated, perform any action and move when you are in pain. As well as children, pets give us this motivation to get up and start the day no matter how bad you feel. Just watching your pet playing while you’re suffering from pain makes you feel better. Feeding and interacting with your pet help you be more active which in turn could positively influence blood circulation and joint health. In spite of the popular belief about the benefits of walking with a dog in the fresh air, going outside is the last thing that a person with a migraine can wish. However, when a migraine sufferer feels good, having long walks with a pet definitely benefits his/her physical and mental state. 

Pets Are Best Companions 

Though a migraine is not a fiction, it’s officially recognized illness, many people tend to treat migraineurs with mistrust. It’s a frequent situation when the closest people roll the eyes saying something like “migraine again?” Indeed, it is very difficult for people who have never experienced such pain to imagine what it’s like. It seems to many that migraine sufferers are pretending, exaggerating, enjoying being the victims of this aristocratic disease. Friends are often misunderstood when you cancel an appointment due to migraines or postpone a deadline. Sometimes you may feel embarrassed about your pain and even start deliberately pretending that nothing is happening. It’s a wrong strategy: a migraine subsequently becomes even worse. In this situation, you don’t want to argue or prove your truth. Your only wish is isolation. Family that want you to cook a dinner or children twisting around, popping-up messages from work – all these hassles become unbearable. What you really need is psychological support and understanding. Pets are those creatures able to provide an ideal physical support for a migraine sufferer. They usually stay by a side during an attack. Cats try to get closer to the part of the head or neck where you have pain. Service dogs can be taught to provide a deep pressure therapy. The premise of such therapy is simple: a dog uses its warmth and weight to help alleviate stress and pain. As a rule, dogs lie on the person’s lap or chest – this helps reduce the level of stress hormones and create the feeling of comfort and safeness. 

Pets Can Alert Beforehand

Emotional support pets are able to “read” your physical and emotional state. From the evidence of the migraineurs, most of their pets demonstrate more love and tenderness when their owners are suffering from the pain. Many of them also behave differently before an attack occurs. It seems that pets notice the slight changes in your mood, blood pressure, voice tone. By knowing your symptoms well, they can alert you with definite signs: usually, pets excessively try to attract your attention, start circling around, push you towards the bed, ask for stroking. Paying attention to these signs can prevent migraine or at least make it less severe. 


The positive impact of animals on the human health is undeniable. Perhaps you already have a furry friend who makes your life happier and richer. If you are thinking about getting an animal, be careful in your choice. It is important to find the breed and temperament that best suit you. Emotional support animals and service dogs are both suitable for dealing with migraines. Be aware that owning a pet is a big responsibility. You should weigh all advantages and disadvantages and decide if you are ready to make such a commitment.


Alice Sava