Monday, August 3, 2009

Pets can Improve Your Health

Am I a healthier person because my dog Kelly is in my life? Actually, yes! I’ve lost 40 pounds, I’m off my blood pressure medication, and my cholesterol is lower too—in part due to owning a dog. Cats, dogs and other pets can all help. Here are five health benefits you could enjoy:

1. Lower Blood Pressure

You love your pet with all your heart. Did you also know that owning a pet could be beneficial to your heart? According to studies by the American Heart Association, pet owners are more likely to have lower blood pressures than non-pet owners.

2. Fewer Allergies

Sure, many people have allergies to pet fur and dander. But, research conducted by James Gern at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that children who grow up in a home with pets have a lower instance of allergies than those who don’t. So, it’s possible that owning a pet could actually help prevent your child from developing allergies.

3. Less Stress and Depression

Owning a pet can be beneficial for our mental health too. The American Veterinary Medical Association cited studies that indicated people who own pets remain calmer in stressful situations. Caregivers also observe that pets can soothe Alzheimers patients, and seniors with pets are less likely to report depression as a symptom than those without pets. Of course, a pet misbehaving pet can cause stress, so be sure behavioral issues are resolved.

4. Improved Weight Loss

My story, The Doggy Diet, (Guideposts, Dec 2008) shares how Kelly helped inspire me to lose weight (and her, too!). Of course, simply owning a dog won’t make you skinny. But—as with Kelly and me—it can encourage you to go out and take walks together, which may lead to weight loss and improved health.

5. Greater Happiness

Pets love you unconditionally. They can reduce loneliness. They make you happy. And when you’re happier, that’s a plus for your health!

(This column first appeared on, March 2009)


  1. Absolutely love this post. I appreciate all the health benefits to owning my cat Sophie. She can be a mischief maker, but over all, she's fun, humorous, loyal, and a terrific lap cat; the kind of feline I always wanted when I was a child. My cat refreshes me. You can read my latest post to find out what else refreshes me:

    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Be Refreshed!
    writing in genres of memoir, essay, devotional, humor, fiction, and poetry.

  2. I'm a firm believer in the health benefits of our pets! We enjoy taking our larger furry friend on hikes, but the Texas heat has put those on pause for a few months. We don't want two-legged or four-legged hikers to fall victim to the heat. Short walks and fetch in the back yard will have to do for now.

  3. Stacy, you're right about the heat. Funny you mention that, because my next column for is on ways to keep your pet cool this summer (it will be up in a few days.) One idea is a kiddie pool or a gentle squirt from the hose!

  4. Whoa, 40 pounds! Inspirational! You know, you should write a book about that!

  5. Dawn, I'd love to see a picture of Sophie. I'll have to go check out your "refreshing" blog!


Kelly and Ike say thank you for your comments!