Are there really health benefits associated with pet ownership?
Do pet owners tend to be healthier than people without pets? While different lifestyle and socioeconomic factors must be considered, studies do show the bond between humans and pets can increase activity levels and promote positive emotional health. The CDC reports some health benefits to having a pet include:
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization
Most people tend to think of dogs as offering the greatest health benefit of companion animals, due to their need for outdoor exercise and walks. As social creatures, dogs also are credited with improving interpersonal relationships among humans who are more likely to engage other dog owners during walks. Dogs can serve as service or support animals, while disease sniffing dogs can be trained to detect diabetes, seizures or cancer.
Will having a pet goldfish provide the same health benefits of owning a dog? Maybe not, but the journal Environment & Behavior reported that people who spend time watching aquariums and fish tanks could see improvements in their physical and mental well-being, including reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.
Purina touts the benefits of cat ownership through reports of better cardiovascular and psychological health due to reduced blood pressure and lowered stress levels caused by patting feline pets. Researchers also continue to study the effects of pet exposure and allergens, citing evidence that exposure to cats and dogs at an early age may be associated with a lower risk of developing allergies during childhood.
Even guinea pigs have a solid fan base and a special month dedicated to them. March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month. Guinea pigs are deemed great pets for many reasons, including their hardiness, unique personalities and low-maintenance care. Did you know that there are 13 breeds and 10 colors of guinea pigs? Rabbits are another popular choice, especially for people who enjoy the companionship of a pet but don’t have the time or space to commit to a dog. Rabbits are quiet and can be trained to use a litter box, while providing the same health benefits of companionship and joy.
Pets are as unique as the people who own them. The number of households owning pets continues to rise. In 1998, 56 percent of U.S. households had a pet. Today, according to the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.6 million homes. Whether made of fins, fur or feathers, there’s no doubt that pets provide a great benefit to the lives of many, from companionship to emotional support.
Compliments Henry Schein