How a Pet Can Improve Your Health

If you’re trying to convince your spouse or roommate to welcome a pet into your home, you might want to mention the benefits it has for your health. 

Physical Health Benefits of Having a Pet

If you’ve ever owned a dog, you probably know all about some of the physical health benefits of having a pet. That’s because walking your dog is good exercise for both of you.

All those steps from regularly walking your dog around the block add up, and you’re more likely to get exercise into your day.

Having a pet also benefits your physical health in other ways. A 2013 statement from the American Heart Association reported that pet ownership is linked to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and lower blood sugar. 

Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

The increased physical activity mentioned above also plays a key role in keeping you mentally healthy, but simply having a pet around can boost your mental health When you pet a dog or a cat, your cortisol, the hormone responsible for feelings of stress, lowers.

Having a pet also boosts overall happiness and well-being. A 2023 study found that having a pet of any kind, but especially a dog or cat, is a mood-booster. That’s because we consider our four-legged companions sources of unconditional love, affection, support and companionship.

Pet Therapy at University Health

At University Health, we know joy and comfort are linked to healing. Our PawsUp Pet Therapy program connects therapy dogs and cats with patients, visitors and staff.

Michelle Dunn and her dog Bentley, a chiweenie (a cross between a chihuahua and dachshund), have volunteered at University Health since January 2022. Bentley’s calm demeanor and soft ears put children and adults alike at ease.

“I've had several patients say, ‘This is exactly what I needed.’ So hopefully that's changing their mindset and helping them be a little more positive in their recovery, therapy or whatever it is that they're going through,” Dunn said.

Dunn said she hopes Bentley helps patients feel better mentally so they can heal physically. “Bentley loves it, too,” she said. “I say, ‘Bentley, we're going to work today,’ and his tail starts wagging. He follows me around the house to make sure I don't leave him behind.”

Learn more about pet therapy and other volunteer opportunities at University Health.

Subscribe icon
Get healthy living and wellness information, recipes and patient stories from University Health.
View other related content by:

Tell us your patient story

Share your inspiring personal story of hope and healing at University Health.