How Pets Are Saving Americans Billions On Doctor Bills

That new puppy you just adopted may be keeping you up at night, but don’t despair. Your health might actually be better because of it. Studies show that having a pet in your home may save you money on medical bills.

Two researchers from George Mason University calculated a savings of more than $11 billion in health care costs in the United States as a result of pet ownership.

“There was abundant research to show that pets have a positive effect on our health, but this is the first time that anyone has looked at the impact on the U.S. health care system,” said study co-author Terry L. Clower in a release.

“Our analysis shows that pet ownership produces meaningful savings for total health care costs in the United States.”

On average, the 132.8 million pet owners in the country visit a doctor 0.6 times less than the average non-pet owners. With the average cost of a physician office visit at $139, that accounted for $11.37 billion they did not spend.

Not only that, but the dog owners who walked their pet five or more times a week had a lower incidence of obesity and were responsible for saving $419 million in related health care costs, according to the study.

“Thinking about things that people should do to maintain their health, ‘get a pet’ belongs on that list,” said Steven Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative.

“When health insurance companies are looking at wellness incentives to keep costs down, pet ownership provides another way for people to stay healthy and save money.”

Not only are there financial incentives, but also health benefits such as:

  • less cardiovascular disease 
  • hypertension 
  • high cholesterol 
  • allergies 
  • stress 
  • lower blood pressure 
  • psychological issues 
A study reviewed the risk factors associated with multi-drug resistant staphylococci among nursing home residents with pet contact. There was a lower percent infection rate among those who had contact with pets.

Another study indicated pet owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners. It is not just an issue in which those with lower blood pressure choose to own pets, however.

“When non-pet owners became pet owners, they also enjoyed subsequent lower blood pressure levels,” the report says.

A 2011 study showed that exposure to indoor dogs and cats in a child’s early years reduced the risk of that child having allergies at age 18.

One study provided pets to individuals in high-stress occupations. Their blood pressure and heart rate decreased after six months.

It’s not just dogs and cats. Those pets included:
  • snakes 
  • fish 
  • chimpanzees 
  • goats 
“Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with decreased cardiovascular disease” and “pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may have some causal role in reducing cardiovascular disease risk,” according to the American Heart Association.

Approximately 65 percent of households in the United States reported having one or more pets. Households with one or more dogs are approximately 44 percent of households.

Pet ownership is on the increase, according to the 2015–2016 National Pet Owners Survey.

More than 10 percent of the current pet owners are new pet owners, equating to almost 8 million new pet owners in the last year.
The majority of those are in the younger generations. They tend to pamper and spend more on their pets than their parents and grandparents, the Pet Owners Survey said.

Pet owners and doctors alike both say pets are good for health.

The National Pet Owners Survey cited a survey of 1,000 family doctors and general practitioners, in which 97 percent said they believe in the health benefits of pet ownership and 60 percent would recommend a pet to improve overall health.

“The body of science validating that pets are good for us is growing with strong research in numerous areas of health,” said Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association.

“Studies now exist that show pets can help improve our : 
  • cardiovascular health 
  • improve immunity in young children 
  • assist with therapy for autistic children 
  • people suffering from PTSD
Our desire to take better care of our pets and the joys and benefits they provide are continuing to work together to grow pet ownership and keep this great industry strong.”

“Examining the economic benefits of just two of these areas of health care improvement, physician office visits and treatment for obesity, we find major cost savings associated with pet ownership totaling almost $11.8 billion per year,” the report from George Mason says.

“As this research area attracts more attention and studies are initiated with specific economic variables included to capture potential health care costs savings, we will gain a much deeper understanding of the greater total economic value of the human-animal bond.”

The report may be accessed at

Source: Article by Barbara Christiansen 
Images by PNM