Pets are the Best Companions When You Have a Chronic Illness

Although many diseases and chronic illnesses can be rare, it’s not uncommon to have a rare disease or chronic illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of all adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions. One in four adults have two or more chronic health conditions.

That’s a lot of Americans who experience similar circumstances:

  • Financial difficulties with rising medical costs

  • The weight of anxiety and depression

  • Social disparity whether from physical or mental challenges

  • Negative impacts on career and income

  • Disability challenges in society, like lack of wheelchair ramps or passive judgment on people with “invisible illness” using disability tools

  • And so much more

And even though many Americans have similar experiences, many often feel lonely and suffer quietly. Many people even experience a loss of friendships as they learn to cope with their new or ongoing health circumstances, but one theme we noticed for this community was that their best and most loyal companions were their pets.

pets are the best companions when you have chronic illness. petculiar curious about pets. champion for pets. invisible illness

We reached out to some communities of people that suffer from a myriad of chronic illnesses and we found some amazing stories of pets being the ultimate companions for people when chronically ill. Check them out. 

pet best friend chronic illness
I have cyclic vomiting syndrome and this is my cat Cloey. Every time I have an episode, he is right there with me. He will lay in the bathroom with me for hours and always knows when I’m sick and need comfort. He’s my best friend and the reason I keep fighting every day. He’s my lifeline.       - RAYA

This is Clover. She is amazing as my illness caused severe depression and i had lost my older dog of 16 years, Ruger. Ruger got me through cancer twice and radiation and when he passed, i was crushed beyond belief. I couldn't function and the stress and grieving was not helping my current health conditions. I never thought I could love another animal like I did Ruger. Then my son brought me home this lil' girl that no one wanted because she was full of worms and had a big hernia. The moment I saw her I knew she needed me. She gave me back a purpose and although nothing will ever fill the whole in my heart from losing Ruger, Clover saved my life. She gets me out of bed, licks my tears, keeps me warm, and sleeps beside me every night. I couldn't get through Ehlers Danlos Syndrome without her.       - ANNE

pets best friend chronic pain

pit bull best friend chronic pain
This is my Pitty laying on me during a bad pain day. She does compression therapy for my PTSD, helps me up, sees me through anxiety attacks, bad pain days, and she cleans all my poor healing wounds and prevents me from getting skin infections in all my sores. She's also just such a joy to be around that she always cheers me up and keeps the depression from sinking in. I don't know how she knows it, but she is in my lap and ready to go before the tears even start.        - CLAIRE

Pablo always knows when I'm sad or hurting a lot... When I cry, he gives me kisses on my eyes! Besides being chronically ill, I have chronic depression and, thanks to Pablo, I'm never ever alone anymore, he's always on my side! We even sleep together. The love you receive of an animal is real and genuine. It's never fake like with human beings!      - VANESSA
dog best friend companion chronic illness depression

dog friend best companion chronic illness

My baby has a sense for human emotion and health. She has laid with me, protecting me through some awful health stuff, and even picked up on my fathers heart attack before we did. She is phenomenal and always puts us before herself. I know she would take a bullet for us, and I really hope she knows I’d take one for her too.       - ZOE

My best friend is Joey. He is a Beagle and he has three legs. 6 weeks after I got him, the vet discovered his elbow was broken and healed completely wrong. The break was likely there for months and happened when he was a stray. I was left with three options: 1. Try to fix the break but he would be guaranteed to have early arthritis and pain 2. Amputate 3. Give him pain meds and let him use the leg as long as he could and then amputate. Needless to say, this was an impossible decision. I ended up going with amputation and I know my chronic illness played a part in that. I know what it is like to live everyday in pain and did not want to do that to him. I knew taking the leg would take his pain and he could live as a happy dog for the first time in his life. He is now 5 months post-amp and I have no doubts that I made the right decision. He is much happier and much faster. Going through all of this made us even closer. He has very little limits but I feel like we relate to each other a lot because of my joint issues and being careful about pacing for him. He has done wonderful things for me mentally and keeps me active. He is the first thing I want to see every morning and I love just spending time with him.        - SARAH
best dog friend chronic pain. cheer up

retired guide dog. helping human with fear
We adopted a retiring guide dog who became depressed without work. This is the first time my daughter walked independently outdoors.       - KATHRYN

Every time I am down or sad, this happy pup has had my back.      - ROX
dogs make me happy. chronic pain illness depression

kittie thrown. best friends chronic pain. pet loyalty
I have severe anxiety and panic attacks, Lyme disease and symptoms of extreme lightheadedness and vertigo, among other things. My two fur baby girls, Twister and Simba, help me to feel calm and keep me in the moment. Every night after I put my daughter to bed and lay in my recliner this is what I see. They both lay with me I call it my throne of kittieS. LOL! They really help me cope with everything I'm going through.       - JACKIE

My first dog was a yorkipoo and I got him when I was 9 years old. I didn’t get sick until I was 13. But Niko was always my biggest support throughout the 13 years we had together. Before I got sick, I had severe anxiety and OCD. School was kind of rough for me because I put so much pressure on myself to do everything perfectly. Straight A's came with a heavy price: my mental health. But Niko was always there for me and he would always lick my tears away when the anxiety pushed me over the edge. Then when I was 13, my life was completely changed. I got mono, which caused shingles, which caused meningitis. I just never recovered after all of that and I was diagnosed with POTS about 8 months later. I was devastated. I was a competitive figure skater before I got sick but I had to quit when it became to dangerous to continue. I also wasn’t able to attend 8th grade. And to top it all off, my human friends all forgot about me. I felt so hopeless, nothing was ever going to get better, so what was the point in living? That answer can be summed up in one word: Niko. Niko needed me. He also had his own health issues and I knew that no one could take care of him like I could. He needed me. If I offed myself, I knew he would follow soon after. I didn’t want that to happen. Niko and I had such a deep, profound bond. It was like we could read each other’s minds. He always knew when I needed extra lovin and I always knew, no matter how small the symptom might be, when he needed emergent care. Our bond kept both of us alive. He was an amazing friend. Niko passed away in August last year. I will never forget all that he did for me. He kept me alive even when I most desperately didn’t want to be anymore. This was my best friend, my biggest supporter, my savior, Niko.      - ISABELLA


Dog snuggles.

I lost my best buddy last year and was too heartbroken to get another dog. I ended up rescuing another one after only a few weeks, and it’s been the best thing for me!! I live alone and don’t have any friends within 100 miles so she’s the only reason I leave the house!! Plus she’s super snuggly and loving. She loves playing with other dogs so I get the chat to other dog walkers which can sometimes be the only human interaction I have all week!  - CHARLIE

Do you have a story about your pet being the ultimate companion during a hard or difficult time? Message us. Want to want share your story to Champion for Pets.