Most pet owners are familiar with the mood boost that comes from spending time with a beloved animal. But did you know that owning a pet is actually good for your health?

Research indicates that pets can help lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and provide opportunities for exercise and socialization. So if loyalty, laughs and unconditional love aren’t enough reasons to adopt or foster a pet, read on.

Pets are good for the heart
Most Americans don’t get enough exercise, but owning a pet can help us stay active. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, patient survival is higher for pet owners after a heart attack than for those without pets. 

Pets are natural allergy fighters
A growing number of studies suggest that children who grow up with cats, dogs or farm animals are less likely to have allergies, asthma or eczema. The reasoning is that exposure to animals at a young age activates the immune system and protects children from allergens. 

Pets can reduce stress
Research has shown that people who interact with animals have significantly lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. There’s also evidence to suggest pets make us happier. Playing with pets or even looking into their eyes increases the brain’s levels of serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals that make us feel good.

Pets help us stay connected
Have you ever noticed that pets are great conversation starters? People often stop and chat while taking their dogs for a walk. Pet owners find countless opportunities to connect with each other through forums, groups or Facebook pages. And arranging play dates for pets is a great way to make human friends, too!

Kittens delight us with their playful bursts of energy. Watching fish swim can help with relaxation. And there’s nothing quite like coming home to the full-body wag of a happy hound. Pets give their owners so much to be grateful for; good health is just a bonus.