Dr Trudie Prinsloo is a qualified veterinarian and attorney. In 2015, she started Legalvet Services to provide legal advice to the animal health and veterinary industries in South Africa – and now she’s teamed up with us to tell us more about the human health benefits of owning a pet. Dr Prinsloo is a veterinarian and cannot give advice on human health. The information in this blog is for educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding your medical conditions. dotsure.co.za is not responsible or liable for any advice or any other information provided herein. 


If you don’t have a pet yet and don't want one, stop reading now. This may just convince you to become a pet owner! If you are already a pet parent, let me tell you why your pet is better for your health than most diets and exercise programmes will ever be.

Here are some of the free health benefits your pet provides:

A source of laughter

Okay, confession: This is not from a research paper, but based on my own personal observation. Pets do the goofiest things! My dogs often make me laugh so loudly that my neighbours probably think I'm watching a comedy. What research does show is that laughter is good for us. It releases endorphins (the "feel-good" hormone) leading to decreased anger and increased relaxation.

Outdoor and physical activities

Dogs, and cats to a lesser extent, encourage their owners to be physically active and spend time outdoors. Some studies suggest dog owners have fewer weight problems, presumably due to being more active. And it is not just the physical activity that will benefit you, but also the time you spend outdoors. Covid-19 taught us all about the benefits of Vitamin D and the best way to boost your Vitamin D levels is to spend time in the sun.

Improved heart health

Several studies report a positive correlation between heart health and pet ownership. Owning pets is linked to decreased blood pressure and lower heart rates, which reduces stress and is good for heart health. Probably the most quoted study was published by Friedmann et al. in 1980 in which they showed that the one-year survival rate after myocardial infarction of pet owners was higher than that of people who did not have pets. Another interesting study found that pet owners were likelier to complete their cardiac rehabilitation than people with no pets.

Improved immune system

It has been shown that children living with pets are less likely to develop respiratory infections and allergies. The benefits were more in children living with dogs, although there was also some benefit seen in children living with cats. For this benefit to be seen children had to live with the pets in their first year of life.

Improved emotional health

There are several ways in which pets can improve emotional health and act as an antidote for depression. Companionship provided by pets plays a vital role. Pets can become as important to people as their human relatives. Touching, stroking, and cuddling of pets causes the release of hormones that have positive emotional effects in humans. Even watching aquarium fish or listening to the purring sounds of a cat can have a calming and relaxing effect on humans.

I am not suggesting that you delete your medical doctor’s number or forget about exercise or a healthy diet, but for those of us who like pets, the health benefits of having them are numerous.