Today is National Love Your Pet Day, which probably is the cutest national observation EVER. For all of the happiness and love our pets give us every day, it seems only right to give them a day where we blow up Instagram and Facebook a little extra with posts of their cute faces and recognize how much they mean to us.

Elsie (left) and Wilbur (right) are my mom's furry children.

Back home I have two cavachon dogs, ages five and seven named Elsie (left) and Wilbur (right). I am so thankful for them because of the love and stress relief they give me when I visit home, and for the emotional support they have provided my mom when her three oldest kids started heading off to college. My stepsister still has a few years of high school left, but as soon as my sister left for college and my stepbrother and I followed shortly after, my mom filled our missing spots at home with her new furry kids.

My mom and her furry son.

My mom and her furry son, Wilbur.

And I mean that – she treats those dogs like her children. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Animal Planet lists five health benefits owning a pet gives you and your family:

1) Children can develop strong immune systems. Studies show having a pet can lower a child’s likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33%. Children who are exposed to animals early in their life can actually develop stronger immune systems overall.

2) You can improve your socialization skills. Pets provide great topics of conversations with people and can help break the ice with strangers. Pet owners are able to connect with other owners and better their socialization skills, whether the animal is next to them or not.

3) Having a pet can decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health have conducted studies that show pet owners exhibit these decreases in their bodies, which can ultimately reduce their risk of heart attack. If someone has already had a heart attack, having a dog or cat can aid in better recovery rates. All of this has to do with pets serving as a stress release for owners.

4) Dogs will keep you in shape. If dog owners run or at least walk with their dog every day, studies show this will help the owner lose or maintain weight. The National Institute of Health also conducted studies the proved decreased obesity rates among dog owners who walk their animal opposed to people who don’t own dogs at all.

5) Simply put, pets will make you happy. Owning a pet can instill the sense of purpose within the owner through companionship and unconditional love. Animal-assisted Therapy and Pet-Facilitated Therapy are programs that offer people (especially the sick and elderly) these feelings to combat illness or distress.

There are other benefits to owning pets, whether this pet is a lizard, hamster, dog, cat, bird or fish. Acknowledge today by posting a picture with your pet using the hashtag #NationalLoveYourPetDay on social media and giving them a little extra love today.

UGH. I can't handle the cuteness.

UGH. I can’t handle the cuteness.