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10 Science-Backed Benefits of Having a Pet

By Odie Blog Editors on March 17, 2021

National Pet Day is April 11. So today, let’s honor all the families who have chosen to welcome furry friends into their loving homes. While you’ve probably read, watched, or personally experienced all the joys that come with owning a pet, many of these mental and emotional benefits are actually backed by scientific research. Curious? Read on to learn about 10 health-boosting benefits of owning a pet!

  1. Lower stress levels — Studies show that pet owners, on average, have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which not only indicate lower stress levels but also a decreased chance of heart disease and heart attacks later on in life.
  2. Stronger immune systems — While your furry friend might get on your nerves by tracking dirt all over the house, the additional germs could actually strengthen your immunity to mild illnesses. Babies who live around dogs, for example, are more likely to experience fewer infections than babies who grow up without pets.
  3. More exercise: There’s nothing like a happy dog with a wagging tail to encourage you to explore the great outdoors. Whether you’re taking your dog on an evening stroll or leashing them up for a run, owning a dog is correlated with better (and more consistent) exercise routines. A Michigan State University study found that people who own a dog exercised about half an hour more per week than those who went pet-less. A 2019 British study also showed that dog owners spend nearly 300 minutes every week walking their dogs!
  4. Better sleep — Studies from the UK show that pet owners, especially women, prefer to sleep with their cats over their partners. Some even reported sleeping better with an animal than a human!
  5. Improved social skills — According to a 2015 research study, 40 percent of dog owners had an easier time making friends. Logically, this makes a lot of sense! Walking with your dog outside, or at the local park, makes you easy to approach. And chatting with another dog owner about your pets is always a fantastic conversation starter!
  6. Teaching the younger ones — Owning a dog is a lot of hard work. If your child grows up with a dog, then they will strengthen their emotional and mental health by developing cooperation and empathy skills. 
  7. Starving off loneliness — Our pets are like our family members. We tend to lean on them to provide unconditional love and support, especially during difficult times. Not only does science indicate that dogs can feel empathy for their owners, but Australian studies also explain that dog ownership can reduce loneliness and address social isolation.
  8. Maintaining your mental acuity — Not only are dogs super smart, but they can keep you sharp as well! Published research explains that older adults who live with cats or dogs have better executive functions. This means that older folks, especially ones who spend most of their day at home, are more likely to pay attention, remember details, and make critical decisions.
  9. Accompanying children with special needs — Children with autism or other learning disorders often feel nervous or anxious when communicating with other kids or adults. Pets can be fantastic companions to help them feel more happy and confident!
  10. Cancer detection — As crazy as it sounds, some animals can accurately sniff out the early stages of bowel cancer. According to the British Medical Journal, a trained Labrador was able to identify cancerous samples from both breath and stool tests. Other anecdotal evidence also supports the idea that trained dogs can detect bladder, skin, lung, or ovarian cancers.

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