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Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk reduction: supporting evidence, conflicting data and underlying mechanisms

By K. Arhant-Sudhir, R. Arhant-Sudhir, K. Sudhir

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It is widely believed that pet ownership is beneficial to humans and that some of this benefit is through favourable effects on cardiovascular risk. In the present review, we critically examine the evidence in support of this hypothesis and present the available data with respect to major cardiovascular risk factors. There is evidence that dog owners are less sedentary and have lower blood pressure, plasma cholesterol and triglycerides, attenuated responses to laboratory-induced mental stress and improved survival following myocardial infarction compared with non-pet owners. However, conflicting data exist with regard to the association between pet ownership and each of these risk factors. Numerous non-cardiovascular effects of pet ownership have been reported, largely in the psychosocial domain, but the relationship is complex and can vary with demographic and social factors. A unifying hypothesis is presented, linking improved mood and emotional state to decreased central and regional autonomic activity, improved endothelial function and, thus, lower blood pressure and reduced cardiac arrhythmias. Overall, ownership of domestic pets, particularly dogs, is associated with positive health benefits.

Date 2011
Publication Title Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology
Volume 38
Issue 11
Pages 734-738
ISBN/ISSN 0305-1870
DOI 10.1111/j.1440-1681.2011.05583.x
Language English
Author Address Center for Cardiovascular Technology, Stanford University Medical Center, 300 Pasteur Dr, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Arrhythmia
  2. Blood
  3. Blood Pressure
  4. Cardiovascular health
  5. Carnivores
  6. Cholesterol
  7. Coronary diseases
  8. Diseases
  9. Dogs
  10. Heart
  11. Heart attack
  12. Heart disease
  13. Humans
  14. Mammals
  15. Mental stress
  16. myocardial infarction
  17. Ownership
  18. Pets and companion animals
  19. Primates
  20. Psychological stress
  21. Reviews
  22. risk factors
  23. triglycerides
  24. Vascular diseases