Your Best Friend Could be the Best Medicine

According to, the number one reason most people work out is to attract the opposite sex. Admittedly, it’s one of the top 10 shallow reasons, but you know it’s true. However, the Huffington Post reveals that those who are searching for a special someone in their lives are really looking to fill an empty space, have companionship, and feel loved. Without going off on a psychology tangent about how a person needs to master being happy with themselves before they can have a successful relationship with another human, let’s consider that a pet can fill that need for love, with the added bonus of improving your health.

Right out of the gate, if you are unquestionably not an animal person, then, no, you shouldn’t have a pet any more than a person who doesn’t like children should have a child. However, if you don’t mind having an animal around and are open to exploring how one could improve your life, you’re in for a surprising treat. Owning a pet provides numerous health-related benefits, starting with fitness but including mental, emotional, and even financial health as well.

Fitness Benefits From Pets

More and more kitties are getting out for fresh air and exercise with their humans. Image by Lucius Kwok/Flickr

Even if you opt for a pocket pooch who doesn’t need a large yard to exercise, she’ll still love to go for walkies. She needs to sniff all the exciting smells and “mark” her territory to let other dogs know she was there. The side benefit is that you both get some cardio exercise. If you’re not a “dog person,” that’s OK. More and more cat lovers are walking their felines and enjoying it. Yeah, it will require some training, but it will provide a new way to spend quality time with your cat while incorporating exercise into your life.

General Physical Health Perks

Living with a pet can increase your chances of survival after a medical crisis, and lengthen your life, too.

Researchers found that heart attack patients who were also pet owners had a tendency to survive longer than patients who didn’t have pets. It’s been speculated that may be partially due to pets helping their owners stay active, but there are other cardiovascular effects of owning a dog, cat or other animals. Pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower serum triglycerides and elevated levels of calming chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. It’s not all about dogs, either. Web MD reports that cat owners have fewer strokes than their cat-less counterparts. Researchers admit to not having pinned down a reason for their findings but think that cats are more soothing and calming than other animals in some instances.


Petting a cat is calming enough to reduce the chances of stroke, but their very presence fosters serenity.

Let go of the old wives’ tales that warn that it’s unhealthy to have pets in the home, especially homes with children. Health reports that growing up with pets actually improve kids’ respiratory health (studies have revealed that pets actually decrease colds and allergies by up to 50 percent in children and babies)–and pets even help reduce children’s risk of obesity. Web MD also says that children who live with traditional pets such as dogs and cats have higher levels of specific immune system chemicals that strengthen their immunity overall.

Mental and Emotional Bennies

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It’s hard to be depressed with a bundle of joy like this around.

A study by the American Psychological Association highlights how pets positively affect their people. Among the findings were that pet owners

  • have better self-esteem
  • are less likely to suffer from depression
  • are less lonely
  • are less fearful

Also, pet owners tend to have fewer doctor visits — up to 30 percent fewer — and are more physically fit. The mental health benefits of owning a dog are essentially the same for owners of any type of pet, even though you interact with different animals differently. For example, reveals that watching fish has been shown to lower pulse rates and reduce muscle tension.

Surprising Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Sometimes pets detect disease at early stages when other procedures miss it.

Watching puppies and/or kittens play is better entertainment than cable TV. Your pets will give you a reason to get up in the morning, will be thrilled to see you when you get home and will never, ever bogart the remote or leave the milk sitting on the counter. They’ll lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, provide a fun way to exercise, and will love you even if you wear your favorite tattered pair of sweats all weekend without passing judgment. Pets may even help you meet that special someone, as pet owners tend to be more approachable and more social. An added bonus is dogs’ and cats’ — and sometimes other types of pets’ — remarkable ability to detect health problems. According to Wellbridge, researchers believe that dogs’ superior sense of smell alerts them to changes in their humans’ body chemistry that indicate cancer, oncoming seizures, and dangerous variations in blood glucose levels. What’s more, cats have been known to alert their people to cancer. These weren’t simple cases of exterior melanomas, either. Cats are detecting lung tumors, breast cancer, and other complex cancers buried deep inside the body. Score one more for the benefits of owning a pet.

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