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Health Benefits of Having Pets!

April 15, 2016

We all know that our pets bring us endless joy and comfort to our lives, but have you ever thought how your pet affects your physical health? Humans have kept pets for thousands of years, but only recently has research begun to acknowledge how complex the human-animal bond is.  Here are five health benefits of pet ownership:

1.       Lower blood pressure

Pet ownership, perhaps by providing social support, lowers blood pressures in response to mental stress.  Hypertension (high blood pressure) increases one’s risk for heart attack or stroke and affects one third of US adults. 


2.      Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

Research shows that pet owners had mildly lower levels of cholesterol and triglyceride, both of which contribute to heart disease.  Pet owners also maintain lower heart rates and are also more likely to survive the year following a heart attack.


3.      Exercise

Several studies have supported what we already know:  our pets (especially dogs) encourage us to be more active (which contributes to #1 and #2).  Dogs also help older adults maintain mobility.


4.      Reduced risk for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

A 2010 study found that dog, cat, and bird owners had reduced risk for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma compared to non-pet owners.  Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most common cancers among adults.  

5.       Reduced risk of allergies

Although pets are a common source of allergies, research shows that exposure to pets early in life can actually help prevent the development of allergies later in life by strengthening the immune system.  Early exposure to animals also reduces a child’s risk for asthma and eczema.


Human health savings of $3.86 billion over ten years have been linked to pet ownership as related to a decrease in doctor visits in studies in Austria and Germany, and this is area of research is just emerging.  So, the question is:  can we afford not to have pets?







Contributed by Rachel Meyer, veterinary assistant at Grand Avenue Veterinary Center

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