Pets make wonderful companions. Not only do they provide unconditional love, they teach compassion and understanding. Pets are great company for young and old alike. In addition to bringing untold joy and pleasure to our lives, pets offer a wealth of benefits for health and well being. These benefits include improvement in the physical, mental and emotional health of pet lovers.

Several studies have shown the positive impact a pet can have on the physical health of pet owners. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have conducted studies on pet owners and found people with pets exhibit lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, all of which minimize risk of a heart attack. For people who have suffered a heart attack, those with a dog or cat have better recovery rates according to research. It is believed pets help reduce and control overall stress levels of pet owners. Pets also help lower blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Dog owners benefit tremendously through the exercise they get from going on a walk, run or bike ride with their pet. Pet owners who exercise with their dogs are much more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Research by the NIH includes a study with over 2000 adults that found dog owners who walk their dogs are less likely to suffer from obesity. Caring for a pet provides exercise and companionship for elderly people.

Pets can also have a positive impact on allergies. Studies have demonstrated having a pet in the home actually lowers a child’s likelihood of developing related allergies. James E. Gern, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published an article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology regarding several studies showing children who grow up with a furred animal in the home will have less risk of asthma and allergies. In addition, they are less likely to suffer from eczema and have higher levels of some immune system chemicals, a sign of stronger immune system activation.

Studies show people with pets have less depression. Playing with a dog elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine which are neurotransmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties. Animal assisted therapy is now viewed as an effective treatment for depression and other mental illnesses.

Dogs are great for making social connections. They help people who are shy or socially isolated connect with others. Socialization skills are improved through meeting and interacting with other pet owners. For those who have difficulty meeting new people, enrolling in a dog training class or visiting a dog park, provides an opportunity to interact with others. Many restaurants now offer outdoor dog-friendly seating to encourage customers to bring their pets with them. This is another excellent opportunity for meeting people who share your love of dogs.

Pets bring much joy and laughter. The sound of a cat purring or feel of a dog curled up on our lap is certain to bring feelings of contentment and happiness. Getting outside to play with our pets gives us fresh air, exercise and a daily dose of vitamin D. The unconditional love of a pet minimizes anxiety and stress. For these reasons and a million more, pets improve the overall health of their lovers.