7 Ways Pets Lower Stress and Save You Money

Maybe if Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) kept puppies at work, they would have aced their stress test.

OK, that's a stretch. But owning a pet does reduce stress for real people, and possibly contributes to other health benefits, which ultimately can save you money (that means more for your kitty).

Numerous studies indicate that pets not only lower your risk for many diseases but they can also help you heal faster, which keeps your cash into your pocket, rather than in your doctor’s.

We’re not suggesting you ditch your normal health practices—vitamins, exercise or routine medical care—and get a dog instead, but all things considered, a pet may reduce your health-related expenses more than she costs you in kibble and kitty litter.

Here's how:

1. Pets Can Keeps Your Blood Pressure in Check
Potential Expense Offset: $10,800, which is the average cost of a heart attack-related hospital stay, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Additional post-heart attack expenses, according to the American Heart Association, can include $400 drugs and up to $114,000 in related medical costs.

The Scoop: A study in Psychosomatic Medicine linked dog ownership to reduced anxiety, a slower heartbeat, more relaxed muscles and lower blood pressure, plus heightened ability to cope with stress. A separate study showed that cat owners’ blood pressure dropped while they were stroking their cats.

2. Pets can Help You Rebound from Illness Faster
Potential Expense Offset: $3,000, the average cost of a one night hospital stay, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The Scoop: It turns out having a dog may not only help you survive longer after major sickness, but also heal faster (i.e. get you out of the hospital bed sooner!). A study in the American Journal of Critical Care showed that even short-term exposure to dogs after heart failure significantly lowers stress hormones, boosts mood and improves cardiac function.

3. Pets Are Immunity Boosters
Potential Expense Offset: $620, the annual medical visit costs in the U.S., according to an estimate from the National Center for Health Statistics (based on four doctor visits annually at $155 each appointment).

The Scoop: If you hate doctors, you’ll love a pet. Owners are said to make fewer visits on average to their family physicians, according to a UCLA study, probably because they’re less stressed and engage in more physical activity than those without furry companions.

4. Pets Can Lower Cholesterol
Potential Expense Offset: $1,825, which is the annual costs of cholesterol meds, according to USA Today, based on $5 a day price for Zocor (Stock Quote: MRK). (The same drug, simvastatin, is now available generically, and the cost varies widely.)

The Scoop: According to the CDC, pets can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Don't ditch your cholesterol-dropping statin drugs, of course, but several studies have shown that pet owners have lower cholesterol than those in homes with no pets.