For any of the 70% of U.S. households that include at least one pet among the family, it's a well-known fact that pets have special powers. They make us laugh, pick us up if we’re feeling down, and offer quiet companionship when maybe we just need a friend. All of which, of course, just makes us love them more.

Employers and pet parents might be surprised to learn that through the positive experiences and relationships we share with our pets, there are some very real health benefits for humans that science is only now starting to understand. From improved physical and mental health to fostering better social engagement, the bond between pets and their people runs deep.

And for working pet parents, many of whom have suddenly been thrust into fully remote or hybrid work situations, pets have taken on an even bigger role when it comes to everyday employee health and well-being.

Employee Pet Benefits: Why Employers Need to Provide Pet Wellness Plans

So, what is the pet wellness effect, and how can we create more of it? Why should employers offer employee pet wellness plans as part of a benefits package? Again, research is just scratching at the surface, but here’s some of what we know so far about the health and wellness benefits that come with being a pet parent.

1. Heart Health

Maybe it’s because they bring more love into our lives, but studies have shown pets can be good for our hearts in several respects. One obvious way pets contribute to a healthy heart is as a motivator for physical activity, like dog walks and playtime, which are a lot harder to say no to than your daily workout routine.

Maybe one of the more surprising heart-pet connections comes from research that demonstrates a link between dog ownership and better health outcomes for people recovering from a heart attack and stroke. (1)

Pets have also been shown to help the heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of hypertension, according to a statement by the American Heart Association. (2) Every little bit counts, as high blood pressure costs the United States an estimated $131 to $198 billion each year, including health-care services, medications, and loss of productivity from premature death. (3)

2. Social Currency

Pets provide meaningful friendship all on their own, but having pets can also build bridges to better friendships among people, too. By creating common ground for social engagement, pets encourage healthy social activities, like sharing pet photos and videos, meetups, pet parks and cafes, and online groups and social media for people with shared interests in pets of every kind.

For those remote employees who might live alone or may miss the daily social interaction of the workplace, pets can be an easy and fun way to connect with others and the world outside.  Offering employee pet wellness plans will be imperative for these individuals.

3. Emotional Well-Being

As the social creatures we are, loneliness can profoundly negatively impact  a person’s mental health and sense of well-being. We don’t need to look any further than the experience of the past couple of years under a global pandemic for more proof of that. For too many, isolation and loneliness can make the pressures of daily life unmanageable, increasing stress and feelings of depression and anxiety.

Coming to our rescue once again, research shows interacting with pets can lower our levels of the stress hormone cortisol,(4) and another study between dogs and their owners demonstrates an increase in levels of oxytocin, a hormone linked to bonding and positive emotional states when looking into each other’s eyes. (5)

It also seems we humans know what’s good for us when the chips are down, with one in five U.S. households acquiring a pet during the initial year of the pandemic, March 2020 through May 2021, driving pet ownership to all-time highs. (6)

So, while the bond between a pet and pet parent has no bounds, it should be said that dogs and cats are by far the most popular pets in the United Staes today, with more than 114 million fur babies in total. (7)

And with all the love and additional benefits pets provide for their people, it’s never been more important to protect the health and well-being of your employees by protecting their pets. In so many ways now, pet wellness is essential to employee wellness— that’s why all employers should consider adopting an employee pet wellness plan.

Wagmo’s Employee Pet Wellness Plan

For employers thinking about adding employee pet benefits, the Wagmo Wellness plan offers a more rewarding alternative to pet insurance with an easy, turnkey workplace solution and powerful financial benefit employees can use right away.

Also different from pet insurance, our employee pet wellness plan pays pet parents back up to $650 per year per pet for proactive care like vaccines, routine visits, and flea and tick prevention, lowering the risk of chronic disease and overall care costs while keeping pets healthy for a lifetime.

Want to improve employee well-being and help pets stay healthy with Wagmo? Get in touch at partnerships@wagmo.io or visit www.wagmo.io/benefits to learn more about our employee pet wellness and insurance plans.

Sources

  1. Mubanga, M., Byberg, L., Nowak, C., et al. Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death – a nationwide cohort study. Sci Rep 7, 15821 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-16118-6
  2. Levine GN, Allen K, Braun LT, Christian HE, Friedmann E, Taubert KA, Thomas SA, Wells DL, Lange RA; on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology and Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing. Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013;127:2353–2363
  3. Kirkland EB, Heincelman M, Bishu KG, Schumann SO, Schreiner A, Axon RN, Mauldin PD, Moran WP. Trends in Healthcare Expenditures Among US Adults With Hypertension: National Estimates, 2003-2014. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 May 30;7(11):e008731. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.118.008731. PMID: 29848493; PMCID: PMC6015342.
  4. Pendry P, Vandagriff JL. Animal Visitation Program (AVP) Reduces Cortisol Levels of University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial. AERA Open. April 2019. doi:10.1177/2332858419852592
  5. Somppi Sanni, Törnqvist Heini, Topál József, Koskela Aija, Hänninen Laura, Krause Christina M., Vainio Outi. Nasal Oxytocin Treatment Biases Dogs’ Visual Attention and Emotional Response toward Positive Human Facial Expressions. Frontiers in Psychology. Volume 8,2017.  DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01854
  6. ASPCA Pandemic Pet Ownership Survey released 05/26/2021. Data accessed via ASPCA website 02/21/22: https://aspca.app.box.com/s/v4t7yrwalwk39mf71a857ivqoxnv2x3d.
  7. APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 2021-2022