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How Pets Boost Your Immune System

Article at a Glance

  1. Every food choice is either feeding health or feeding disease – choose wisely!
  2. Owning pets help us manage stress and improve our health!
  3. We all need more pets in our lives!

Here at Rocketo, we care about your health and wellbeing as much as your dogs. We are putting together a series of helpful blogs about how you can support yourselves and your pets at this time. The good news is that science has confirmed what we animal parents have known all along – sharing your life with animals is good for your health in many ways! After reading this we think you will be even more grateful for your pets!

Pets Boost Your Immune System

People who have dogs and cats (and we are sure this applies to other animals) have better immune systems, for many reasons, here are just a few reasons why: Research undertaken in 2018 and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology [1] has shown that babies who live with a dog or cat for their first year have reduced chances of asthma, pneumonia and bronchiolitis. That is great news!

Other research, such as a study undertaken in 2004 [2] has shown that petting a dog for only 18 minutes raised immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels in people’s saliva, a sign of robust immune function.

Much is now known and being studied, on the importance of a healthy microbiome, for all species, with regard to immune health. Indeed it is known that at least 80% of the immune function happens in the digestive tract. It is also important to note that the digestive tract starts in your mouth! Studies have found that Amish children, who grow up with livestock, have lower rates of asthma [3], and it is thought that this may be related to the bacteria sharing! Other ongoing studies are also showing that dog and cat bacteria can help enhance the human microbiome, and a diverse microbiome is thought to be very important in reducing depression, amongst other things.

Pet Boost Heart Health

There is much interest in how living with pets can potentially lower the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. A Swedish study [4] studied 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 over a 12 year period, and followed their health records, and whether they owned a dog or not. The study found that for people who lived alone, owning a dog can decrease their risk of death by 33% and their risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36%, compared to single people without a pet. Chances of having a heart attack were also 11% lower. A 2019 review of nearly 70 years of research found that dog ownership lowers your risk of dying from any cause by 24%. For people who’ve already had a stroke or heart attack, their risk drops by 31% when they have a dog [5].

Pets Reduce Stress

There are so many ways that pets help to reduce stress. One of the main ways they do this is to increase oxytocin levels (known as the ‘love’ hormone) [6]. Scientists have measured the changes in hormone levels after interactions with dogs and proven what we dog parents have always known! In addition, pets can lower stress by:

  • 🟡 Encouraging touch
  • 🟡 Offering unconditional love & acceptance – Giving us a purpose & sense of responsibility
  • 🟡 Promoting better sleep!
  • 🟡 Alas, when all 5 of my cats sleep on me this has the opposite effect! [6]
  • 🟡 Therapy dogs have also been shown to reduce anxiety, student stress and improve school attendance [8]
  • And A 2006 study from the University of Portsmouth found walking the dog daily can ward off depression and loneliness [9].

Pets Increase our Exercise Levels

We all know that in today’s modern world many of us simply do not get enough exercise, especially in the winter months! Having a dog has been shown to decrease loneliness, stay physically fit, reconnect with nature – all of which have been shown to decrease obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Author of the study, Natural England health adviser, Dr William Bird said: “Increasing evidence suggests that both physical and mental health are improved through contact with nature.” [9].

The Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog owners are more likely to reach their fitness goals than those without canine companions. Researchers at Michigan State University found that dog owners are 34 percent more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners. The study also found that owning a dog promotes health and fitness even after you take your pup for a stroll, increasing leisure-time physical activity by 69 percent.

A University of Missouri study found that walking with a puppy leads to a 28 percent increase in walking speed, compared to only a 4 percent increase when walking with a human buddy.

Not only are dog walkers getting more exercise, but they’re also getting better quality exercise (walking faster and possibly covering more mileage), than people who simply walk or run on their own. Dog walkers are also more likely to stick to their fitness plans than those who walk with other humans or alone.

Dog-owning families often promote physical activity within the household, shows a study from the University of Virginia, which found that teens from dog-owning families are more physically active than teens whose families don’t own a pet dog. With rising rates of childhood obesity, owning a dog might give kids an incentive to get out of the house and spend more time outside, leading to better fitness levels—thereby lowering the incidence of disease—later in life. [10]


[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091674917314392

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15762389

[3] https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1508749

[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-16118-6

[5] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.119.005554

[6] https://www.today.com/health/should-your-pets-sleep-bed-you-new-studys-surprising-answers-t61266

[7] https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2019/02/28/woman-sleeps-better-with-dogs.aspx?cid_source=facebook&cid_medium=social&cid_content=facebookpets&cid=image_20200307&fbclid=IwAR38ySDGdhk3mJSS92Vw-MPKcWe8Ivv-CMDy0Ih0-Wu76Nb_XdJEKRotzTU

[8] http://theconversation.com/therapy-dogs-can-help-reduce-student-stress-anxiety-and-improve-school-attendance-93073

[9] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/walking-the-dog-beats-loneliness-and-depression-research-reveals-7204267.html

[10] https://www.active.com/fitness/articles/are-dog-owners-healthier-people


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