Pet Essay

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Effect of keeping pets in health

The most possible reason for the low prevalence of high blood pressure among pet owners is the increase in exercise or physical activity since even the American Heart Association urges people to exercise at least 30 minutes at least five days per week. Lots of physical activity came along with the presence of pets such as bathing, feeding, walking the pets washing their cage, aquarium, and others. Exercising regularly makes the heart of a pet owner healthier and stronger in pumping blood to the body. A strong heart pumps blood with less effort thus reducing the force on arteries and lowering the blood pressure. It is assumed that the presence of pets indirectly encourages pet owners to exercise more which leads to better cardiovascular health. In addition, calming effect of pet therapy also helps to promote better cardiovascular health by slowing down the heart rate and reducing blood pressure. With consistent evidence from Grossberg and Alf (1985), it was found that among a few activities such as chatting and reading, undergraduate students have the second lowest blood pressure when stroking a dog and the lowest blood pressure during resting. This positive finding is related to lower mean arterial pressure and systolic blood pressure (Beetz, Uvnas-Moberg, Julius & Kotrschal, 2012). Besides exercising more frequently, it is also possible that pet owners take better care of themselves compared to non-pet owners. This is an idea suggested by the National Institute of Endocrinology of Havana, Cuba after carrying out research among cardio patients.

Respondents agreed that having pets motivated them to follow the instructions of doctors and treatment. They were more aware of their health status due to the presence of pets (CorSalud, 2014). Allen, Blascovich, and Mendes mentioned that the blood pressure of pet owners goes back to a normal level and recovers faster even if they are experiencing higher blood pressure when exposed to a natural stressor (2002) thus this lower the risk of pet owners from getting a heart attack. This perception links to the study of Friedmann, Thomas, and Son (2011) who suggest that even if pet owners had a heart attack, their probability of recovering and staying alive is definitely higher than non-pet owners. According to the survey result, interpretation can be done that for the non-cardio patient, pet ownership helps to lower the risk of having such diseases while for cardio-patient, it helps to control their sickness and prevent deterioration.

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Past research proved that early exposure to pets helps to build up the immune system toward pet allergens that lowered the risk of getting asthma or allergy (Hesselmar, N. Aberg, B. Aberg, Eriksson, & Bjorksten, 1999; Lynch & Boushey, 2016). Overall from the survey done, it seems that pet owners having such diseases are uncommon which is parallel to the conclusion of the above research. However, studying closer and more detail, it was found that among the 5 pet owners who have asthma or allergy, 3 of them (60%) are exposed to pets since they were small and have been keeping pets for 5 to 10 years. This result corresponds better to the conclusion of Luo and others (2017) that early exposure to pets does not help in preventing asthma or allergy, especially in big cities.

The contradiction between the two types of research can be explained by the different understanding of “early exposure” as the Western researchers included the maternal pregnant stage while the China researchers carried out experiments based on the first year of birth. Western research also can be interpreted as pets only indirectly introduce bacteria protective to asthma and allergy. This means the main protective factor is the presence of microbes instead of the pet itself. Thus, possibly only specific types of pets will introduce such protective microbes, and this causes the difference in drawing a conclusion. Another explanation is the build-up of the immune system is not possible for every kind of microbes and allergen on different types of pets thus it is not true that the longer the pet owners are keeping pets, the lower the risk they have these diseases due to the tolerance builds up to these microbes and allergens. Due to the cute, furry, or fluffy characteristics of pets, it is assumed that interaction with pets will help to lighten people’s moods by reducing stress or depression.

The common explanation for this response (agreeing pets help to reduce stress and depression) from pet owners is they receive unconditional love and acceptance from their pets. However, discussed more scientifically, this result supports the opinion of past research that interaction with pets releases dopamine that makes us feel good and happy besides discharging oxytocin that is responsible for the benefits of HAI including reducing stress hormones and promoting calmness. The Oxytocin system is stimulated through touching, stroking, and even eye contact in a trusting relationship which best describes the relationship between a pet and its owner. Interacting with an animal, especially a pet which people are familiar with reduces self-reported anxiety and eliminate negative mood that leads to stress (Beetz, Uvnas-Moberg, Julius & Kotrschal, 2012). All these research and survey validate that pets and stress conditions go hand in hand. Pets provide companionship and ease our loneliness which helps to remove negative feelings such as anxiety, fear and hopelessness.

