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How Pets can Improve Your Health & Your Life

A young woman cuddles with her pet dog

Dogs and Cats can have a great impact on your health and well-being

We all love animals, and there’s no doubt that having a cat or dog…or both…can greatly improve the quality of our lives. Aside from having a companion, pets can also be beneficial to our health and well being.

Numerous studies over the years have proven that dogs have a positive effect on your immune system. Having a cat can also reduce the possibility of you getting heart disease. And having pets can improve your general overall outlook, which also affects your health and well-being.

Here are a few ways in which pets can greatly improve your life:


Speak with anyone who has a cat or dog, and they’ll tell you how much they love them. Animals help create positive feelings, and studies have shown that people who have pets have an increased level of oxytocin (aka ‘the love hormone’) because of them. If you go shopping for pet food and see a dog at the store, notice how excited they are to say hello. Or what if you come home from work and your cats or dogs are excited to see you…do you feel happy that they’re there to greet you? It’s that interaction that gives off a feeling of happiness and improves your levels of oxytocin.

Oxytocin can affect people in different ways; some studies show that dogs can produce variations of the hormone that affect people differently, but this is seen as minor. For most people, even brief interactions with animals can greatly improve their moods.

Social Life

In public, dogs are often conversation starters. This is especially true in Austin, which is an extremely dog friendly city. Walk down the street or through a park, and you’ll find strangers drawn to your dog. People are drawn to dogs, they make us smile, and most are anxious to greet not only their owners, but strangers too.

If you’re new to a city, having a dog can help you meet more people, be it at dog parks, or just because you’re out and about in your neighborhood walking your dog more, and likely have more interactions with your neighbors.

Love Life

Having can also help improve your romantic life. Pets can help build confidence, and confidence is attractive to other people. Raising your levels of oxytocin also makes you more appealing. An increased positive outlook will often draw more people to you.

Your Immune System

Studies have shown that having a dog can greatly improve your overall immunity. Especially Immunoglobulin A, which is an antibody that is a crucial element of our immune system. So, why is this? Dogs share microbes with us that we normally wouldn’t encounter in a home without pets. While we think we may have allergies to dogs, especially the dander in their hair, dogs can also help with certain ailments. Some dog-borne microbes can actually help us to stay healthy. That doesn’t mean you should do away with the heartworm and flea and tick preventatives, however!

Cats also can help increase the levels of different bacteria in your home, especially if they go outside. It’s not entirely clear if cat microbes can help to prevent certain immune issues, but cats often share fewer zoonotic pathogens with humans than dogs.

Physical Fitness

Dogs love to walk, and even more so, they love to run. Physical fitness isn’t just important for a dog, it’s important for its human as well. Having a dog can greatly improve your fitness level over time. Even if you don’t like to run, you can go for walks with your dog and/or increase both your and their exercise levels by playing catch, throwing sticks, or playing frisbee.

Cats don’t necessarily want you to walk them. Their independent nature doesn’t adapt too well to harnesses and leashes. Though you may have a “lazy” cat, most cats love to play and exercise. Different kinds of interactive cat toys are great to help them keep active and can help you get a workout too. This type of play can also last awhile…until they’re ready for their next cat nap.

Anxiety and Life Expectancy

If you suffer from anxiety and stress related issues, pets can actually be a great help. Studies have shown that owning a cat can help reduce the possibility of heart disease and that walking a dog can also be helpful in reducing your stress levels.

The reduction of anxiety and stress can also help expand the length of your life. Dogs have been known to help individuals with cardiovascular issues, including reducing their blood pressure and also helping with immunity responses.


Most everyone has suffered from some form of sadness or depression in their lives, but sometimes that sadness can be extremely difficult to weather. The love of a cat or dog can be extremely helpful when or if you are experiencing depression. What’s extraordinary is that cats and dogs are both sympathetic to any feelings of sadness; they can understand those feelings, so this type of companionship can be very helpful. Therapy dogs have been seen as a very helpful way to help those who have experienced trauma, especially to veterans who are experiencing PTSD.

There’s a lot to consider here, but one thing is evident, having a cat and/or dog can be beneficial to you and your health. Our pets are our friends and our family. With all they do to help keep us healthy, we need to make sure we do our part to keep them healthy too, with regular wellness visits to your Austin veterinarian.