Pets provide powerful benefits to people

Media release date: 
Friday, 14 June 2013

A recent statement released by the American Heart Association, and endorsed by the National Heart Foundation of Australia, has outlined the benefits of pet ownership in reducing cardiovascular disease in humans.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, heart disease was the leading cause of death in Australia in 2011.

President of the Australian Veterinary Association’s small animal group, Dr David Neck, said that there have been many studies that have shown the positive relationship between pet ownership and CVD.

“These benefits include increased physical activity, lower blood pressure and less stress,” he said.

The purpose of the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Statement was to critically assess the available data and studies that examine the influence of pet ownership and the reduction of heart disease risk factors.

An Australian study of 5741 participants attending a free screening clinic found that pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure than non-owners despite similar body mass index (BMI) and socioeconomic status.

The AHA also analysed a study of 240 married couples with or without pets that found blood pressure to be significantly lower in those couples with pets than without.

“If there's one thing all dog owners know, it's how demanding dogs can be when it comes to ‘walk time’. Their excited yelps do wonders for our health. Researchers from the University of Western Australia found that people walk 48 minutes more per week after they get a dog.

“Whether it’s a walk on the leash or throwing a ball in the park, it all adds up and provides great health benefits to humans,” Dr Neck said.

Another Australian study reported that dog owners engaged in significantly more minutes per week of physical activity and walking and were more likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity than non-owners.

“Participating in physical activity together, not only strengthens the bond you have with your pet, it can help reduce obesity, is good for mental health and increases social interaction.

"People in the company of dogs are more likely to have social interactions with other people. If you're walking a dog you're far more likely to talk to people than if you don't have a dog with you.”

The AHA statement can be downloaded at: AHA statement

For further information and requests for interviews contact the AVA media office on (02) 9431 5062, 0439 628 898 or

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is the only national association representing veterinarians in Australia. Founded in 1921, the AVA today represents 9000 members working in all areas of animal science, health and welfare.

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