An experiment done by Colombo et al. (2016) revealed that after caring for a canary for 3 months, the elderly in an old folks home showed a significant reduction in depression and improvement in quality of life (Beetz, Uvnas-Moberg, Julius & Kotrschal, 2012). Pets neither worry about tomorrow nor yesterday which is a great example of being in the moment. This encourages pet owners to stay positive and be mindful where mindfulness is a process of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. Thus, pet owners learn to live by the moment and appreciate the present (Newport Academy, 2018). This benefit can be observed more clearer in pet owners with mental illness as mentioned in the literature review. Dr. Helen. Brooks, the lead author of the study said that pets provide something which patients often do not receive from family or social relationships, which is the unique validation of unconditional support. Either scientifically proven animal-assisted therapy or just the opinions of pet owners showed that pet ownership is associated with positive mood affect. Many types of research show that people feel good and relaxed when interacting with cute animals but they do not point out specific ways of interaction. In this study, it was found that pet owners feel that the best way of releasing stress and depression with pets is to play with them (22 people, 73.3%) and the second way is by petting their pets (18 people, 60%). 17 respondents (56.7%) admitted that talking to their pets helps in reducing stress and depression.

The most possible reason for this response is pets do not understand our language thus pet owner can say whatever they want without worrying others’ opinions or criticism, which they cannot do in front of the public. Half of the respondents (15 people, 50%) believe that they feel relaxed just by looking at their pets which is most relevant to fish owners. The other 5 respondents (16.7%) feel that doing nothing but being in the same place or area is enough for stress and depression reduction. These people are most possibly dog or cat owners who keep their pet in their house and have really close relationship with their pet thus they feel comfortable and relaxed just by knowing the presence of their pet. Besides how keeping pets affect our physical and mental health, this research also aims to answer the question of why people keep pets. Among the 30 respondents, most people which is 21 people (70%) select they love animals as their reason for keeping pets. Love towards animals made them want to care for and be with animals in daily life even if it cost quite a lot of money. 14 of them which means almost half of the total respondents (46.7%) consider keeping pets as they want a companion.

This need for a companion can be related to the trend of being single and not married thus needing another living animal to accompany them instead of living alone. 12 people (40%) keep pets as pets are cute. Cute things make people feel happy and joyful, let alone cute animals that may provide love for pet owners. 4 respondents (13.3%) take keeping pets as their hobby and only 3 people (10%) keep pets due to other reasons such as health benefits or safeguard purposes. From this result, the conclusion can be drawn that gaining health benefits is the least important factor of keeping pets which some pet owners never even consider. It is not surprising that the answer to the last survey question that 29 respondents (96.7%) which mean almost all respondents are willing to keep pets even if research shows that there are no health benefits for pet owners. It suits the response to the previous question that asked about the reason for keeping pets. According to a 2015 Harris Poll, 95% of pet owners considered their pets as part of their family which shows that pets are very important in their life as if they were people who are as close as family members. Since most respondents rear pets because they really do love animals, they tend to seek love, attention and companionship from these animals instead of health benefits. Conclusion In conclusion, we conclude that pet ownership brings beneficial effects to pet owners at least from the aspect of mental health and cardiovascular health. Pet owners have better psychological health with lesser stress and depression.

Pet owners are also less probable to have a heart attack and high blood pressure due to a larger volume of physical activity. For asthma and allergy, further research is needed to prove whether early exposure to pets help in preventing the development of such disease since the result of this research allows the researcher to come out with two possible interpretation. These will be the answer to the research question of how keeping pets affect our physical and mental health. Secondly, researchers found that love towards animals becomes the answer to the research question of why people keep pets and this led to the response of pet owners are still willing to keep pets even if there are no health benefits. Limitation One of the limitations of this research is the number of participants. The number of participants was too little which was only 30 people with only 10 from each age group. There was no specific age group for the elderly who should not be categorized as above 35 years old. This made the result seem too generalized and could not represent the real condition of the whole age group. Besides, due to a lack of specialized and in-depth knowledge of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and asthma, the survey form was designed to be very simple without asking for details and differences in each personal case. The survey questions were formed to be closed-ended questions (multiple choices) which disallowed the participants to fill in the answer freely as they wish.

The survey form was not conclusive enough as it only gave little information. Last but not least, this research only studies the pet ownership factor without considering other possible factors such as household income, gene inheritance, and living environment that might also affect the health of participants. These limitations might lead the researcher to make inaccurate interpretations or conclusion. Implication It is hoped that future research can overcome this limitation to come out with a more accurate and detailed result that will benefit the public. Bigger sample size is recommended to collect more data which will help to improve the accuracy of results. The population age should also be widened, covering children and the elderly so that different health issues can be focused on different age groups. Furthermore, the method of research can be adjusted, for example, future researchers can consider using a qualitative method such as in-depth interviews so that individual differences can be given credit. Instead of using a simple survey form, the qualitative method helps to collect more data and gives more attention to small details. The result from the qualitative method is also less generalized. Lastly, other factors should be considered in order to prove that pet ownership really does benefit the health of pet owners. Future researchers should set other factors as controlled variables before comparing and evaluating the result.

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Pet Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
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