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7 ways pets improve your health

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Animal and human health are interconnected — pets can have many benefits for your social wellbeing, mental, health and physical health.
  • Pets can become companions and provide a sense of purpose, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Having a pet can help you cope better in challenging situations and reduce your stress levels.
  • Walking your dog can improve your fitness levels and heart health.
  • Dogs can be trained to become assistance dogs to support people with disabilities in their daily lives.

Pets reduce stress

Many people have a lot of stress in their lives. Research shows that just patting a pet can help reduce your stress and blood pressure. They can help you relax and cope better when under high pressure and in uncertain times and situations.

Pets provide love and provide companionship

Pets can be affectionate and loyal. They give unconditional love and joy. They can provide a sense of stability to your family and become your best friend and beloved companion.

They help you fulfil the basic human need to touch. Simply patting a pet can lower your heart rate. Your connection with your pet can also help reduce your loneliness or feelings of isolation.

Pets provide a sense of purpose

Most pets need a routine of feeding, toileting, grooming and exercise. Being responsible for them can give you motivation, purpose and a reason to get up in the morning. This can help you establish healthy routines and improve your self-care. Looking after your pet can help your self-esteem and wellbeing, and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

However, if you are struggling to look after yourself, talk to your doctor before you take on caring for a pet.

Pets increase your opportunities for social interaction

Pets create opportunities for social interactions, for example, helping you get to know your neighbours. Going to pet-friendly events, beaches or parks can help increase your social network and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

If you have a fear of social situations, or social phobia, a pet can help you become more comfortable meeting other pet-owners and enhance your mental health.

Pets improve your fitness (dog owners)

Dogs need regular walks, which encourages you to spend more time walking outdoors. This exercise is good for you too. Exercise such as walking has many benefits for your mental health and wellbeing, as well as being good for your physical health.

Pets can improve your heart health

Owning a pet can improve your heart health. Pets can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, resting heart rate and risk of heart problems.

Pets can help prevent allergies, eczema and asthma in children

Research has shown that having furry pets in your home during your child’s first year of life can reduce their chance of developing chronic conditions such as asthma, eczema, and hay fever. The more your child is exposed to pets, the less likely that they will develop allergies or asthma.

Assistance dogs can support people in their daily lives

Some dogs can get special training to become assistance dogs and support people in their daily lives. For example, they can help people with chronic conditions such as:

  • epilepsy
  • diabetes
  • physical disabilities
  • hearing loss
  • mental illnesses
  • vision loss

Guide dogs are specially trained to help people who are blind or have low vision to safely travel around their community and become more independent.

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Last reviewed: September 2023

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