9 Reasons Pets Are Good for Your Health

By Michael Galvan | 02/22/2016

Every pet owner knows the value of having that best friend eagerly awaiting your return every day. Pets seem to be always happy and ready to engage with you. Recent research suggests that pet ownership might also have some more serious benefits that do more than warm your heart.

Pet ownership can lower your blood pressure during stressful situations.

Pets are often trusted confidants and sources of comfort. Researchers from the University of New York at Buffalo found that pet ownership consistently reduced home blood pressure rates in response to mental stressors.1 People with high blood pressure may want to spend more time with their loyal companion during periods of high stress.

Dogs and cats help children fight sickness.

 A multi-year study in Finland followed children from birth into early adolescence. The children who had frequent contact with dogs or cats during their first year of life had fewer respiratory illnesses and needed less antibiotics over the course of their childhood.2

Walking or running with a dog is a great way to exercise.

Besides diet, exercise is perhaps the most effective way to prevent chronic illnesses like hypertension and heart disease. An active dog makes a willing workout partner. They will want to go exercise when you feel like it, and many times when you don’t. Over a number of years, the compound effect of these added workouts could have major positive impacts on your health.

Pets might help you stop smoking.

Over 28% of smokers said that knowing cigarette smoke would adversely impact their pet would motivate them to stop smoking.3 If you are trying to quit tobacco, remember that smoking is associated with cancers, allergies, and diseases in dogs, cats, and birds.

Animal companions are effective at reducing depression.

A study at of patients in a mental health unit showed that participants who spent time with dogs showed significant improvement. The time spent in the Animal Assisted Therapy program was linked to a large decrease in depression, anxiety, heart rate, and pain.4

Dogs can sniff out cancer.

There have been rumors that dogs can smell cancer. As it turns out, the rumors are true. Two trained German shepherds were able to detect prostate cancer with nearly 100% accuracy.5 This remarkable ability could be used to help predict and identify cancer in the future.

Cats may help prevent asthma.

Early exposure to cats is associated with a lower prevalence of asthma in school children.6 An obvious exception is children who have already shown an allergic reaction to cats.

Animals are always good talking points.

Socialization is important for human health and development. Pets provide opportunities to network at meet other like-minded pet people, discuss common pet-behaviors, and swap stories of shared love for their four-legged friends.

Pets are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Owning a pet is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.7  Overall reduced stressed levels and increased activity are thought to be two of the main factors behind this decreased risk.

As we continue to learn more about animal companions, we may to uncover even more potential physical benefits that come from owning a pet. While the benefit of the companionship provided by a pet cannot be measured, you might also reap better health rewards that come from their unconditional love.



  1. http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/38/4/815.long
  2. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/07/03/peds.2011-2825.abstract?sid=73a8fcd1-ad41-4099-8e99-afa57ce00e1f
  3. http://dcp.psc.gov/osg/veterinarian/documents/Petspublichealth.pdf
  4. http://www.jlgh.org/Past-Issues/Volume-6---Issue-2/Animal-Assisted-Therapy.aspx
  5. http://www.jurology.com/article/S0022-5347(14)04573-X/abstract
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10231320
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10231320