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Many of us view our pets as part of the family, with some even referring to them as their “fur baby” or “fur child”. This trend is likely to continue as more and more people add a pet to their household. Around 70% of U.S. households already report owning a pet, with dogs being the most popular, followed by cats, freshwater fish and birds.
As the saying goes, a dog is a man’s best friend – referring to the long history of companionship among dogs and humans. While companionship may be one reason for adding a pet to your family, there are many health benefits of owning a pet!
Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. In fact, studies have found that overall, dog owners tend to live longer than non-owners, and they often recover better from major health events (such as heart attack or stroke) especially if they live alone.
Pets also increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, are linked to better cognitive function in older adults and provide more opportunities to socialize. Among children raised with pets, having the love and companionship of a pet can make them feel important and help develop a positive self-image. A good relationship with a pet can also help children in developing non-verbal communication, compassion and empathy.
Animals can serve as a source of comfort and support. Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease stress levels, reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support and boost your mood. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a dog or cat in the home. Among children with autism or other learning difficulties, pets can help them learn how to regulate stress and calm themselves, making them better equipped to overcome the challenges of their disorder.
Whether companion, comedian, confidant or protector, our pets are always there for us. Despite the numerous health benefits, it’s important to remember that a pet is not a magical cure-all for health issues. While pets can provide an incredible amount of joy in our lives, owning a pet is a major commitment! Click here for things to consider before selecting a pet for you and your family.
- Learn more about your specific pet
- “Don’t Let the Dogs Bite: How to be Safe Around Dogs” Coloring and Activity Book for Kids. Also available in Spanish
- Stay Healthy Around Small Pets
- Things to know before selecting a pet for your family
About the Author
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Organizations are in a constant state of change and the Kinetiq Health team supports them every step of the way. A unique formula of people, processes and technologies enables our team to keep an educated eye on the financial and clinical implications of data to move organizations toward improved financial health and employee well-being.