6 ways having a pet can reduce your stress according to science


Stress especially chronic stress is well documented as independent causative risk factor to many health problems in modern lifestyle. People often talk about meditation, yuga, music as stress reliever. But have you ever thought about a pet? A friendly relation with a pet can give you unconditional love. Pet can improve your mood when you play with them. You may or mayn’t think about this. But with numbers of ways having a pet can reduce your stress according to science in this hormonal signalling game.

Why Stress?

Stress creates a situation like fight or flight inside the body. When this situation becomes chronic many unwanted regulations occurs inside the body.

With stress an individual encounters a stressor stimulus passes the signal to the brain. When hypothalamus of the brain receives stress signal it simultaneously activates the two major stress pathways: the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system. With activation of sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system stress affects involuntary functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and body fluid regulation are affected. Simultaneously when stress signal stimulates the pituitary gland releases several hormones. Eg. Cortisol fuels the flight or fight situation increases blood sugar to create energy for action. Aldosterone increases the blood pressure.(1)

6 scientifically proven ways having a pet can reduce your stress

Stress negatively affects various operating systems (2)

Musculoskeletal system

In response to stress or fight or flight situation, muscles tense up.

Respiratory system

Stress causes shortness of breath and rapid breathing, as the airway between the nose and the lungs constricts.


With chronic stress the consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol and of blood pressure, can take a toll on the body. And such long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke.

Related article 9 proven ways to lower and reverse risk of heart disease naturally


HPA axis acts as a primary driver of the endocrine stress response. Chronic stress can result in impaired communication between the immune system and the HPA axis along with release of stress hormones. This impaired communication has been associated with development of numerous physical and mental health conditions, including chronic fatigue, metabolic disorders (e.g., diabetes, obesity), depression and immune disorders.


Stress is associated with alteration of gut bacteria which intern can influence mood along with many other health problems. Chronic stress can lead to numbers of unwanted gastro intestinal problem like indigestion, acid reflux, heart burn, impaired bowl movement as well as pain, discomfort.

Also read 6 hidden causes of acid reflux and heart burn and natural remedies

Chronic stress also negatively affects the nervous system along with the reproductive system as well as sexual life.

Also read about top adaptogenic herbs to manage stress, fatigue and sleep

6 ways having a pet can reduce your stress according to science

Having a pet can improve your mood

Pet gives you touch of love a pleasant feeling, improves mood. They are innocent. If you love them they also will give it back to you. A study published in Science magazine showed that when a dog owner looked into his or her pet’s eyes, levels of love hormone oxytocin increased. This helped further cement the bond between the two. That supported the coevolution of human-dog bonding by engaging common modes of communicating social attachment.(3)

Helps to lower stress-anxiety

Pet can give you unconditional love. They don’t analyze you they don’t monitor you they don’t judge you. They can simple love you. You probably know the power of touch. A loving tough or hug also helps to calm down stress. Study also observed that people felt less stressed when they are with their company of pet.(4)In another study participants that were accompanied by the dog reported lower anxiety ratings and less negative affect. (5) A friendly pet at least can help to lower the feeling of stress.

Research also found elderly Medicare patients with pets (especially dogs) had fewer physician visits than similar patients without pets, and HIV-positive men reported less depression than similar men without pets.(8)

Lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health

Study showed that a loved pet can exert a calming influence on blood pressure and heart rate when the owner performs standard tasks designed to induce mental and physical stress. If you have high blood pressure, a pet is very good for you when you’re under stress.

In a study group was composed of 48 male as well as female stockbrokers in New York City with high blood pressure. Study found lower blood pressure and heart rates in people who got dogs or cats than those who didn’t get pets.(6)Study on examining 240 married couples researchers concluded that people perceive pets as important, supportive parts of their lives, and significant cardiovascular and behavioral benefits are associated with those perceptions.(7) Research shows that pet owners are less likely to die within 1 year of having a heart attack than those who do not own pets.(8)

Also read about best foods to lower hypertension or high blood pressure.

Social support

Social support plays important role in managing stress as well as overall health. An analysis of 148 studies had found people with stronger social relationships 50% more likely to live longer.(9)

A pet can provide more than a companionship. Study show they also help in creating human to human friendship as well as social support. Research indicates pet also catalysts for social interaction or conversation between strangers. Such incidental and informal social interaction has important role and psychologically beneficial. Apart from dogs and cats other kinds of pets, including cats, rabbits, can help in catalyzing for making friends and finding social support.(10)

Pet can provide good company to lonely person

Seniors often become lonely, may feel depressed. Dogs are man’s best friend and also provide good company. Study also found that the loneliest individuals benefited the most from visits with dogs. (11)

Pet can help you to be more active

You can go out with pet for a walk for a jogging or involve with other playful activities. They can indirectly help you to be physically active. Such activity can also help to drain stress.

Bottom line

Individual perception on pet has rule here. Peoples can have better benefits when they consider their pet as a member of the family, as a friend. Other concern like routine health check up of pet also needed. Overall having a pet improves quality of life.

Disclaimer: Information provided here are generalized information for 
educational purpose only
Source and References: 
2. American Psychological Association, Psychology Help Center, Stress 
Effects on the Body
3.Miho Nagasawa,Shouhei Mitsui,Shiori En, Nobuyo Ohtani,Mitsuaki Ohta, 
Yasuo Sakuma, Tatsushi Onaka,Kazutaka Mogi,Takefumi Kikusui,Oxytocin-gaze 
positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds,Science 17 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6232, pp. 333-336 
5.Johanna Lass-Hennemann,* Peter Peyk, Markus Streb, Elena Holz, and  Tanja 
Michael,Presence of a dog reduces subjective but not physiological stress 
responses to an analog trauma,Front Psychol. 2014; 5: 1010  
7.Allen K, Blascovich J, Mendes WB.,Cardiovascular reactivity and the 
presence of pets, friends, and spouses: the truth about cats and dogs,  
Psychosom Med. 2002 Sep-Oct;64(5):727-39.
9.Julianne Holt-Lunstad,Timothy B. Smith,J. Bradley Layton, Social 
Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review, PLOS,
July 27, 2010 
10. Lisa Wood,Karen Martin,Hayley Christian,Andrea Nathan, Claire 
Lauritsen,Steve Houghton,Ichiro Kawachi,Sandra McCune,The Pet Factor - 
Companion Animals as a Conduit for Getting to Know People, Friendship 
Formation and Social Support, PLOS,April 29, 2015
Bikramjit Konwar

Author: Bikramjit Konwar


4 Responses

  1. Informative post. I do not see any cause and effect relationship between owning a pet and improvement in health status. Certainly touch of a living being may create a sense of love and affection and remove loneliness. This may have indirect effect on health status.

    1. Stress can not be handled by a single way, overall life style factor comes to play. In some way a healthy relationship even with a pet can help to lower at least feeling of stress, lower loneliness. That improves brain signal. In some places dog therapy is used. After all they are innocent. However it depends on individual perception. They have to love animal.

  2. You have written a very nice post.Science backs it and yes people feel better after playing and looking after their pets;but what of the pets?Are they happy to have been segregated from their tribe?Is it not selfish on our part to keep them cooped up?

    1. Good point. I personally believe on the relation of friendship with a pet rather than keeping them in a closed area(we have limited option now). I observed pet like dog and cat also enjoy human company. A dog from my nearby house always try come to me when he see I used to pass by. I have a heart toughing memory of my childhood. One of my cousin had a close relationship with a dog. One day incidentally my cousin died, surprisingly the dog also went to the place where my cousin was buried and began to stay there and left to eat for days. After few weeks the dog also died.

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