De-Stress With Pets

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

You know Fido does but studies show pets also relieve stress better than your significant other or friends.

These days, when people report stress levels over the top and “headline stress disorder” has replaced “election stress disorder,” where do you turn?  You may not have to look further than your own living room.  Several studies indicate that pets provide stress relief while just performing their jobs as companion animals. 

A State University of New York Buffalo study shows that human heart rate and blood pressure are affected less while performing stressful tasks in the presence of their pet vs. their spouse. The research tapped 240 married couples. Half the couples owned a cat or dog; half were petless. On average, those couples without pets had higher blood pressure and heart rates, a strong sign that they felt more stress than the pet owners.


Participants were asked to perform two tasks; calculate difficult math problems in their heads and put their hands in ice water for two minutes. They could be alone, have human company or a pet’s.  The study showed participants had higher blood pressure and heart rates when a spouse or friend was in the room. But when in presence of a pet, their blood pressure and heart rates went down.

Researchers believe that judgment and criticism from others is a major source of stress.  And as much as spouses and friends try to be supportive, they are not a match for the unconditional love of a pet. 

In another experiment cited in the Western Journal of Medicine, children had lower blood pressure “in the mere presence of a dog, even though they didn’t interact with the animal. Stroking or petting an animal appears to lower both blood pressure and pulse rate in both the human who is petting and the animal being petted. Even gazing at fish in an aquarium resulted in lowered blood pressure, the journal reported.”

A study done at the University of Manchester in England with 54 people who had serious long-term mental illnesses showed that many of the people felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren’t available from friends and family. They consider their pets part of their social network and placed them in the central, most important circle—the same place many people put close family and social workers. This is who went they to when they needed help or advice, where they gained emotional support and encouragement and how they spent their time.


Sharing household routines and engaging in regular exercise like walks contribute to the enhanced relationship between pets and people. Urban dog owners generally walk almost twice as much than neighbors without pet dogs, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  Regular dog walks and exercise provide many physical and mental benefits, including chances to socialize. 

People suffering from heart disease may enjoy particular benefits from pets. A study of heart attack patients published in the American Journal of Cardiology found dog owners were six times more likely to survive an additional year than patients who didn’t have dogs.

This Valentine’s Day, show the one who really loves you how much you appreciate them—with a bouquet of bones.