The Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Owning a pet is a lot like having a child. It will require food and drink, opportunities for physical and mental exercise, guidance, attention and love. And, it will give you something back in return. There’s an adage that claims “healthy pet, healthy you,” and it’s true for several reasons.

Imagine bringing a new puppy home. You’re already on the road to being a good pet parent because you’ve done some reading and know how important socialization is for young animals living in a world full of people and the sights and sounds that go with that. After getting settled at home and making sure your pet has visited your veterinarian for any necessary vaccines, you decide to introduce your pet to your neighborhood by taking him for a walk. As you strut around the block with your new prized possession, people begin to notice your adorable ball of fluff. Children and adults you pass will ask to pet your pooch and conversation will follow about his age, breed and so on. These conversations continue to occur and grow into possible friendships at training classes, the dog park and even with other pet-minded individuals online. Pet ownership increases opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities and socialization – as quickly as that.

Pets Lead to More Physical Activity and Socialization

With all those bathroom walks and outdoor adventures, it isn’t surprising to find dog owners are more physically active and less likely to be obese than those without a canine to care for. Other pets may not require outdoor walks, but they do require cage or litter-box cleanings, daily replenishing of food and water, and some form of indoor exercise or interaction that takes away from time which may otherwise be spent planted in front of a television.

Pets can also influence us to be more social and develop relationships with other people and their pets. This may not seem important, but studies have shown people with more social relationships often live longer and are less likely to experience both metal and physical decline as they age.

Additional Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Heart Health: The National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both conducted studies showing people with pets are less likely to suffer from heart attack. Pets are proven to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and because pets help reduce stress, pet owners who are recovering from a heart attack will do so more quickly.

Emotional Health: There’s nothing quite like coming home to a wagging tail or purring cat. In addition to reducing feelings of loneliness, pets provide their owners with a sense of purpose, which is crucial in combating depression. It’s understandable why pets are used to bring joy to the sick or elderly in hospitals and nursing homes.

Immune System Health: Research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has shown children develop stronger immune systems when exposed to animals early in life. One pediatrician found having a pet in the home can lower a child’s likelihood of developing pet allergies by as much as 33 percent.