I love animals. They are my life’s work and my passion. So naturally, I feel that no one’s life is complete without the pitter patter of paws. But fortunately, I have some heavy hitting research to back me up!

Consider these:

1. Faster Healing and Improved Physical Health

Doctors overwhelmingly believe there are health benefits to owning pets.

97% reported that they believe there were health benefits that resulted from owning a pet.(HABRI Oct 2014 survey). Specialists also agree. Oncologists found that animals were an integral part of treatment protocols.

"This study is the first such definitive study in cancer, and it highlights the merits of animal assisted visits using the same scientific standards as we hold for the cancer treatment itself. It shows the importance of an innovative environmental intervention during cancer treatment,” said Stewart B. Fleishman, MD, principal investigator and Founding Director of Cancer Supportive Services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. "Having an animal-assisted visit significantly improved their quality of life and 'humanized' a high-tech treatment,” he said. “Patients said they would have stopped their treatments before completion, except for the presence of the certified Good Dog Foundation therapy dog and volunteer handler.”

“A pet is a medication without side effects that has so many benefits. I can't always

explain it myself, but for years now I've seen how instances of having a pet is like an

effective drug. It really does help people.” Dr. Edward Creagan , an Oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

2. Fewer Allergies

Several studies have indicated that exposure of children to pets at a young age may decrease the likelihood of developing allergies later on. One such study, published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, researchers looked at the association between lifetime dog and cat exposure and allergic sensitization in a group of children. Researchers found that being exposed dogs or cats at home during the first year of life was the most important factor in the reduced risk of allergic sensitization later in life.

3. More exercise and improved cardiovascular health

You know that your dog needs exercise. Somehow, many times you will prioritize his needs

above your own. He makes you feel guiltier than the tightness of your pants does.

His needs are a stronger motivator than what is only good for you. So the two of you can get what you both need, exercise and together time.

Studies suggest that four-legged friends can help to improve our cardiovascular health. One NIH funded study looked at 421 adults who’d suffered heart attacks. A year later, the scientists found, dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than were those who did not own dogs, regardless of the severity of the heart attack.

4. Less Anxiety

Your pet can always be counted on to be a constant in your life. Your cat always purrs when she sees you. Your dog is always happy when you arrive. In our overly busy and ever changing world, it is peaceful to have something you can count on. Pets provide unconditional peace and steady warmth.

Dr. James Griffin, a scientist at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says, “When children are asked who they talk to when they get upset, a lot of times their first answer is their pet. This points to the importance of pets as a source of comfort and developing empathy. In fact, therapists and researchers have reported that children with autism are sometimes better able to interact with pets, and this may help in their interactions with people.”

5. More responsibility and empathy

A pet’s needs can give you the push you need to place something above yourself. Who wants to deprive their friend of basic needs? Knowing that something is completely counting on you is a great way to learn responsibility and selflessness, for children and adults. Countless studies have shown that pet ownership inspires empathy and help build moral intelligence in children.

6. Less loneliness and improved confidence

Pets always listen to you and never argue with your observations. Animals help children learn to read because they listen without judgment. So there are so many great reasons to add a pet to your family. You all will be happier and healthier, but mentally and physically.

Dr. Kathryn Primm is a veterinarian and author. Her first book is Tennessee Tails: Pets and Their People, and you can visit her author site at http://www.drprimm.com/