Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

By Evelyn Cunico, M.A., M.S.
Posted March 21, 2014

Pet ownership is an important nonhuman form of social support and may provide cardioprotective benefits. Particularly dog ownership, may be reasonable for reduction in CVD risk.
Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association

Pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When combined with regular aerobic exercise, such as walking a dog, pets can increase your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, and your opportunities for socialization.

Here are five ways in which pets are good for your health:

  • Pets give you unconditional love. When you take care of your pet, by giving food, water, shelter, exercise, and affection, your pet returns your love in many comforting ways. Even a dog’s gaze can increase your oxytocin,  the “attachment hormone,” and help make you happy!

  • Pets teach your children that pets and people form healthy bonds. Pets take children outside of themselves, as children learn the responsibility of taking care of a pet, as well as the enjoyment of interactive play.

  • Pets may relieve your anxiety and stress. Simply stroking your cat or dog, or talking to a pet bird, is calming, helping you to meet everyday health problems and other life challenges.

  • Pet therapy in hospitals assists patients to recover from illness or surgery. For example, certified therapy dogs make regular visits to hospital departments as part of the Mayo Clinic Caring Canines Program.

  • Pets encourage social interaction. When you walk your dog, other persons are more likely to smile or talk with you, than if you are walking alone. The more active you are with your dog in public spaces, the more your activities will lead to conversations and social interactions.

Although pets and humans have been interacting for thousands of years, much more research needs to be done to demonstrate the health benefits of human-animal bonding.

Fortunately, we do not need to wait while the science catches up with our enjoying the health benefits of pet ownership!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Infectious Diseases. Healthy Pets and People. “Health Benefits of Pets.”  April 30, 2013.
(accessed 02 March 2014)

Hodgson, Kate and Marcia Darling. “Zooeyia: An Essential Component of ‘One Health’.” The Canadian Veterinary Journal 52(2) (February 2011): 189-191.
(accessed 06 March 2014)

Levine, G.N., K. Allen, L.T. Braun, H.E. Christian, E. Friedmann, K.A. Taubert, S.A. Thomas, D.L. Wells, and R.A. Lange, on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology and Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing. “Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association.” Circulation 127 (2013): 2353-2363.
(accessed 04 March 2014)

Marcus, D.A., C.D. Bernstein, J.M. Constantin, F.A. Kunkel, P. Breuer, and R.B. Hanlon. “Animal-assisted Therapy at An Outpatient Pain Management Clinic.” Pain Medicine 13(1) (January 2012): 45-57.
(abstract accessed 06 March 2014

Mayo Clinic Staff. Healthy Lifestyle Consumer Health. “Pet Therapy: Man’s Best Friend as Healer.” Posted February 25, 2014.
(accessed 04 March 2014)

Michigan State University Extension. “Pets Are Good for Your Health.” Posted by Holly Tiret, October 15, 2013.
(accessed 04 March 2014)

Nagasawa, M., K. Takefumi, T. Onaka, and M. Ohta. “Dog’s Gaze at Its Owner Increases Owner’s Urinary Oxytocin During Social Interaction.” Hormones and Behavior 55(3) (March 2009): 434-41.
(abstract accessed 19 March 2014)

National Institutes of Health. Department of Health and Human Services. “Can Pets Help Keep You Healthy? Exploring the Human-Animal Bond.” NIH News in Health (February 2009).
(accessed 02 March 2014)

One Health Initiative – One World One Medicine One Health. “One Health Initiative Will Unite Human and Veterinary Medicine.” Home page.
(accessed 07 March 2014)

A disclaimer: the information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.