7 reasons pets are good for your health – Healthista
11 mins read

7 reasons pets are good for your health – Healthista

Feeling stressed, anxious or looking to improve your overall health? Well you might want to get a pet – experts reveal 7 reasons pets are good for your health 

Are you feeling stressed, anxious or, perhaps you just want to improve your fitness levels and overall wellbeing?

The latest research shows that spending time with your beloved pets can have a positive impact on our health.  

With 57 per cent of households in the UK containing at least one pet, ranging from cats and dogs to more exotic species such as lizards, turtles and snakes – quite plainly we’re a nation of animal lovers. 

In fact, there are currently 38 million pets in Britain, with 36 per cent of households owning a dog (13.5 million) and 29 per cent of households having a cat (12.5 million), according to a new survey (UK Pet Food Survey, 2024).

Other popular pets include indoor birds, rabbits, tortoises, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses and ponies, fish – and even snakes made it into the top ten. 

latest research shows that spending time with your beloved pets can have a positive impact on our health

Pets can be a source of comfort, joy, fun, positive energy and unconditional love. On a very basic, instinctive level, many adults and children are drawn to certain pets, such as fluffy kittens, or cuddly dogs, because they look so sweet and appealing. Others may want a pet as a companion they can care for and look after. 

‘Pets offer safety, security and consistency,’ says Professor Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine, at the University of Lincoln.

‘You can confide in your pet and know they’re not going to let you down.’

Having a pet can bring about many health benefits for owners, with research showing that in addition to the emotional well-being and social interaction that pets provide, they also help decrease stress, improve heart health, help with memory, keep you active, and reduce loneliness, which can lead to depression and other health problems.

‘Pets can provide companionship, affection and protection,’ says Nicole Paley, Deputy Chief Executive at UK Pet Food.

‘In addition to being a source of love and friendship, there have been numerous scientific studies analysing the many ways pets are good for our health.’ 

How and Why Animals Can Be Good For Your Health… 

‘Having a pet can be beneficial on so many levels,’ says Dr Marty Becker, leading US Veterinarian, and author of The Healing Powers of Pets

‘It’s well documented that even just stroking an animal, your heart rates lowers, blood pressure drops and mood boosting neurochemicals such as phenylethalamine, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin are released into the bloodstream.

‘This stimulates feelings of elation, safety, tranquillity, happiness, satisfaction, nurturing and even love, and are the same substances released when a mother nurses her baby. 

‘This interaction is the basis for all the positive health benefits of having a pet. This also promotes feelings of intimacy that are often missing from so much of our high-tech, low-touch world.’

READ MORE: Do pets reduce our stress? 12 ways your pet is boosting your wellbeing

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Pet Therapy – X healthy reasons to have a pet 

#1 You’re less likely to suffer from depression if you own a dog 

The sheer presence of a dog is calming as you’re instinctively drawn to stroke them. According to research by Dogs for Depression this can be especially helpful for people who suffer from anxiety disorders or panic attacks.  The act of stroking can is soothing and hugely beneficial as it can improve mood if you’re feeling down.    

Pets also encourage you to get out and exercise. You’re much more likely to go for regular walks if you’re a dog owner and this has a beneficial effect on stress and fitness levels.

dog owners walk or run on average 74 minutes a day, in addition to normal exercise

In fact, research shows that dog owners have lower blood pressure and are less likely to be obese. In a study on 2000 people (Butcher’s Pet Care, 2016) it was found that dog owners are likely to exercise at least three times more in a week than people without dogs.

The study found that dog owners walk or run on average 74 minutes a day, in addition to normal exercise. In all, they cover around 1092 miles a year, compared to 364 by those who don’t have a dog.   

#2 They’re good for your heart health

Having a pet can help to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a recent study (High Blood Pressure & Cardiovascular Prevention, 2016). 

Researchers looked at almost 4000 healthy adults aged 50 plus, of whom just over a third owned a pet.  It was found that pet owners had a 31 per cent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease overall. Although the study showed that heart health benefits were slightly greater amongst cat owners, owning a dog can also help to protect cardiovascular health. 

The benefits of having a pet may not just be from physical exercise, but may relate to the stress-relieving effects of animal companionship. In another study (Mayo Clinic, 2019) it was found that dog owners are far healthier than those with no pets. 

‘In general, people who own any pet are more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar,’ says Dr Andrea Maugeri, who led the study.

‘The greatest benefits from having a pet were those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.’ 

