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Pets & Our Health

A woman and her dog

Coming home after a long day to a loving pet can be one of the most reassuring, comfortable feelings. Animals can help people in unexpected ways. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 68% of U.S. households have a pet. Keep reading to find out how pets contribute to our health.

Pets promote physical activity

Did you know that fewer than 50% of Americans meet the minimum guidelines for moderate physical activity? Because most dogs need to be walked several times a day, having a dog can motivate you to get your steps in. A morning walk with your pup can help you maintain a healthy weight, give you some fresh air and keep you alert throughout the day. Try jogging or hiking with your pup if you’re both ready to step up your workouts!

Pets lower blood pressure and cholesterol

Heart-related studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health show that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Petting, playing or even being around your pet can affect the body’s “feel good” chemicals. We still encourage you to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.

Pets help socialization 

Pets are a natural conversation starter. Questions such as, “What’s your cat’s name? What kind of breed is your dog? Can they do any tricks?” can easily spark a conversation. Trips to the vet or pet store can also lead to human interaction. And we certainly won’t forget to mention the power of meeting other dog owners. Walking your dog forces you to venture outdoors, where it’s easy for you or another dog owner to strike up a conversation.

Pets can help control feelings of depression, anxiety and stress

Josh Billings once said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.” Pets can offer unconditional love and companionship, and alleviate feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. Spending time with a pet can lower the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, and increase serotonin, one of the “feel good” chemicals that your body makes. Furry friends can also affect our perceptions of ourselves. According to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pet owners exhibit stronger self-esteem than non-pet-owners. Establishing a relationship with a pet may also give owners a sense of purpose.

Pets fight off allergies

According to numerous studies, including a study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, early life exposure to pets can decrease a child’s risk of developing certain allergies. Exposure after a baby’s first year of life didn’t show a change in their immunity, indicating that early exposure is a key factor.