Sven Lachmann – Pixabay

There have been lots of photobombing opportunities for pets recently, with many more humans working from home and virtual meetings being interrupted by all sorts of happy animals with no respect for social distancing.

Furry friends have a big upside though – a growing body of research suggests that getting a pet is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Take the pressure down

Researchers at the State University of New York studied a group of people who were taking medicine for hypertension – they found that blood pressure stress responses were reduced by 50% if the subjects owned a cat or dog.

Another major international study which included the National Heart Foundation of Australia showed that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels.

For those who already have cardiovascular disease, Harvard researchers found that both dog and cat owners were much more likely to live longer and survive subsequent heart attacks than people who lived pet-free.


Companion animals can even help with human pain management, whether it’s chronic or transitory. In a study of people recovering from total joint replacement surgery, those who had canine contact required 28% less pain management than those who didn’t.

Just don’t get a pet who bites.

The big C

A clinical trial conducted by the American Humane Association found that therapy dogs had great success helping kids with cancer follow their treatment recommendations. Another study showed great benefits for adults being treated for cancer as well.

Some dogs can even detect cancer before their humans know they have it.

Mental health

Research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that kids who have regular contact with family pets before the age of 13 are less likely to develop schizophrenia.

Loneliness is helped by pet ownership, as is depression. Regular walks are part of the reason, but exercise is not the whole story (there are many similar benefits shown in studies by cat ownership).

happy cat

Photo Tree Faerie

For young people with autism, studies have shown that guinea pigs, alpacas, chickens and dolphins, as well as cats and dogs, can be of great assistance in enhancing communication and social skills.

Clinicians have also had dramatic successes with horses, dogs and other animals in the treatment of human post-traumatic stress disorder. Boosting oxytocin levels seems to be the key, and this has payoffs for people without PTSD too.

3.4 million Swedes can’t be wrong

Still not convinced? Consider this massive twelve year study in Sweden, which found that for people between 40 and 80 who lived alone, owning a dog decreased their risk of dying in any year by 33%.

Last year, a review of 70 years of research found that dog ownership lowers your risk of dying from any cause by 24%. These results were published in the journal of the American Heart Association.

Perhaps doctors should be prescribing pets instead of pills?


David Lowe