Pet ownership and physical health

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Pet ownership and brief human–animal interactions can serve as a form of social support and convey a host of beneficial psychological and physiological health benefits. This article critically examines recent relevant literature on the pet–health connection.

Recent findings

Cross-sectional studies indicate correlations between pet ownership and numerous aspects of positive health outcomes, including improvements on cardiovascular measures and decreases in loneliness. Quasi-experimental studies and better controlled experimental studies corroborate these associations and suggest that owning and/or interacting with a pet may be causally related to some positive health outcomes.

Summary

The value of pet ownership and animal-assisted therapy (AAT), as a nonpharmacological treatment modality, augmentation to traditional treatment, and healthy preventive behavior (in the case of pet ownership), is starting to be realized. However, more investigations that employ randomized controlled trials with larger sample sizes and investigations that more closely examine the underlying mechanism of the pet–health effect, such as oxytocin, are needed.

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