How Do Pets Benefit Your Health? Top 12 Benefits

How Do Pets Benefit Your Health? Top 12 Benefits

No bones about it: Pets are good for your health. Nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Animals can make people feel good. And your favorite ones can also help you stay well. Studies have shown the bond between people and their pets is linked to many health benefits and can improve your overall physical and mental health. Here’s Top 12 ways that pets can benefit your health.


Owning a pet can benefit your health because they can increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and socialize. Research suggests that people who own dogs walk about 20 minutes more per day than those who don’t have a dog. These walks can also improve weight control, cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, and reduce risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.

Loneliness and Depression:

Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship, a sense of purpose and meaning, and increase feelings of social support. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets is also linked to helping to relieve anxiety and symptoms of PTSD. The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes animal-assisted therapy as a treatment for depression and other mood disorders.

Stress Relief:

Pets can benefit your health by providing stress relief. An American Heart Association study reports 95% of pet parents say that they rely on their pets for stress relief.  Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and boost your mood. Animals can serve as a source of comfort and support. Playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties. Pets provide us with a sense of belonging, connection, and contentment for which we all long. The excitement dogs often display when you arrive home makes you feel special and loved. Hearing a cat’s gentle purring can be very soothing. Sitting quietly and stroking your pet’s soft coat can trigger the release of oxytocin, the so-called love hormone. Therapy dogs are sometimes brought into hospitals or nursing homes to help reduce patients’ stress and anxiety.

Help children with their emotional and social skills:

One study showed children who read to the real animals rather than puppets showed better social skills and more sharing, cooperation, and volunteering. They also had fewer behavioral problems. Another study found that dogs can help children with ADHD focus their attention. Another study found that children with autism spectrum disorder were calmer while playing with guinea pigs in the classroom.

Help with emergency situations:

Pets can be proactive and be trained to be alert and help people with seizures or emergency situations. There are specially trained dogs who have been taught to detect drops in blood sugar by smelling. When they smell a change, they can alert the person before it becomes dangerous.

Disease Management:

A recent study showed that caring for fish helped teens with type 1 diabetes better manage their disease by being more disciplined about checking their blood glucose levels compared with teens who weren’t given a fish to care for.

Improve Heart Health:

Dog loves his owner | pets benefit your health

Dog loves his owner | pets benefit your health

Pets can benefit your health by reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease. An American Heart Association scientific statement concluded that pet ownership, especially dog ownership, may be linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improve glucose levels. Having a pet appears to lower the risk of developing high blood pressure and may improve blood pressure control in people who already have the condition by dampening the body’s stress response. Dog owners also tend to have lower resting heart rates and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners. A study of stockbrokers found that having a cat or dog helped lower the spikes in blood pressure that happen when a person is stressed. Another study of hospitalized heart patients found that dogs decreased the patients’ blood pressure by about 10% in the left side of their hearts. Studies have found that people with cats were 40% less likely to have a fatal heart attack.

Connecting with other people:

A daily dog walk can help you make connections and even friendships with your neighbors and other dog owners. Setting up “play dates” for your dog provides fun and extra exercise for the dogs as well as time for the owners to chat and share their pet ownership experiences.

Date Magnets:

Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking, a dog is a natural conversation starter. This especially helps ease people out of social isolation or shyness. Sometimes the conversation stays at the ‘dog level,’ sometimes it becomes a real social interchange.

Maintain a Routine:

Having that nudge to wake up every morning can be beneficial to humans. It keeps you in a routine, and having that routine, and putting something or someone else before you, provides a physical and mental boost.

Allergy Fighters:

Pets can benefit your health by helping to fight your allergies. Many studies have suggested that kids growing up in a home with “furred animals” will have less risk of allergies and asthma. One study shows that if a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies, 19% vs. 33%. They also were less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals, a sign of stronger immune system activation. A seven-year study of almost 500 children found that children who were exposed to dogs and cats as babies were half as likely to have allergies and risk factors for asthma as they grew up than those who had no pets. Infants with more than one pet in the home had the lowest risk of allergies.

Animal Assisted Therapy:

animal assist therapy with the eldery | pets benefit your health

animal assist therapy with the elderly | pets benefit your health

Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home. Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog. Walking a dog or just caring for a pet can provide exercise, companionship, and increased cognitive function in older adults.

There’s also research showing the benefits of animal-assisted therapy during rehabilitation for nervous system conditions, such as strokes, seizure disorders, brain trauma and infections. Dogs can be a valuable part of cardiac rehabilitation, occupational therapy and physical therapy programs. They can provide social support, and trained dogs can even participate in your rehabilitation or therapy sessions.

Many studies have shown that pets can benefit your health in many ways. This month is National Pet Month, so give back to your pet. Since your pet keeps you healthy, talk to your veterinarian about tips for Pet Wellness and how to keep your pet healthy too.

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