Pet Prescription? Reduce Stress, Improve Health (cont.)

Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine -- nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties, he tells WebMD.

"People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature," says Justice, who recently hiked the Colorado Rockies with his wife and two dogs.

Good for the Heart

Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies. Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease -- lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels -- than non-owners, researchers say.

SOURCES: Gern, J. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, February 2004; vol 113: pp 307-314. WebMD Feature: "Pet Doctor." WebMD Feature: "Everyday Playtime for Adults." Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University, Atlanta. Lynette Hart, PhD, associate professor, University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Blair Justice, PhD, psychology professor, University of Texas School of Public Health; author, Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health.

Reviewed on September 25, 2008

©2005-2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

Last Editorial Review: 9/25/2008