The Health Benefits of Pet Friendship

By Heartspring Staff

Our beloved pets benefit us in so many ways, mentally as well as physically, giving us the chance to live longer and healthier lives. We can trust them to be our steadfast, loyal companions and protectors, giving us unconditional love.

Long-term studies have concluded that petting dogs and cats can lower high blood pressureExit Site and increase the "feel good"brain chemicalsExit Site serotonin and dopamine. Heart attack victims, and patients undergoing trauma rehabilitation, recover more quickly and thrive longer when there is a pet (or pets) involved in their recovery.

In one study, children raised with pets tended to be healthier and proved to have reduced risks to some allergens,Exit Site and fewer breathing problems. Pets; e.g. dogs in general, have proved to be so useful to people with disabilities, due to their innate intelligence and eagerness to please us. These include guide dogs to the blind, hearing for the deaf, and helping people do everyday tasks who are unable to on their own.

Canine Visitation TherapyExit Site may be a useful adjunct to traditional pain management for children, giving nurses more options to better serve their patients.

According to research, all kinds of pets from fish, to birds, to dogs and cats, bring a welcome diversion into our sometimes hectic and demanding lives. This is especially true for people with high-pressure occupations such as health care workers. Scientist have also explored the effectiveness of Animal Assisted Therapy in relation to debilitating mental illnessesExit Site such as dementiaExit Site and alzheimer's disease.

Dogs can bring people togetherExit Site simply by sharing an interest. Dogs bring their owners outside where exercise is encouraged. By walking and playing with your dog for approxiametly 20 min. 5 times per week, (e.g. fetch, frisbee, water sports) you could possibly lose an average of 15 lbs. in a year without changing your diet.

However, It is commonly assumed that owning a pet provides older residents in the community with health benefits including improved physical health and psychological well-being. It has also been reported that pet owners are lower on neuroticismExit Site and higher on extraversionExit Site compared with those without pets. However, findings of research on this topic have been mixed with a number of researchers reporting that, for older people, there is little or no health benefit associated with pet ownership, concluding that pet ownership confers no health benefits for this age group. Instead, those with pets have poorer mental and physical health and use more pain relief medication. Further, our study suggests that those with pets are less conforming to social norms as indicated by their higher levels of psychoticism. (PsychosisExit Site is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality.")

When our pets are near us, we smile and laugh more, calming ourselves, and we take the time to reach outside ourselves and the everyday worries of life to care for, and appreciate, the living things around us, having a positive effect on our physical and mental health.

Animal Assisted Therapy Resources


Heartspring Staff are assistants of board reviewed doctors that are medical editors, authors, and reviewers, providing oversight for This article is currently undergoing doctor reveiw.


Cardiovascular reactivity and the presence of pets, friends, and spouses: the truth about cats and dogs.Exit Site

Social interaction and blood pressure. Influence of animal companions.Exit Site

An exploration of the potential benefits of pet-facilitated therapy.Exit Site

Potential benefits of pet ownership in health promotion.Exit Site

The power of dogs: Cocoa's story.Exit Site

Domestic dogs and human health: an overview.Exit Site