Those of us who share our lives with four legged friends don’t need scientific data to prove that our pets make us happy and improve the quality of our lives.  But twenty years ago the National Institute of Health put the charge out to the scientific community to study the health benefits of pet ownership.

As we suspected, the evidence suggests that people with pets tend to enjoy better cardiovascular health, lower stress levels, and a more positive outlook.

One study showed that pet owners have a lower chance of suffering a heart attack, and another suggests that coronary care patients have a better survival rate than their counterparts.  The CDC states that people who own pets often enjoy lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than those who don’t.  Researchers from Purdue University even found that Alzheimer’s patients who were exposed to brightly colored fish were more relaxed.

Holly Pollock, of Epona Rivers, is a certified equine facilitative rehabilitation specialist.  She uses horses to empower her clients and lead them toward living more positive, balanced lives.

Holly explains, “When we are with animals ‘feel good chemicals’ like oxytocin and endorphins are released.   Our heart rate and blood pressure are lowered as our biorhythms connect with theirs.”  She continues, “Animals live in their bodies.  Unlike humans who stay in fight or flight mode, animals stay relaxed until something triggers a fight or flight response.”   We benefit emotionally and physiologically when we tap into their relaxed and balanced state.

Naturally, pet owners also benefit from the daily walk.  Walking is always great cardiovascular exercise and it keeps both us and the pets we love, healthier and more mobile.  Some pet owners even consider their pets workout partners.

Dr. Jeff Godwin of Animal Medical Clinic, on Babcock Street in Melbourne, gives the following recommendations to ensure the safety of your pet:

  • Pets, like humans, need to build up their conditioning slowly.  Do not expect your pet to perform physical feats if you have not been training him to do so.
  • Keep your pet well hydrated.
  • In the heat of the summer, be mindful of the temperature of the pavement
  • It is best not exercise on a full stomach, especially large breeds with a deep chest.  A full stomach can twist on itself.  It is best to wait two hours after a meal to exercise your pet.
  • You need to consider the overall health of your dog; its age, any medical conditions, and suggested limitations.

Checking in with your vet periodically is a good idea

Go to for creative pet/human workouts and other tips for pet ownership.