7 Ways Owning a Dog Can Help if You Have Migraines


Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 15, 2021

If you get migraines, did you know that your dog may be able to help in your migraine care? Your canine companion can affect your mental and physical health in a variety of ways.

No. 1. Your dog can alert you. In one study, researchers found that 1 in 4 people with migraines who also had a dog noticed their pet’s behaviors change before they had their initial migraine attack symptom.

This happens because dogs have a heightened sense of smell and can sense when something is off before you become aware. But unless your dog is a trained service animal, they may not be able to effectively warn you when they notice a change before your migraine.

No. 2. Improve your heart health. Those who have migraine with aura (odd visual or physical sensations) have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, specifically stroke.

In an analysis, which looked at studies between 1950 and 2019, experts found that dog owners had a lower risk of death in the long term. Researchers believe this tie exists because dog owners tend to have a lower risk of cardiovascular problems. People with dogs also tend to have lower blood pressure levels, better cholesterol, fewer heart rate issues, and to better manage their stress, which is a major factor in heart complications.

While the chances of heart complications with migraine isn’t high, it’s good to know that your pup can lower any risk you may have.

No. 3. Encourage exercise. Regular exercise can lower the amount and the intensity of your migraines. When you work out, your body releases endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkillers. Many experts believe that regular physical activity can be part of the preventative treatment of migraines.

Your pet can help you get more exercise each day. Experts found that those who own dogs are about four times more likely to meet their daily physical activity guidelines than people who don’t. Dog owners spend about 300 minutes each week on walks, which is 200 more minutes than those without a pup.

No. 4. Ease isolation. Chronic illnesses like migraines may make you feel lonely at times. You may not want to engage in as many activities due to your pain.

The good news is, a dog can make you feel less alone, even when you need to stay at home. These animals can support, love, and spend time with you during your attacks. In one study, experts found that after people adopted a dog, their levels of loneliness went down within 3 months. Another study showed that 76% of both dog owners and nondog owners believe that a pet can fight social isolation.

No. 5. Lower stress. For some people, stress can be a migraine trigger. Your stress can cause a migraine, which creates more stress, and leads to a long-term cycle. For this reason, it’s important to control your stress levels if you normally have migraines.

Researchers believe that dogs can help ease stress and anxiety. Petting a familiar dog can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate, relax your muscle tension, slow your breathing, and lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Studies show that just 10 minutes of petting a dog can have an impact.

No. 6. Fight depression. People with migraines are about five times more likely to develop depression than those without the condition. Dogs provide you with companionship, which can reduce the symptoms of depression. When you play with a dog, your oxytocin and dopamine hormone levels rise, which makes you feel good and creates a bond between you and your pet.

Your pet also requires a lot of attention and care, which can help keep your focus off depression.

No. 7. Help you stay on track. Your dog will have needs that keep you on a schedule. They usually like to go for walks, eat, and play at certain times of the day. This can help you maintain a schedule of your own, which can help in migraine pain management. A planned schedule can help you avoid stress which can lower your chances of a flare-up.

In addition, your pup can help you keep a good sleep schedule. Migraines are associated with poor sleep quality, so it’s crucial that you aim for good sleep each night. Your pet usually prefers to stay on a sleep schedule as well. This can work as a reminder to also prioritize your rest.


Show Sources


Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: “Survey of Migraine Sufferers with Dogs to Evaluate for Canine Migraine-Alerting Behaviors.”

US Service Animals: “Service Dog for Migraines | How They Help & How To Qualify.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Migraine: A connection to cardiovascular disease?”

Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes: “Dog Ownership and Survival.”

American Migraine Foundation: “Effects of Exercise on Headaches and Migraines,” “Stress and Migraine,” “The Link Between Migraine, Depression and Anxiety.”

American Kennel Club: “10 Science-Based Benefits of Having a Dog.”

Scientific Reports: “Dog owners are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people without a dog: An investigation of the association between dog ownership and physical activity levels in a UK community.”

Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges: “Therapeutic Benefits of Pets.”

Journal of Primary Care and Community Health: “Loneliness and Migraine Self-Management: A Cross-Sectional Assessment.”

BMC Public Health: “Companion dog acquisition and mental well-being: a community-based three-arm controlled study.”

Human Animal Bond Research Institute: “Social Isolation and Loneliness.”

AERA Open: “Animal Visitation Program (AVP) Reduces Cortisol Levels of University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “How Dogs Can Helps with Depression.”

American Humane: “Benefits of Owning A Dog.”

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