30 Unbelievable Health Benefits Of Pets

Our pets not only bring love and joy into our lives. Our four-legged companions actually influence our health, and improve our lives in ways we don’t even realize. According to several studies, owning a pet is correlated with a lower risk of certain conditions. Let’s explore the 30 most unbelievable health benefits of having pets – some are truly shocking!

#30. They Make You Happier

Although this one may seem obvious, it’s pretty important. Social support is essential for psychological and physical well-being, but that doesn’t mean this support has to come from another human. Pets provide meaningful social support for owners and represent important social relationships to them. In fact, a study has shown that people receive an equal level of support from friends and pets.

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Also, it showed that those who were close to their pets also became closer to other people. Pets provide a greater sense of belongingness, meaningful existence, and control, which results in happier, healthier people. For those who are experiencing particularly stressful situations, which make them more vulnerable to depression or loneliness, simply owning a dog or a cat can improve their happiness greatly.

#29. They Help You Lose Weight

Yes, that’s right: owning a pooch helps you shed off those extra pounds you’re dying to get rid off. This is particularly true in the case of dog owners because dogs force you to get out of bed and leave the couch to actually take them for walks. This is not exactly the same for cat owners, because it is not so common to take them for walks. However, a playful kitty also makes you run around a lot.

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Researchers from Duke University found that walking for just 30 minutes a day can help prevent weight gain, and when you own a dog, walking is a must. In fact, a study showed that dog owners are 34 percent more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners. When you have a pupper in the house, there’s no excuse for sitting around all day without leaving the house!

#28. They Help Reduce Stress

Pets relieve their owners’ stress in a number of ways. But those who own a dog or a cat don’t need researchers to tell them what they already know. Pets give you unconditional love and support, which contributes to stress reduction. A study found that just being around your pet is enough to reduce stress levels, but that’s not the only way they do so. Just like your friends, your pets realize when you need comfort, and actively try to cheer you up and keep you company.

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They also reduce stress indirectly, because they eliminate many of the causes that lead to stress in the first place. Just as we said before, pets make you more active, which in turn reduces stress levels. Also, pets make us laugh with their funny antics, and laughter is one of the best remedies for stress out there! They also fulfill our need for touch, which decreases violence, builds trust, boosts the immune system, and reduces stress.

#27. They Protect Children Against Allergies

A good way to prevent your child from developing allergies is to get them either a dog or a cat when they are very young. Being around an animal from a young age helps people build resistance to allergens, and thus make it more difficult to develop an allergy to them. This was proved by a study publishes in the journal Microbiome, which came to some incredible conclusions.

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The study found that those children who grew up in homes with pets around had higher levels of microbes associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease. Another study from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that children from families with a history of allergies are less likely to develop eczema if they grow up with a pet dog starting at birth. So, if you’re planning on having a baby, you should be considering getting a pet too.

#26. They Help with PTSD

Service dogs are very popular in the treatment of war veterans who suffer from PTSD. Those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder may experience nightmares, flashbacks of the event that triggered it and negative/scary thoughts that come out of nowhere. Dogs have been found to help patients because they are intuitive and can sense the distress that a person is experiencing the trauma.

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Dogs are especially trained to provide a sense of security to people affected by PTSD. For example, they help these people through daily tasks, such as going to the grocery store or to the bank, ensuring them that there’s nothing scary waiting for them around the corner. But dogs aren’t the only animals that can help you deal with your trauma. Many veterans also practice horseback riding to cope with their symptoms.

#25. They Lower Your Cholesterol

Pet ownership can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease. There are studies that showed that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners and that these differences weren’t explainable by diet, smoking, or body mass index (BMI). Although the exact reason why is still not clear, the evidence speaks for itself.

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One possible answer may be that, since animals have a calming effect on humans, the reduction of stress brings many benefits with it. When you’re less stressed, you have a lower risk of heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, and many other conditions. This means that the company and comfort of your furry buddies indirectly help you regulate your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels.

#24. They Reduce Stroke Risk

Several studies have shown that pet ownership significantly reduce the risk of having a stroke. In fact, scientists have found that owning a cat cuts the risk of strokes by more than a third. Having a cat helps to relieve stress and anxiety, which is known to help protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing the heart rate. But wait, there’s more!

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One reason could be that stroking the pet could cut the level of stress-related hormones in the blood. Stroking your soft furry friend and feeling it purr relieves stress and anxiety and subsequently reduces the risk of heart disease. It also has to do with the type of person who usually owns cats. Cat owners tend to be less prone to suffering stress and are generally calmer, relaxed people.

