Scooby Doo shares knowledge with human doctors how to control cancer. Source: The Guardian

Does Pet Ownership Lower Healthcare Spending?

Recently the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute released a paper saying that pet owners reduce national healthcare spending by $11.8 billion.

There are two contributing factors in this number:

  1. Reduced number of healthcare visits; saving $11.37 billion
  2. Lower incidents of obesity; saving $419 million

1. At an average of $139 per visit, this translates into 81.8 million fewer visits to the doctor, 2. the report found that respondents with pets were more active than non-pet owners which may impact their propensity to obesity.

Doing a little more research on this HABRI article, I found this research abstract from an Australian National Survey from 1999 which seems to line up with the finding above.

While the dollar amount sees very high, the results don’t seem shocking given that pets do bring with them a number of positive side effects including, companionship, social interaction, touch, uncomplicated love; all of which tend to reduce stress and blood pressure.

Getting back to the HABRI article, however, Psychology Today cites numerous research articles in this post “Three Reasons Why Pets Dont Lower Healthcare Costs” on why they believe the research is flawed and doesn’t take into account the true cost of owning a pet; and while healthcare costs my be reduced, the number in the research is inflated and the mere fact of owning a pet may be more expensive in the long-run. I think it is a good counter-article to read when looking at the whole savings scenario.

Finally, even if ownership of a pet doesn’t directly reduce your cost of healthcare, due to the interesting situation that veterinary medicine is now becoming very similar to human medicine, there are several overlapping areas where doctors and researchers can learn from each other, gaining efficiency from the other’s work.

This article from The Guardian tells the story of Scooby Doo, pictured above, who goes in for regular treatments for a cancer that has developed and that knowledge learned from how the disease formed and spread may soon be used in human trials.



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