Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

The Benefits of Having a Dog: 6 Reasons Your Best Friend Is Good for Your Heart

benefits of having a dog: therapy dog Bo helps stressed patients calm down
Bo is one of the hospital’s therapy dogs and helps patients and families during tough times.

You know your fur babies are great for snuggles and squirrel patrol. But did you know pets — dogs especially — are good for your heart? According to the American Heart Association, owning a dog may decrease your risk for heart disease and cardiovascular events. Here are some of the reasons why researchers are drawing this conclusion:

6 Health Benefits of Having a Dog

More exercise

Dog owners typically get more exercise than non-owners. “By taking your dog for a walk, you’re incorporating exercise into your daily routine, so being active becomes second nature,” says cardiologist Brandy Patterson, MD. “All it takes is about 20 minutes to get in 2,000 steps. That’s a great head start to achieving the 10,000 steps per day recommended by the American Heart Association.”

Lower blood pressure

Dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure on average than non-owners, according to several studies. Research shows that blood pressure may also go down when someone pets a dog.

Better cholesterol levels

Dog owners may also have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels that are not explained by diet, smoking or BMI, according to one study, although the reasons for this are not clear.

Celebrate National Dog Day With Us

This Sunday, Aug. 26, is National Dog Day. Take a photo of your beloved pups and share with us on social media with #NationalDogDayUVA.

Better reaction to stress

Dogs have been shown to have a calming effect on people. When petting a dog, your body releases relaxation hormones and reduces levels of stress hormones. Research shows that being around dogs may help keep heart rate and blood pressure in check and also return them to normal more quickly when stressed.

More social connection

Having a dog makes it easier for you to connect with other people – and social interaction is good for your mental and physical health.

Increased happiness

People with pets may be happier, more trusting and less lonely than those who don’t own pets, according to research. When you’re happier, it’s good for your heart in more ways than one.

So the next time your floors are covered in muddy paw prints or your shoes are mistaken for chew toys, this is just one more reminder that it’s all worth it!


Copyright 2018 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week