Pet ownership saves billions in health care costs

Having a pet not only improves one’s health, it saves billions in health care costs, according to a new study.

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation announced this week the findings of a new study on the health care cost savings associated with pet ownership.

The economic analysis – conducted by researchers from George Mason University – showed that pet ownership results in $11.7 billion in health care savings.

The savings were recognized in fewer visits to the doctor and lower rates of obesity.

An estimated 65 percent of U.S. households have one or more pets. That accounts for nearly 133 million pet owners, according to the study.

Those pet owners visit their physician .6 fewer times than the average non-pet owner, according to the study. Assuming the average cost of a doctor office visit is $139, pet owners were responsible for saving $11.37 billion in health care costs, according to the study.

About 44 percent of U.S. households (nearly 90 million adults) have one or more dogs.

Dog owners who walk their dog five or more times per week – an estimated 20 million people – have lower incidences of obesity and, as such, save $419 million in health care costs, according to the study.

The incidence of obesity among people who regularly walk their dogs is 5 percent lower than non-pet owners, according to the report.

“Thinking about things that people should do to maintain their health, ‘get a pet’ belongs on that list,” said Steven Feldman, foundation executive director, in a news release. “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.”

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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