Column: Give your heart to a pet friend to improve your health and theirs, too


Dallas (A512878) is the ultimate cutie pie! At two years old, he’s a full-grown adult dog, but he’s still got all the puppy poses down: the Sploot and Crawl, the Side Saddle and the Please-Give-Me-a-Treat puppy dog eyes. But like a more experienced dog, he’s also mastered throwing his toys in the air and catching them. When you spend time with Dallas, you’ll find yourself exclaiming “awwww!” every few seconds, it’s impossible not to! Dallas’ adoption fee is $14 now through Feb. 18 thanks to Pasadena Humane’s “Make Your Heart Happy” adoption promotion. Learn more at

Everyone knows February is the month of love. Red and pink hearts abound in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

But February is also American Heart Month — an important reminder to keep our hearts happy by focusing on our cardiovascular health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults in the United States.

Eating a healthy diet, staying active, managing stress levels and quitting smoking are all helpful ways to improve your heart health.

Did you know that pets are also good for your heart?

According to Alex Durairaj, MD, medical director of Cardiovascular Services at Huntington Health, “Adopting a pet can absolutely promote health, both physically and mentally. I tell my patients, dog walks for at least 30 minutes a day can significantly improve heart health.”

The American Heart Association shares some impressive facts when it comes to dogs and health

  • Dog owners are 31% less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than non-dog owners
  • Dog owners who take their dogs on regular walks are 33% less at risk of diabetes
  • Simply petting a dog is shown to decrease blood pressure

If dogs are not for you, do not despair. Lovers of cats, bunnies, and critters can see health benefits, too.

Dr. Durairaj said, “Even just having a pet at home can reduce stress in our lives, which is important for our cardiovascular health.”

Pets help reduce stress and boost our mood. Interacting with pets decreases our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Plus, pets enrich our lives by providing comfort, purpose and companionship.

I’m not a medical professional, but it’s easy for me to understand how pets keep us healthier. Dogs, in particular, help us stay fit and keep us more active.

In fact, the American Heart Association states that dog owners are 34% more likely to get in the recommended 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners.

Pets help us stay connected to the community, too. I’ve met dozens of neighbors while walking my dog, Sueshi, in the San Rafael Hills.

Being new to Pasadena just before the pandemic, walks around the neighborhood were my primary means of social interaction.

When people say they are “heartsick,” they usually don’t mean in the cardiovascular way. Pets can help with loneliness, depression, and other mental illnesses such as anxiety and post traumatic distress disorder.

Kimberly Shriner, MD, medical director, infection prevention and control at Huntington Health said, “As a clinician and animal lover, I can speak to the amazing power of healing that animals provide for humans every day, including our patients, volunteers and staff at Huntington Hospital.”

Studies have shown that senior citizens who care for pets are less inclined to loneliness or depression. In addition, for older adults, the benefits of pet ownership include improved cognitive functioning.

The benefits of pets for senior people, along with the special challenges involved in finding adoptive homes for senior pets, are what inspired Pasadena Humane’s ongoing “Seniors for Seniors” program supported by the Pets for the Elderly Foundation.

Now’s the time to reap the health benefits and “Make Your Heart Happy” by adopting a pet.

From now through Feb. 18, adoption fees are only $14 for any of our amazing dogs, cats or critters 6 months and older. Also, through the “Seniors for Seniors” program, ages 60 years and older can adopt pets 5 years and older at no cost.

Adoptions include spay or neuter, age-appropriate vaccines and a microchip. Pet adoptions are either by appointment or during daily walk-in adoption hours from 2-5 p.m. at Pasadena Humane.

View adoptable pets at Pasadena Humane and read details about adopting:


Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane. 

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on February 9, 2024.