Health Benefits of Pets

I love animals! I've always liked them since I was a little girl. Now, there is a big body of research proving the health benefits of pets.

Love for Animals

I love animals! I’ve always liked them since I was a little girl. My mother tells the story from when I was about 4 years old, during one of our camping trips, she caught me feeding the frogs. Frogs! Yes, I was near a portable lamp, picking up the bugs around it and giving them to a toad. I love frogs to this day. At some point, I thought about being a veterinarian, but the idea eventually dissipated. Animals have always done me a lot of good. Now, there is a big body of research proving the health benefits of pets.

Lady Luna

Although I like all kinds of animals, I love dogs. I had a German Shepherd in my childhood, a Collie in my teens, and as soon as I got married, I bought Luna, a beautiful blue roan Cocker Spaniel! Luna was truly well-behaved and a good companion. She’s never chewed a single piece of furniture, or a shoe, never caused any damage nor peed inside. That dog was always by my side. Even waiting for me to get out of the shower lying on the bathroom mat. Luna was my baby for almost 6 years until my son Gabriel was born. For the 13 years she’s lived she gave us a lot of joy.


When we came to the United States my children were 10 and 7 years old. We moved into a neighborhood full of children who played in the street all summer long. It was a very nice and lively crowd. Everyone had a dog, so my kids started asking me for one. Despite knowing it would be wonderful to have a pet again, I resisted. I already had all the housework plus my 9-3 job outside the home and I didn’t want to commit. I was able to resist for almost 4 years when a friend of mine who was volunteering at the animal shelter sent me a picture of Sherlock.

Love at First Sight

When I saw the sad look of that dog’s face, I was sure the time to have a pet again had come. My kids and I went to the shelter that very day. They also liked Sherlock and so we decided to adopt him. We finished the paperwork after 6 p.m., past their scheduled hours. We went to the pet shop to buy a bed, food, and other things, and we took him home. The first night he slept in the laundry room but from the next day on he was already sleeping inside my bedroom.

Already Trained

Adopting or, rather, rescuing an abandoned animal has several advantages. The first one is as they are no longer puppies, they come potty trained. From day one Sherlock showed me that he wanted to go out to the bathroom. He left, did what he had to do, and ran back inside. Since then, this dog has been my loyal companion. Never in my life have I received as much love as I do from him, unconditionally, every day, every moment. He doesn’t leave my side even when I go to the bathroom. And goes nuts every time he loses sight of me.

Health Benefits of Pets

Anyone who has a pet knows how they brighten the day and how much love they give us. But in fact, the benefits of having a pet go far beyond that. They give a boost to our physical, mental, and emotional health in surprising ways. The most obvious benefit is stress relief. There is no doubt that just by looking at those cute little faces our hearts melt. The National Institute of Health lists several studies that have shown that looking at and petting an animal decreases the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. Which helps lower blood pressure and foster relaxation.

Beyond Stress

But the benefits of having a pet go even further. They help us to maintain a routine, to be more sociable and active. They wake us up early, pretty much at the same time every day! It sounds bad but, it’s quite some help! The routine of caring for other being gives us purpose, motivates us to get out of bed and decreases loneliness. Who hasn’t gone out for a walk with their dog and ended up talking to strangers? It happens all the time. By the way, they ask to go out helping us to maintain an exercise routine. Not to mention that you will never walk alone again.

Dog Greetings

There’s nothing like coming home and being greeted by a dog. It doesn’t matter if you were gone for half an hour or a week, they always have the same enthusiasm at your arrival! The feeling of being important, missed, fills the soul. It has already been scientifically proven that animals are excellent for reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and even disorders such as autism and hyperactivity.

Service Dogs

The benefits are so many that for years dogs have been trained as service animals for various clinical cases, such as diabetes. The Cleveland Clinic even has a facility dog. He received similar training to a service animal and helps with therapies and treatments kids are going through. That could be helping them get up and out of bed after surgery, or calming their nerves before, during, or after a procedure, or building a therapeutic relationship if they have a chronic condition. “Dogs have the power to make people feel safe, and they build relationships faster than any human can,” says the Cleveland Clinic’s child life specialist and facility dog handler C. Gross.

Microbiome Diversity

As if all these benefits weren’t enough, recent research published in The National Library of Medicine of NCBI – National Center for Biotechnology Information, concluded that there are significant differences between the microbiome of animal owners and non-owners. Pets such as dogs and cats help to increase the diversity of intestinal flora. In this hyper sterile era, we keep forgetting that microorganisms are key to our health and that of the planet.

Only 1% of existing bacteria are pathogenic. The microbiome diversity is very important for our immunity and gut health. When puppies “kiss” us they are also sharing strains of bacteria. I know it sounds disgusting but, it’s good for your health. Pets are messy and a lot of work for sure but, just like children, the joy they give us prevails. And unlike children, they never talk back!

Remember: Good is what makes you feel well!


To know more about the Microbiome read Microbiome and Mental Health.

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