READ MORE: 12 Spring & Summer dangers dog owners need to be aware of

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#3 They can help you live longer  

Dog owners may live longer and benefit from improved cardiovascular health. In a recent Swedish study (Circulation, 2019) it was found that people who suffered from a heart attack and lived alone were 33 per cent less likely to die after coming out of hospital if they owned a dog.

Likewise, the risk of death for post stroke victims was 27 per cent lower if they owned a dog. Pet owners make around 15 per cent fewer visits to the doctor than those without pets, (American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2018).  

#4 Pets keep you calm and reduce stress 

Research has shown that pet owners have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. In another study at Virginia Commonwealth University (2012) it was found that employees who brought their dogs to work experienced higher job satisfaction and had the lowest stress levels. 

Plus, just a few minutes spent with a pet cat or dog may be more beneficial at reducing stress levels than talking to a friend it seems.

employees who brought their dogs to work experienced higher job satisfaction

And it’s not just our furry friends; even watching fish swimming around in a fish tank or aquarium can help reduce anxiety and tension and calm you down (Int J Res Pub Health, 2019).  

#4 They help to reduce and anxiety and can boost your mood 

Animals are also increasingly being used as part of animal assisted therapy to help both adults and children with physical and emotional issues.  Animals have been shown to reduce anxiety, improve mood and even to help bring about positive behavioural changes which can enhance healing.  

READ MORE: 8 ways walking in the woods can make you happier

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#5 They help you to cultivate healthy habits 

Having a pet can encourage you to cultivate healthy habits such a going for regular daily walks. Reaching your recommended 10,000 steps a day is a lot easier if you have a pet that needs exercise. 

Getting about with your pet also encourages your social side. Research shows that 40 per cent of dog owners are more likely to make friends when they’re out and about walking their dog.

According to one study (PLOS, 2015) this is down to four out of five dog owners chatting to fellow walkers.  

#6 Pets can help you manage pain and keep your joints healthy 

If you regularly walk your dog, this can improve the health of your joints. In a new study (Arthritis & Rheumatology, 2022) it was shown that walking for exercise can reduce pain from knee osteoarthritis among people aged 50 and older.

walking for exercise can reduce pain from knee osteoarthritis

Additionally, it was found that walking for exercise may be an effective treatment to slow the damage that occurs to joints with age.

To keep your joints healthy, try Healthspan Optiflex Glucosamine & Chondroitin, £16.49 for 120 tablets. It contains glucosamine, chondroitin and vitamin C to support and maintain healthy joints. 

#7 They are good for your brain 

A recent meta-analysis (reported in Frontiers, 2022) shows that pet ownerships is associated with better cognitive and brain health, with the strongest effects for dog owners.

The study also shows that owning a pet can reduce brain age by up to 15 years. Research suggests that this is due to better cardiovascular health and circulation among people who own pets.  

Treat your Pets: Healthista Loves…

dunelm cat bed pets are good for your healthdunelm cat bed pets are good for your health

#1 Treat your pet to a super cute dog toy, shop the versatile range at TK Maxx dog toy, from £3.99.

#2 Watch your cat curl up in this cosy cat bed – Dunelm Scruffs Knightsbridge Cat Bed £52

#3 If you fancy splashing out, we love this Elva Dog Carrier and Handbag, £375, can be used as pet carrier and handbag when you’re out and about. It is finished in beautiful Nubuck leather and is available in two colours.

ELVA Bag Nude divine pets pets are good for your healthELVA Bag Nude divine pets pets are good for your health

#4 More than one in three dogs is thought to suffer with noise-related anxiety, one in four with fearfulness, and one in five with separation anxiety.

If you want to keep your dog calm and happy, try: Healthspan MagiCalm 60 tablets £8.99.

This soothing formula contains L-tryptophan and L-tyrosine to help the release happiness-boosting chemicals, relaxing chamomile and Brewer’s Yeast extract, for a tasty beef flavour that your dog will love. Try: Healthspan MagiCalm 60 tablets £8.99.

MagiCalm healthspan pets are good for your healthMagiCalm healthspan pets are good for your health

#5 allPaws from Green People  – an organic, cruelty-free pet grooming range that offers fur-freshening grooming products that transform mucky pups into pristine pooches.

Every product in the allPaws pet care range is made with gently cleansing, pH-bala nced natural actives that are sustainably sourced and suitable for all dog and cat breeds.  

Choose from: allPaws Wild Mint Cleansing Shampoo - £7.50 (200ml), allPaws Sensitive Shampoo - £7.50 (200ml) or the allPaws Fetch Me a Bath Dog Gift Set £20.00 (includes 2 x 200ml plus toy).

all paws gift set green people pets are good for your healthall paws gift set green people pets are good for your health 

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