We've sniffed out the benefits: This June, more companies are going pet-friendly

pug with a leash

The American Heart Association is buddying up to pets – and it has everything to do with heart health and overall well-being.

At home, pets can help you move more and boost happiness. The benefits even extend into the workplace where pets may increase productivity.

The AHA has launched Best Friend Fridays to encourage companies to open their doors to their employees' pets. Participating companies designate one or more Friday in June for employees to bring their pets to work, a move the association hopes will increase awareness of the health benefits that come with furry friends in the office.

“Pet companionship is associated with overall better health and well-being,” said AHA CEO Nancy Brown. “According to our research, pet companionship may lead to a more active lifestyle, lower blood pressure and reduced stress at home, in the workplace and when managing medical challenges. That's why the American Heart Association is creating Best Friend Fridays. We're bringing awareness to the positive impact our four-legged friends have on our hearts and our minds.”

Research shows a number of positives associated with pet ownership:

  • Pets at work may help reduce stress, increase productivity and improve employee satisfaction, teamwork and collaboration.
  • Pets provide social support – an important factor in helping people stick with healthy habits.
  • Dog owners are more likely to reach their fitness goals non-owners. They are 34% more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week.
  • Pet owners even tend to live longer than non-pet owners. 

Best Friend Fridays is a great opportunity to benefit the health of your employees. Here's how to get involved:

  • Get your employer's support - Ask your employer to participate in Best Friend Fridays. 
  • Get social - When you bring your pet to work on Best Friend Fridays, post a selfie of you and your heart's best friend to spread the word using #BestFriendFridays.
  • Office not pet-friendly? Here's an option - If your company doesn't allow pets at work yet, find a park where you and your pet can meet up with other pet parents in your company. It could be a whole new way to make new friends with your best friend.

“Many studies have explored the relationship between pet ownership and cardiovascular disease and reported a number of beneficial effects,” said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, who is professor of medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, director of the Cardiac Care Unit at the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center and author of the American Heart Association's scientific statement on pet ownership.

“The American Heart Association reviewed available data and found that pet ownership may lead to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease,” he said. “Though additional research is clearly needed on this important topic, pet owners may have another reason to brag about their furry friends – the possibility of our pets contributing to happy minds and healthy hearts.”