#23. They Improve Your Self-Esteem

Animals improve your self-esteem in a number of different ways. Pets offer people emotional support, which they may or may not be receiving from other humans. Pets give a sense of assurance and love which make the handlers feel good about themselves. People might reject you or criticize you, but to your cat or dog, you’ll always be the number one person in their lives, which gives you a sense of importance and belonging.

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A good ol’ cuddling session and other demonstrations of affection with your pet provide you some much-needed good mental energy and plus, help reduce loneliness, which is one of the feelings associated with low self-esteem. Physical contact with animals results in the release of serotonin, which is a chemical responsible for maintaining mood balance, which gives you happiness and confidence.

#22. They Reduce Doctor’s Visits

We all know the saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but in fact, having a pet is what keeps the doctor away more effectively. Dog owners require 20 percent less medical care than non-dog owners, according to a UCLA study among the elderly. This is related to the other benefits that we have mentioned on this list: less stress means fewer health risks, which in turn, means fewer doctor’s visits.

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Animals improve both your mental and physical health greatly. According to a study published in Social Indicators Research, simply owning a pet can reduce your number of doctor’s visits by about 15 percent annually. This also good for your pockets, because those doctor’s appointments can get really pricy! Another monetary benefit of having pets is coming up next on our list.

#21. They Reduce the Need for Medication

In relation to the previous benefit we mentioned, fewer visits to the doctor’s office also mean a reduction in the need for medication. A study published by Loyola University researchers found that patients recovering from joint replacement therapy who use animal-assisted therapy need 50 percent less pain medication. And, of course, needing less medication means saving more money.

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Those who own a furry companion are less likely than their pet-free counterparts to be on medications for other problems, such as heart disease and sleeping problems. Those who own pets are less stressed, more active, more confident, more outgoing, and sleep better, so naturally, they are generally much healthier than those who unfortunately don’t share their lives with a pet.

#20. They Reduce the Risk of Diabetes

Diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, can be prevented in a number of ways. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Uncontrolled cases can cause blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and other serious conditions. One of the best ways to prevent it, in addition to having a healthy diet, is to work out regularly. And as we have established before, this can be achieved by having a pet.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, something as easy as simply going for a walk every day helps you prevent and manage several conditions, and having a dog literally forces you to do it every single day. If your doctor has recommended you to be more active but you can’t find the strength to do it, just get a dog. It will get you off your butt and out on the streets from the very first day.

#19. They Provide Emotional Comfort

Physical contact has been known to improve our mental and physical health in amazing ways. This physical contact, however, does not need to come from another human. In fact, cuddling with your furry friend instantly brightens up your day. When you’re feeling down because you had a bad day, or because you’re sick, spending some quality time with your pet can greatly improve your mood.

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Having a dog or cat, that loves you unconditionally, sit on your lap or roll over for a belly rub can instantly make your worries go away (at least, temporarily). Of course, cuddling your pet doesn’t make your problems disappear, but it does help you deal with them and manage your emotional status. Especially, this helps those who are suffering from an illness or disease recover quicker.

#18. They Help You Overcome Addiction

Rehabilitation of those who are addicted to a substance is a huge challenge. Even those who successfully complete rehabilitation programs end up relapsing because of a lack of emotional support, feelings of loneliness and sadness, and low self-esteem. This is why many experts have been using animals in the treatment of addiction, to help people in their recovery process.

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Companion animals are a wonderful option for addicts in recovery, especially when they return home after a stay in a rehabilitation center. One of the greatest qualities about pets is that they are completely non-judgmental, and to them, whatever you did in the past does not matter. o the animal you rescue, you have one major role: savior. The emotional connection that comes with having a pet provides the emotional support that people need in order to cope with their addictions.

#17. They Improve Efficiency

Several studies have shown that animals are not only great to have at home, but also in the workplace. Many companies have gotten office pets, and their work environments have improved greatly. As we know, animals help us reduce stress, and what is more stressful than being at work? Pets can create camaraderie within the workplace and trigger interactions that may not have happened without them.

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More and more frequently, employers and employees are discovering that pets at the workplace make them happier, lower stress levels, and create a comfortable, flexible environment. Also, because they help improve the health of the employees, this reduces healthcare costs, saving money on a personal, professional, governmental, and medical scale. Who wouldn’t want to get up for work knowing that a dog is waiting for them at the office?

#16. They Improve Your Social Skills

Dogs force you to go outside, which in turn, makes you meet a lot of people during your walks. Particularly, dogs help you meet other dog owners and establish potential friendships and other relationships. Walking your dog is the perfect way to get to know your neighborhood, especially if you’ve recently moved in. But dogs aren’t the only animals that boost your social life.

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A study shows that other kinds of pets, including cats, rabbits, and snakes, can also be catalysts for making friends and finding social support. Talking about your pet is a good way to start a conversation and break the ice. If you don’t know what to talk about with someone, just talk about your furry friend! The other person will probably share his or her own pet stories as well.

#15. They Lower Your Blood Pressure

A reduction of stress comes with lower blood pressure. Many studies have found that pet owners had significantly lower baseline heart rates and blood pressure than the participants who did not have pets. Also, we know that animals make us more active. Exercising obviously leads to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. But that’s not the only way in which animals help you achieve this.

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In fact, the mere act of petting your furry friend or even simply being in their presence or looking at them can be positively correlated with a drop in blood pressure. Also, owning pet fish can greatly improve your blood pressure. A study found that those who took time to observe and appreciate fish swimming in an aquarium had lowered heart rates and blood pressure, because of the serenity that watching the fish brought them.

#14. They Keep You Accountable

Obesity is a significant public health problem that is affecting people nowadays. Those who suffer from obesity need to stick to strict exercise regimes in order to improve their health, and it is very difficult for them to find the will and the strength to keep up with their exercise schedule. Lucky for them, having a dog can motivate and stimulate to follow their exercise regime.

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Pets can lend a helping paw to those who are having trouble sticking to their exercise program. A study published in a journal about obesity found that overweight people were more likely to complete their weight loss programs if their dogs were somehow involved. The fact that dogs get overly excited when going outside and running around makes people more motivated to join them.

#13. They Help You Quit Smoking

We all know how bad smoking is for us. Smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, among many other things. But luckily, in recent decades, researchers have discovered how harmful second-hand smoking actually is. Those who live around smokers are just as vulnerable as those who actually smoke, and this, of course, includes our beloved pets.

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Those smokers who have pets in the house are much more likely to give up their nasty habit in order to keep their animals safe. During a study, when smokers were informed about the harm that tobacco can to their pet, more than 28 percent of them decided to try to quit smoking. Animals are great motivators to quit smoking and other unhealthy habits, and those who love their pets will do anything to keep them healthy and happy.

#12. They Boost Healing

Every cat owner out there knows that hearing and feeling a cat purring is one of the most soothing things that they can ever experience. Making your cat purr is a way to show them you love them, and their purring means they love you back. This wholesome interaction between kitties and people actually has a huge impact on their health in ways that are truly unbelievable.

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For example, the frequency at which cats purr is the ideal vibration level for everything from heart health to blood pressure to bone growth. Feeling your cat purring reduces stress because the frequency falls within a very therapeutic sound range that loosens our nerves and makes us feel more at ease. It also relaxes sore muscles, soothes creaky joints and inflammation, and helps broken bones heal faster.

#11. They Improve Bone Health

Keeping healthy bones is important for everyone, but it is especially vital for older people. We reach a certain age where our bones start to get thinner and weaker, and this affects muscle function and our overall health. There are many things that seniors can do to prevent this, such as maintaining a healthy diet and taking a lot of calcium, but dogs can actually help with this.

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Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, and the best way to get it is by walking 30 minutes a day in the sunlight. Having a dog is the perfect way to get out off your butt and go for a walk under the sun, and get that daily dose of vitamin D that your bones are craving for! Also, walking itself helps keep your bones dense and your muscles strong, so having a dog can bring you all these benefits in an instant.

#10. They Help You Sleep

There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to sleep. Unfortunately, many people suffer from different sleep disorders that prevent them from functioning in their daily lives. Luckily, owning a pet can help provide a solution to this problem. During a study, 41 percent of participants said that their pet’s presence in bed actually helps them sleep better.

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Physical contact with your beloved pet is relaxing and eases anxiety, which makes you fall asleep easier. Also, as we have mentioned before, a cat’s purrs are extremely soothing and help people sleep better. Sharing your bed with your pet prevents you from feeling lonely and isolated, and makes you feel loved and needed, and also helps you feel safer and more secure.

#9. They Help You Stay Young

Although any pet owner can certainly attest to the many benefits of living with a furry friend, there has been a lot of research in recent years confirming the health benefits of senior pet ownership. Sharing their lives with a furry friend can help people combat the signs of aging and keep a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to physical health, we know that pets keep us active and prevent heart disease and other conditions.

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But something that is especially important is that pets provide elders with a strong emotional support. It helps those elders whose children have left the nest and might be feeling lonely. It also helps them greatly to have someone to care for and keep them busy. Pets improve depressive symptoms and cognitive functions. Having a pet helps people stay young, healthy, and happy.

#8. They Care for Diabetic People

People who suffer from diabetes may experience hypoglycemia, which is blood sugar below normal levels. This may result in a variety of symptoms including clumsiness, trouble talking, confusion, loss of consciousness, and in more extreme cases, seizures or death. It can be extremely dangerous for someone to experience an incident of hypoglycemia when they are alone.

