Can owning a pet reduce blood pressure?

Sure, having a four-legged friend can help us stay active, but are there other health benefits to owning a pet?

[3 MIN READ]

If you’ve been thinking about adding a new furry friend to your family, your heart may thank you for it. Or if you currently have a pet, read on to see how they can help improve your physical health.

Studies have shown that owning a dog can lead to a more active lifestyle, which can have many physical and mental health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and preventing depression. And who doesn’t enjoy the unconditional love, the wagging tail and the excited barks when a dog greets you at the front door?

While a new pet may not be a cure-all for every health problem, it can help put you on a path toward a healthier, happier life. Here’s how:

Keeps you on your toes

Having a dog can help boost your daily activity levels. This may not come as a surprise, but the American Heart Association (AHA) says people who walk their dogs are more likely to get the recommended amount of physical activity compared to those who don’t. Getting some sunshine can also give you a boost of Vitamin D.

The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity (like walking) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity (like running).

With a dog, you’ve got a built-in exercise buddy. Since dogs (and their humans) require regular exercise to stay healthy, doing activities together like playing catch or frisbee can be a fun way to keep both of your hearts beating strong. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity (like walking) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity (like running). Talk to your vet about how much exercise your dog needs based on breed and age.

Looking for other ways to mix up your exercise routine together?

  • Take a hike. Start small to ensure your dog is up for the challenge. Be sure to bring water for you and your pup.
  • Go for a swim. Try bringing your dog to the beach or a local lake. Swimming is great exercise for humans, too!
  • Find an indoor walking space or dog park. If the weather is less than ideal, it doesn’t mean you and the pup have to stay inside all day. Find a local indoor dog play area or take a trip to your local home improvement store for a stroll through the aisles—many of them allow dogs.

Provides companionship & purpose

Although there is responsibility with owning a pet, the companionship and unconditional love you’ll receive is invaluable. When another life depends on you, you may have a greater sense of purpose, which can also help improve your mood and prevent depression.

What if I can’t own a pet?  

If you can’t own a pet because of allergies or your living situation (such as an apartment), don’t give up! There are many ways you become involved with animals, so you can stay active and keep your stress and blood pressure under control.

  • If you have allergies, talk to your doctor about hypoallergenic dog and cat breeds.
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter where you could help walk, feed and socialize the animals.
  • If you can’t own a dog where you live, offer to walk friends’ and family members’ dogs. You may even be able to turn it into a small business!
  • Look into getting reptiles, amphibians or fish. These pets may not be able to walk with you in the park, but they can be a relaxing hobby and companion for people who can’t own dogs or cats.

Pets can come with many health benefits, especially for your heart, but they can also bring a lot of responsibility. That’s why it’s important to discuss a new pet with your family and only adopt when you’re ready. If you are wondering if a pet might be able to help you with a heart or other health condition, be sure to talk with your doctor.

If you are looking for a primary care doctor, you can search for one that’s right for you in our provider directory. Or you can find one using a regional directory below:

Alaska

California

Montana

Oregon

Washington

Resources:

Unconditional Love: St. Joseph Health Pet Therapy Programs Comfort Patients

Understand Zoonotic Disease Before Getting a Pet Reptile or Amphibian

7 Things to Do for a Heathy Heart Right Now

About the Author

The Providence Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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