Pets' impact on your patients' health: Leveraging benefits and mitigating risk

Kate Hodgson, Luisa Barton, Marcia Darling, Viola Antao, Florence A. Kim, Alan Monavvari

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Over two thirds of Americans live with pets and consider them important members of the family. Pets benefit human health (zooeyia) in 4 ways: as builders of social capital, as agents of harm reduction, as motivators for healthy behavior change, and as potential participants in treatment plans. Conversely, pets can present risks to their owners. They are potential sources of zoonotic disease and injury. Pets can also challenge a family's prioritization of financial and social resources. To activate the benefits of zooeyia and appropriately calibrate and mitigate zoonotic risk, physicians first need to know about the pets in their patients' families. Asking about pets is a simple and feasible approach to assess patients' environmental history and social capital. Asking about pets is a nonthreatening way to build rapport and demonstrates an interest in the whole family, which can improve the physician-patient therapeutic alliance. Physicians can use an interprofessional, collaborative approach with veterinarians to address zoonotic health risks and leverage zooeyia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-534
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul. 2015


  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Pets
  • Primary health care
  • Social determinants of health
  • Zooeyia


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