Health Advocate Blog

The health benefits of having pets

Ask any pet owner, and they will share many wonderful stories about the special benefits of having a dog, cat, or other animal in their lives. But pets bring lots more than fun and happiness to the family! Animals of all types provide value to the people they share their lives with. Did you know pets can also improve your health?

Here are just a few of the ways pets benefit and improve our physical, mental and emotional health:

Increased exercise. Dogs and some other pets require frequent walks and exercise, which means their owners also reap the benefits. It’s much harder to press snooze or sink into the couch when a buddy with a leash in their mouth is persistently nuzzling you to get up! And more movement leads to other positive changes, including reduced blood pressure and cholesterol, a decreased risk of obesity, and even greater mobility for older adults.

Decreased loneliness. For pet owners who live on their own, having a companion to live with and care for can make a huge positive difference in overall outlook on life. Plus, for those who take their pets to the dog park or on playdates, they provide additional opportunities for socialization.

Fewer allergies. Studies have shown children who grow up around animals like cats, dogs or horses are less likely to develop allergies and asthma. Many scientists believe frequent exposure to dirt and other allergens that are common with pets may help strengthen kids’ immune systems, which is a huge benefit.

Less stress. Spending time with pets is often calming (which is why many dogs and other animals provide emotional support for those impacted by tragic situations), and research even shows people with pets are better at dealing with stress than those without. By reducing stress, you also reduce your risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. Plus cuddling with your favorite furry (or not-so-furry) friend can release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone!

Improved self-esteem. Pets are always there for us when we need them and they provide unconditional love, which can help bolster our self-esteem and even decrease depression and loneliness. (Think how fantastic it would feel to rescue and save an animal who needs your help!) And because few people can resist coming to say hi to an adorable pup, they help us socialize more as well. For children especially, having a pet also helps develop empathy toward others, further enhancing social skills at a young age.

Sharing your life and home with a pet brings a wide variety of health benefits, and ongoing research shows there is enormous potential for even more – studies show dogs have the ability to detect diseases like cancer and diabetes and can even notify their owner if they are about to have a seizure, in addition to their longtime work as therapy and service animals. But for many of us, the best benefit is having a wonderful companion who offers love and affection.

And if you still need to be convinced, or to learn more about the benefits of pets and how to adopt a new best friend, visit any of these sources for more information: