Understanding the Health Benefits of Being a Pet Owner
Pets have been a part of human life for thousands of years. From dogs to cats and birds to fish, these furry, feathery, and scaly creatures bring us joy, comfort, and unconditional love. Although most of us understand the emotional benefits of pet ownership from experiencing them firsthand, the full impact pets can have on our physical and emotional health is often underestimated. This blog will explore the power of pets and the benefits of pet ownership, focusing on how promoting and advocating for pet ownership can be a tool for improving client health outcomes.
Physical Health Benefits of Pets
Pets do more for us than just make us happy. Studies have shown that pet ownership can have a positive impact on our physical health as well. Regular contact with a pet can decrease blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Simply petting an animal has been shown to reduce cortisol, the hormone that triggers stress. It’s also been shown to increase oxytocin, the hormone associated with calm and happiness.
Pet owners often reap the benefits of being more physically active. They may need to take their pets for walks, play with them throughout the day, or move and bend when doing pet chores like feeding and cleanup. Another benefit to note: People who grow up in families with pets are less likely to develop allergies and asthma than people who don’t. This is due to being exposed to a broader range of bacteria and allergens from an early age (What are the health benefits of pet ownership? 2018).
Mental Health Benefits of Pets
Pets have also been shown to impact our mental health profoundly. For many, pets provide comfort, companionship, and social support. All of these can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Pet ownership can improve one’s mood, reduce symptoms of depression, and provide a sense of purpose and improved self-esteem (Pomlett, 2020). Regular interaction with a pet has also been shown to improve cognitive function, particularly in older adults. It may even reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Given pet ownership’s mental and physical health benefits, it’s no wonder that pet-assisted therapy is increasing in popularity. Pet-assisted treatment involves using animals, such as dogs or horses, to help people with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It’s becoming more and more common for individuals struggling with emotional regulation or trauma responses to integrate a service or support animal into their therapeutic toolkit. These companion animals can provide comfort, support, and safety. Professional service and emotional support animals offer a non-judgmental source of love and affection and can be trained to assist their owners in the event of a health emergency.
Providers can advocate for their clients by connecting them with resources to adopt a service or emotional support animal. This may include an ESA letter, an official document from a mental health provider that states the need for emotional support through the presence of a pet or service animal.
Considerations of Pet Ownership
While pet ownership can have many benefits, it’s essential to educate your client and encourage them to consider the responsibilities that come with owning a pet. Choosing the right pet is important, as different pets have different needs and temperaments. A high-energy dog may not be suitable for someone who lives in a small apartment, but a low-maintenance fish may be a perfect choice.
The responsibilities of pet care are another critical factor for clients to consider. Pets require time, attention, and financial resources. A potential pet owner will also need to consider potential risks and drawbacks, including allergies, animal behavioral challenges, and the risk of injury to oneself or others. The impact of mental health symptoms on an individual’s functionality will also determine the type of animal they are ready to adopt.
The power of pets shouldn’t be underestimated. It can profoundly impact your clients’ physical and mental health, from improving cardiovascular health to reducing mental health symptoms and more. Promoting pet ownership can be a tool and resource to maintain in your work with your clients that has a lasting positive impact on their outcomes.
Pomlett, M. (2020, December 21). Discover the Well-Being Boosting Power of Pets.
Psychological Health Care. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://www.psychologicalhealthcare.com.au/blog/mental-health-benefits-pets/
What are the health benefits of pet ownership? RSPCA Knowledgebase. (2018, November 9).
Retrieved February 1, 2023, from