When I'm stressed out or worried, a little puppy time can be a very good thing. Jeb and Ruby make me smile. After a few minutes with them, I'm more able to put the craziness of daily life into better perspective. Research shows that pets are good for your health.

"There are data showing that if you've had a heart attack, you have a five times greater chance of being alive one year later if you have a dog or a cat," says Dr. Edward Creagan, a cancer specialist, author and retired Mayo Clinic oncologist.

In addition to health benefits, such as stress reduction and getting you up and moving more, Creagan says pets give you a sense of purpose -- you have to get up every day to feed and care for your companion. He recalls a story about when, in order to help a lung cancer patient avoid a downward spiral of depression and isolation, Creagan wrote a prescription for "one dog, twice a day."

"I remember him because he looked like Tony Bennett," says Creagan. "He, like many of my other patients, made a transformation when they were able to bring a pet into their lives."

Creagan says that pets are in no way a replacement for needed medical treatment. But they can certainly boost happiness and improve quality of life.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Follow the Health Fusion podcast on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.