Man and his dog

Human Animal Interaction

New published research shows pet ownership is good for our cognitive health as we age

Previous Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) research has shown that older adults who walk their pets are in better physical health then those who don't. Now, a study supported by the Waltham Petcare Science Institute and published in Scientific Reports has found a clear link between pet ownership, dog walking and a slowdown in age-related cognitive decline. 

In a team led by Professor Erika Friedmann - Department of Organizational Systems and Adult Health, University of Maryland School of Nursing - data was collected and analyzed from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Ageing (BLAS). This is currently the longest running scientific study of ageing in humans. 

For a period of up to 13 years, regular cognitive assessments were carried out on 637 adults over 50 years of age. 185 of those adults were pet owners.

Analysis of the assessments found some key differences between pet owners and those without pets. Primarily, pet ownership and dog walking were found to support the maintenance of cognitive health. Cat and dog owners were also found to enjoy better short-term memory recall compared with their pet-free counterparts.

Another difference was between dog owners themselves: those who walk vs those who don't. For dog walkers, cognitive deterioration was slower.

The results of this study strengthen growing evidence of the many physical and mental health benefits of pet ownership. So far, these benefits include improving heart health, improving confidence in children, encouraging healthy ageing and even reducing pain following surgery.

By continuing to advance HAI research, we continue to highlight the importance of pets to society - and the need for us to keep our pets healthy and serve our purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS