Studies show that people with companion animals are happier and healthier than those without.  Some positive health traits are easy attributable to pet parenting, while others may just be a coincidence.  Either way, pets definitely have their perks.

Known Physical Health Benefits Associated with Pet Parenting:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower Triglycerides
  • Lower cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Increased oxytocin (the happiness hormone)

These measurable physical benefits are thought to be the result of two main factors associated with having pets.  First, pets (dogs specifically) demand exercise.  Even if that exercise is just regular walks, that amount of activity will help keep a person’s cholesterol under control.  The second reason pets can improve their peoples’ health is that pets are tremendous stress relievers.  Just petting a dog measurably increases oxytocin and decreases cortisol in the human bloodstream.  Because stress directly causes a whole host of potentially fatal medical conditions, pets’ soothing qualities reduce stress in their humans, making those humans who are pawrenting healthier and happier.

Mental Health Benefits

Companion animals do not just physically improve their pawrents well-being; pets can also improve a person’s mental and emotional well-being.  In fact, pet parents report lower rates of depression than their pet-less counterparts.  It is not exactly clear how pets relieve depression, but there are a few excellent theories as follows:

  • Unconditional Love - Pets love their humans no matter what. That kind of consistent emotional support can boost someone’s self-esteem and sense of belonging, both which have proven positive effects on mental health.
  • Purpose - Going home, feeding the dog, taking them around the block, playing fetch… the routine of pet care provides a sense of purpose in life.  Having another living being so dependent on your presence is another great way to raise self-esteem and combat depression.
  • Distraction - Pets need attention.  As such, they consistently distract humans and can keep people from spending too much time with dangerous thoughts.  

Animal companions offer a host of positive benefits to their human counterpart’s mental and physical health.  As long as you have the time and ability to care for an animal companion, and of course, the desire, pawrenting can, and most likely will, bring more to the table than just fun, cozy companionship.  


Web MD

Harvard Health