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What are the health benefits of pet ownership?

We’ve long loved dogs for being man’s best friend, but not so well known is that our pets can actually make us physically and mentally healthier. Just the presence of our pets can lift our spirits and help us relax.

Physical health benefits

Research has shown that owning a pet can have a number of physical health benefits:

  • Increased cardiovascular health (lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides and in men, lower cholesterol)
  • Increased physical activity. Dogs especially help us get out and enjoy the outdoors while getting some regular exercise. They are great motivators and personal trainers, never wanting to miss a training session no matter the weather.
  • Fewer visits to the doctor
  • Growing up with a dog (and other pets to a lesser extent) during infancy may help to strengthen the immune system and may reduce the risk of allergies
  • Children who have pets are less likely to miss days of school due to illness

The joy of having a pet isn’t new to most Australians; we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. In fact our pets are such positive influences on our lives that one study found that Australian ownership of cats and dogs saved approximately $3.86 billion in health expenditure over one year.

Psychological benefits

Research has shown that owning a pet can have a number of psychological benefits

  • A study of school children showed that pet owners were more popular but also seemed more empathetic.
  • Those who have pets including children or adolescents have been shown to have higher self-esteem. Teenagers who own pets have a more positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness, despair and boredom.
  • Pet owners report less depression and appear to cope with grief, stress and loss better than non-pet owners.
  • Pets enhance social connectedness and social skills and are great conversation starters!
  • Pets are also great caregivers. They keep us company when we’re sick or feeling down. They can make us feel safe while we’re home alone and they keep an eye on the house while we’re out.

If you are considering owning a pet be sure you contact your local RSPCA. You can view some of the animals available for adoption at the RSPCA on the Adoptapet website.

Updated on August 22, 2022
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