Health Benefits of Having a Pet

Health and Fitness

In celebration of National Pet Month, we want to highlight some of the health benefits of having a pet.  Both dogs and cats can positively impact a person’s health.  Dogs can make great workout partners and can increase a person’s activity levels, which will result in improved health.   Cats and dogs both can impact a persons’ health in other ways as well with several studies pointing to reduced stress and disease risk.  Below is a recap of some of the studies on the amazing health benefits associated with pet ownership.

Your Dog as a Workout Partner- Recent Research

140502 Dog Running

There is a lot of research that supports the idea that dogs are great workout partners.   Several studies show that dogs can be effective motivators to get people moving.  Dog owners are more likely to take regular walks and are generally more active overall than people who don’t have dogs.  Here is a summary of a few notable studies:

  • A Canadian study revealed that dog owners spend more time in mild and moderate physical activities and walk an average of 300 minutes per week compared to non–dog owners who walk an average of 168 minutes per week.
  • A study of 41,500 California residents found that dog owners were about 60 percent more likely to walk for leisure than people who owned a cat or no pet at all. That translates to an extra 19 minutes a week of walking compared with people without dogs.
  • Dog owners who walk their pets are almost three times as likely to meet national recommendations for physical activity as those who don't, according to a review from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • A survey of Michigan adults found that dog walking was associated with a significant increase in walking activity and leisure time physical activity (LTPA). Compared to non-dog owners, the odds of obtaining at least 150 minutes per week of total walking were 34% higher for dog walkers and the odds of doing any LTPA were 69% higher.
  • An Australian study found that dog ownership in households can increase children’s physical activity and curb sedentary behavior. The study reported that children were 49 percent more likely to be physically active in a dog-owning family than other children without dogs.

General Health Benefits of Having a Cat or Dog

140502 Happy Cat

Besides having an impact on human activity levels, pet ownership can help improve a human’s health in other ways.

  • A 2008 University of Minnesota study of 4,435 adults showed that the relative risk of death from heart attack was 40 percent higher for those who had never owned a cat versus those who have or had a cat
  • A 1999 UCLA study showed that owning a pet may reduce the likelihood that men with AIDS will suffer from depression.  Most likely, pet owners overall will also have a lower incidence of depression than non pet owners.
  • A 1999 University of Buffalo study showed that pet ownership can help control high blood pressure and could be more effective than some drug treatments.

With all this research demonstrating the many benefits of pet ownership, perhaps we should make every month “National Pet Month”!  Don’t have a pet?  What are you waiting for?  It is one of the easiest (and most fun) ways to improve your own health and well being!