Dr. Ogechika Alozie


To begin with, until recently I did not own a pet. Never had – and honestly – never wanted one.

Growing up I had a few traumatic events with dogs my friends owned and as they say, “I was good.”

However through the years as a physician, I have witnessed the profound impact that pets can have on our health and well-being. Beyond their role as companions, pets play a pivotal role in improving healthcare outcomes for individuals and communities alike:

1. Companionship and Stress Reduction
The most obvious and common example of how pets can improve global health is seen in a myriad of hospitals and clinics. In these places, stress is a constant companion for both patients and healthcare providers. However, the simple presence of a furry friend can work wonders in alleviating tension and promoting relaxation. “Emotional support pet” is a well known phrase and studies have shown that interacting with pets can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and elevate mood, thereby fostering a more conducive environment for healing.This effect is not only for patients. Healthcare workers returning home to the wagging tail and enthusiastic greeting of my new canine companion has become a cherished source of solace, as well.

2. Physical Health Benefits
Beyond their therapeutic effects on mental well-being, pets also contribute to our physical health in tangible ways. Daily walks, typically with dogs through our many scenic parks in El Paso, not only provide valuable exercise but also encourage greater outdoor activity and social interaction. In a city renowned for its natural beauty and abundant sunshine, these outdoor excursions offer a welcome respite from the confines of the clinic and serve as a reminder of the importance of staying active for overall health. Moreover, research indicates that pet ownership is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and improved immune function, underscoring the profound impact that our four-legged friends can have on our physiological well-being.

3. Emotional Support and Therapy
For patients grappling with chronic illness or undergoing intensive treatment, the emotional support provided by pets can be invaluable. As a physician, I have witnessed the transformative power of animal-assisted therapy in enhancing the recovery process and fostering a sense of hope and resilience. Whether through cuddly comfort animals in pediatric wards or trained therapy dogs offering companionship to elderly patients, the presence of pets has been shown to reduce pain perception, enhance emotional coping mechanisms, and promote overall psychological well-being. In a city as diverse and culturally rich as El Paso, where families often face unique challenges and adversities, the therapeutic bond between humans and animals serves as a universal language of compassion and healing.

4. Social Connection and Community Engagement
In addition to their individual benefits, pets have the remarkable ability to forge connections and foster a sense of community among diverse populations. I have recently become a first-time pet owner (technically, DJ and Marshmallow – our COVID rabbits – will not approve) with older teenage children. I have been struck by the bonds they are forming with Lylah. This experience transcends age, and I find myself growing more and more engaged and attaching to our baby black lab. Across ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (and species), pets serve as catalysts for meaningful interactions and mutual support. In a city known for its strong sense of community and cultural heritage, pets can serve as ambassadors of goodwill, bridging divides and uniting individuals in their shared love and appreciation for all creatures great and small. We need no other example than our beloved baseball team’s mascot: a Chihuahua.

The integration of pets into healthcare practices holds tremendous promise for improving the well-being of individuals and communities in El Paso and beyond. From their ability to alleviate stress and promote physical health to their role in providing emotional support and fostering social connection, pets offer a multifaceted approach to healing that transcends traditional medical interventions. As a physician and first-time pet owner, I am inspired by the profound impact that animals have on our lives and remain committed to harnessing their therapeutic potential to create a healthier, more compassionate future for all.