Migraine and Pets - Can Your Pets Help With Your Migraine?

Migraines can be very debilitating and can very easily take a heavy toll on someone’s life. Most of the time, the inability to function as per normal during a migraine attack, results in missed school/work days or missing out on gatherings with loved ones. Furthermore, migraine attacks are usually unpredictable and what triggers a migraine attack for each person is unique to each individual. However, one thing in common that most migraineurs are likely to experience at one point in their migraine journey is the possible negative effects migraines can have on one’s social life. 

Did you know? That according to Migraine Buddy users, 73% have recorded that their migraines have caused them to miss at least one of the following: school, social activities, family time and work. 

  • “People find it scary to be around me when I get a migraine because I become very moody and I usually will not be in the mood to even speak to anyone.” - Kelly

  • “All I want to do during an attack is just lie in bed with all the curtains shut in my room” - Sue

  • “When you have a chronic health condition (or like me have multiple), it’s hard for people to understand what you are going through.” - Gil

  • “I get migraine attacks that last for weeks and I have to call in sick and miss things and it kills me knowing I’m letting my work, my family and my school down. It is so hard to be so sick all the time, but there is nothing I can do. I can only hope for the best and keep myself in a space that I know will be healing for me. It is really hard being sick, there are times when I don’t shower and can barely get out of bed. Everyday is a new day and we have to keep moving forward even if it is alone.” - Brianna 

  • “You know it’s funny, you don’t always remember the words people use but how it makes you  feel. The bitterness of rolling eyes and exasperated expressions - when someone says “oh another migraine….” It is really a challenge. My mom and husband understand completely but finding a workplace that does, never have I ever.” - Shawn

  • “ I feel so alone. People usually get angry when I have to cancel plans and I think they don’t believe me most of the time, it’s sad” - Garcia

It is easy to build feelings of helplessness and loneliness for people who suffer from an illness as debilitating as migraines. At those times, we’re not the easiest people to be around and we’re very lucky if we find someone who truly understands what we go through during a migraine attack. This is why sometimes migraineurs turn to their pets for comfort and companionship. 

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Can pets help with migraines? 

According to Medical News Today, there is evidence to show that having a pet benefits people who are battling with mental health problems. There is no exception for the benefits these furry friends bring migraineurs. Pets “provide acceptance without judgement”, giving unconditional support, things which are often neglected from family or social relationships, said Dr Brooks. He also mentioned that having a pet helped greatly with areas of “identity, self worth and existential meaning”.

Source of Distraction and Mood Booster

We often find ourselves finding methods of relief and similarly, distractions to take our minds away from what is causing us the pain, sadness or discomfort. Sometimes just watching your pets play on their own or just petting them while they lie by your side serves as a source of distraction from the pain. 

It can be difficult to get motivated to move when in pain. Feeding and interacting with pets could help to fill that void, keeping migraineurs more active which could improve circulation and joint health. Furthermore, touch and movement are healthy ways to manage stress, a common migraine trigger for many migraineurs. Stroking your furry friend can bring about lower blood pressure, helping you to feel calmer and happier.

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Companionship 

When in pain during an attack, we don’t wish to be alone all the time. It’s always good to know that someone cares. That in itself is a great support to a migraineur. The physical companionship of a pet who stays by a migraineur’s side during an attack not only brings emotional comfort but also has the potential to improve a migraineur's general outlook on daily life. Not forgetting, pets are never critical. They love unconditionally and their mere presence provides a sense of security.

Have you ever noticed that your pet may be more loving and understanding when you suffer from a migraine attack? Here is what some Migraine Buddy users told us: 

  • “My pets have always been helpful, especially when I’m in pain”  - Kandice

  • “My cats snuggle up to me when I have a migraine, it’s like they can sense it” - Kassidy

  • “Both my dogs stick very close to me and become protective when I have a migraine.” - Cheryl

  • “My dog is very caring, he gives the best kisses” - Katie

  • “Ilia (my dog) is the best, he comforts me & lays by my head during a migraine” - Kelli

It is said that pets can pick up the symptoms that a migraineur faces before or during a migraine. A survey conducted found over 50% of dog owners who have migraines reported that their pets act differently before and during a migraine, and 60% found their dogs “alerting” them before an attack happens. This is how migraine alert dogs exist, where they are trained to detect the mood changes, hyperactivity, irritability and tiredness a migraineur may experience as a migraine symptom. The next time you notice your pet behaving differently, pay attention. Who knows, it could be because they are warning you on an impeding migraine attack? 

We may not realise this, but our pets pay much more attention to us than we realise. Pets may not be a fit for everyone but there’s no doubt the list of benefits they bring to someone suffering from migraines.  

Do you own a pet? How are they like when you experience a migraine?

Emily Neo