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Luckily, having a dog can save a diabetic’s life in these situations. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that more than 65 percent of domestic dogs were able to detect at least one incidence of hypoglycemia. This can be the difference between life and death, so it is a very good idea for diabetics to get a furry friend to live with them, just in case.

#7. They Reduce Pain

It’s no secret that animals can help us cope with pain, which is why so many animals are trained to aid those who suffer from chronic diseases and are also used in hospitals to visit the patients. For those living with pain, animal companionship can provide comforting moments. They can tell when you’re in pain and will try to comfort you however they can. They also serve as a distraction and cheer you up.

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After observing patients recovering from surgery, researchers from Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing found that those who received animal-assisted therapy requested less pain medication. Their emotional support, stress-relieving qualities and unconditional love are the perfect recipe for those in the process of recovering from a surgery or accident.

#6. They Help You Live Longer

A total of 34,202 people took part in a study, where researchers found that those who owned pets (particularly dogs) were at a lower risk of death than those who didn’t. This makes sense, considering the numerous health benefits of having pets, doesn’t it? Another study, published in Scientific Reports, analyzed more than 3.4 million people, and the results were unbelievable.

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Researchers found that those individuals who lived alone and also owned a dog ad a 33 percent reduced risk of death compared to their comrades without canines. Also, many service dogs are trained to keep sick and disabled people safe and sound, which lengthens their life expectancy. Is there really any downside to having dogs? All these benefits seem to say no, there isn’t.

#5. They Teach Children to Be Social

Pets help children develop empathy and interact with the world. Caring for another creature who depends on you teaches you empathy, and that’s an important lesson for kids to learn at a young age. A pet can comfort, give support, and listen to a child’s troubles without judgment or consequence, and can be the truest friend they can ever have. Also, animals help very small children increase verbal skills, as the kids will attempt to chatter away with them.

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Having a furry friend also helps children who have experienced some form of trauma, are bullied, or lonely. Those who have low self-esteem can gain confidence and learn responsibility from caring for their pet. Children as young as three years old can learn simple tasks, such as filling the pet’s food and water bowls, and can later in life groom and walk them. All in all, growing up with a pet is one of the best things a child can experience.

#4. They Provide Stability

Those who suffer from mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder, can benefit greatly from having an animal by their side. Those who are lonely and don’t get the emotional support they need from friends and family can find great comfort in their furry friend. Pets and their owners develop an intimate relationship not available elsewhere, and animals give their owners unconditional love like no one else.

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Pets also distract people from ugly symptoms and upsetting experiences and provide a form of encouragement to go outside, be active, and socialize. Animals give people struggling with mental illness stability, continuity, and meaning when they need it the most. Also, caring for an animal gives people a reason to get up in the morning and feel needed.

#3. They Can Detect Illnesses

Thanks to their powerful noses and their natural instincts, dogs can detect certain illnesses and conditions even before humans do. For example, a study has shown that dogs can detect a telltale scent linked to epileptic seizures, raising the possibility that they could be trained to reliably warn owners when a seizure is imminent. Some dogs can even tell when their owner is about to experience a seizure before it happens.

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Dogs’ incredible sense of smell helps in many other ways. They can detect viruses, bacteria, and signs of cancer in a person’s body or bodily fluids. When properly trained, dogs can detect odors related to certain diseases in a human’s skin, breath, urine, feces and sweat. One study, in particular, showed that dogs can detect lung cancer from a person’s breath. On top of being our best friends, they can also save our lives.

#2. They Make You More Attractive

As crazy as it may sound, research has shown that having a pet makes you more attractive to people. According to the study, people with dogs are perceived to be more attractive, happier, caring, approachable and empathetic. Think about it, do you like a person more when you find out they have a pet? If the answer is yes, then you’ve proven our point.

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Also, the cuter the pet, the cuter you will seem to others! Men, in particular, are seen to be more caring and selfless if they have made the commitment to looking after their pet. Women find men who own pets much more attractive because they take it as a sign that he will make a loving, caring partner. Another study found that more than 90 percent of single women perceived men who favor cats to be nicer.

#1. They Keep Your Heart Healthy

There have been numerous studies that have found that owning a pet is vital to having a healthy heart. However, it is unclear whether they directly reduce risk, but it is almost certain that they help indirectly. By reducing stress, making you more active, and lowering your blood pressure as a result, dogs help your heart stay as healthy as can be. Pet owners are generally healthier than other people.

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Of course, one shouldn’t just get a pet to be healthier. But the love, affection, and companionship that they provide, along with the lessons they teach us, is more than enough reason to bring a furry friend into your life. All these health benefits are only a plus that is added to the unconditional love and the intimate friendship that we get from having a pet by our side!

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    She's a journalist and a website developer based in New York.

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