Frederick the Great of Prussia was apparently the first person to coin the phrase about a dog being a man’s best friend. What Frederick didn’t mention was that our household pets also bring many great benefits to our health and wellbeing.

Those health and wellbeing benefits are one of the best reasons for owning a pet. Pets can prevent the causes of heart disease, relieve stress and anxiety, help lift the fog of depression and even regulate the chemical make-up of our bodies –doctors should just hand out cats or dogs to patients. It would be a much more effective way of curing the nation’s ills, as this list of five ways that pets can improve your health shows.

They help prevent mental health problems

Pets can help prevent a range of mental health problems. They reduce depression by taking away feelings of loneliness and isolation thanks to the bond formed between owner and pet. Stroking or playing with a pet can raise the body’s levels of nerve transmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which have calming properties, reducing stress and anxiety.

They help prevent physical health problems

By helping reduce stress, pets also help to manage the level of harmful hormones like cortisol which are released into the body. Cortisol can negatively affect immune systems and lead to plaque build-up in arteries which is a red flag for heart disease. Several studies also suggest that heart attack victims who have pets tend to survive for longer than those that don’t, although nobody seems to know why this is. So pets can also help prevent physical health problems, too.

They can get you a date

We all need a bit of love in our lives to stay healthy. So forget online dating or Tinder, the real way to get the ball rolling when it comes to looking for love is with a pet. They are great conversation starters – one minute you’re exchanging a “hello” to the guy or girl you see every weekend walking his dog through the woods, the next you’re going out for a coffee. What’s even better, the cute nickname you give your pet can cause admiring glances. If you’re looking for more information on what to call your furry friend, you’ll find plenty online.

They help you fight allergies

This probably isn’t a fact that you’d expect to find in a blog highlighting the health advantages of having a pet, but pets really can help you fight allergies. Children growing up in a home with furred animals are less at risk from allergies and asthma, while for adults, exposure to animal allergens over a period can boost your immune system.

They encourage you to exercise

By owning a dog, you are guaranteeing that you will be walking on a regular basis. While you might be able to make excuses to avoid walking in other scenarios, such as the weather is bad, better take the car; two miles is too far, better call a taxi. There is no getting out of walking the dog. He or she needs regular exercise, and you’ll be getting it too as a result.