Pets and their owners may share similar health risks and benefits, and a study to examine that phenomenon was recently funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI). The US$27,000 grant went to Lincoln Memorial University, for a study titled, “Measuring the impact of a mutually reinforcing relationship between pet owners and their pets.”

This research project will analyze data collected via a series of public health fairs and develop a general model of health and wellness behavior to examine the relationship between the health of humans and their pets and whether patterns of health and health-associated behaviors are similar. It is anticipated that the model will help determine that pets share the same health benefits and risks as their owners.

“Healthy pets make healthy people,” said HABRI Executive Director Steve Feldman in a press release. “Lincoln Memorial University can help us establish this important connection so that the human-animal bond is universally accepted as an essential element of human wellness.”

Pet-owner pair health study design

The one-year pilot study will aim to obtain data sufficient to describe the current state of health and health-associated behaviors in owner-pet pairs in the Cumberland Gap region of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Health metric data including body weight, heart rate, blood pressure and height will be collected for 300 human subjects and their pet dogs or cats through conducting a series of public health fairs. The investigators seek to use the data to formulate a general model of health and health-associated behavior.

“Few studies have simultaneously investigated the health and health promoting behaviors of owners and pets,” said principal investigator Charles Faulkner, PhD, associate professor of veterinary medicine at Lincoln Memorial University, in a press release. “We believe the model developed in this study will help provide evidence that the relationship between humans and companion animals mutually reinforces their health and quality of life. This is especially important in a geographic region where residents rank at the bottom in health outcomes for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and lack of physical activity.”

About HABRI and Lincoln Memorial University

The HABRI Foundation maintains an online library of human-animal bond research and information. To date HABRI has funded more than US$750,000 dollars in innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals, according to the organization. HABRI informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society.

Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) provides education in the liberal arts and professional studies.  The LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine is located on LMU’s main campus in Harrogate, Tennessee, with additional academic facilities in nearby Lee County, Virginia.