This week I set out to answer two questions that have been on my mind: Do pet owners really live longer? And how much does it cost to own a pet? Several studies have shown compelling rewards to sharing your life with a furry friend. I am partial to dogs, so I asked our superstar intern, Peter Bos, to research the costs and benefits of owning a dog. His findings follow below:
From Peter: Everyone knows that dogs are loyal, loving companions. What is less well known is the substantial health and happiness benefits that come from owning a dog. A Miami University study revealed that “pet owners fared better, in terms of well-being than non-owners on several dimensions,” especially regarding mental and physical health. These benefits are not limited to single folks, although pet ownership had the greatest impact on singles. Nevertheless, a study in Scientific Reports found that dog owners live longer than non-owners and the health benefits held true across all family types (singles, families, and couples).
Physical Health Benefits of Dog Ownership:
- Health: Dog owners over the age of 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors, and heart attack patients who own a dog often live longer than those who do not. They also have lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and a reduced risk for heart disease when compared to non-dog owners.
- Exercise: Dogs make great exercise partners. Maybe not for CrossFit, but they can definitely help you get your 10,000 steps. 😊 Mid-size dogs, especially hunting dogs, were shown to improve the health of their owners the most.
- Weight Loss: Average new dog owners who begin walking their dogs five times a week for 20 minutes a day lost 14.5 pounds in a year, without changing their diets at all!
- Routine: Caring for a dog requires you to establish a daily routine of feeding, exercising, cleaning, and taking it outside for bathroom breaks. Studies have shown that those who establish a daily routine and stick to it often eat healthier, sleep better, have less stress, and use their time more efficiently.
Mental Health Benefits of Dog Ownership:
- Companionship: Dog owners are four times less likely to be depressed than non-dog owners. Apparently, people like having a living creature that adores them no matter what and is always happy to see them (even if it slobbers sometimes). Dogs can also sense when you are stressed or anxious and will try to cheer you up.
- Personality: Dog owners have greater self-esteem, are more extraverted, and more courageous, than non-dog owners. Jeremy credits the dog park for the fact that his kids (ages 9, 10, and 13) are comfortable talking to any adult.
- Purpose: The responsibility of having a pet that relies on you provides a sense of belonging and meaning.
- Therapy: Owning a dog has also been shown to help people suffering from various mental health conditions, such as PTSD, Alzheimer’s, autism, and attention deficit disorders.
The Costs of Dog Ownership:
You may be wondering how much all of this joy and the health benefits are going to cost. Let’s not sugarcoat it; owning a dog is a major commitment. Studies have shown that many pet owners significantly underestimate their pet expenses. Your dog’s size, age, the region in which you live, your lifestyle, and your dog’s individual needs all affect how much you spend. The average range is $1,400—$4,300 per year, per dog.
From Jeremy: My two small dogs (Max and Lily) cost our family $6,573 last year, according to my budgeting software, although Max needed surgery, which accounted for about $3,200 of that. However, I know of at least two different people who have one dog and spend $10,000 plus per year on their four-legged friend. One of them spends over $600 a month on doggie daycare because she works all day and doesn’t want her dog to be lonely (or tear up the house). The other has a mobile grooming truck come to her house each week to bathe her dog. These folks obviously spend a lot more than the average. Nevertheless, the point is dogs can be expensive.
Currently, my family is fostering four puppies on behalf of Arizona Pet Adoptions. The puppies are an Australian Shepherd, Labrador mix, one of which is pictured with me above. They’ve had all their shots, are microchipped, and have been spayed or neutered. Email me: [email protected] if you are interested in adding one of these cute little creatures to your family.