I’ve always had dogs that I walk frequently and run. They keep me in good shape, while supporting my emotional and physical well-being. Until reading some recent research, I hadn’t made the correlation between my dogs and my very infrequent doctor’s visits.
According to recent research by The The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI), pet ownership saves 11.7 billion dollars in health care costs annually. 132.8 million pet owners visit a doctor 0.6 times less than the average non-pet owner. This results in a savings of 11.37 billion dollars. In addition, over 20 million dog owners who walk their dog five or more times a week show a lower incidence of obesity.
We already know pets in our households result in lower stress levels, improved cardiovascular health, enhanced sense of well-being and reduced allergic sensitivities. So this is no surprise that Buster and Kitty are good for us. However, this is the first study looking at the monetary impact on the U.S. healthcare system, according to Terry L. Clower PhD, co-author of the study and Professor of Public Policy at the Virginia’s George Mason University.
And these numbers may be conservative. Due to a lack of data, there are additional health care savings associated with pet ownership that aren’t included in these findings. And, no matter how high the number gets, can we really put an accurate dollar amount on the health benefits of pets? After all, pet parents know they are truly priceless.
Will we soon see health insurance companies adding “getting a pet” to their wellness incentives? Maybe. And, don’t be surprised if the next time you go to the doctor, she writes you up a prescription for adopting a pet at your local shelter.