By: Jadon Webb, M.D., Ph.D.
Schizophrenia and psychosis related disorders can be tough disorders to manage, and research is ongoing into not only treating it, but how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
A study from Johns Hopkins in 2022 showed that having a pet dog in the house, at least before the age of 13, is associated with a 25% decreased risk of later developing psychosis and schizophrenia. There was a 50% reduced risk when the dog was present before age 2 years.
Notably, there was no change in risk of developing bipolar disorder from having a dog. And, much to the dismay of cat lovers, having a cat did not associate with a lower risk of schizophrenia!
We do not yet know why having a pet dog early in life might reduce the odds of having schizophrenia, and we also have not yet proven that having a dog causes a decrease in risk. It is possible that other outside factors we don’t know about caused this apparent effect.
That said, there is some evidence that schizophrenia risk is related to inflammation, especially early in life. And having a dog may actually decrease the average amount of inflammation in their human pack members. So it is possible that dogs are reducing something inflammatory and toxic in the environment, and so reducing the chances for it to injure the young, developing human brain.
If you have young kids, this may be one more factor to consider in when to get a pet, and which pets to get! And if you are a cat lover (as many of us also are!), do not despair, there is plenty of research left to do on this, and plenty of evidence that having a loving companion helps in a number of other ways (reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and such).
about the authorS
Jadon Webb, M.D., Ph.D.
Bloom Mental Health
Disclaimer: this blog is NOT intended as medical advice and does not imply any kind of specific guidance or treatment recommendations, and should NOT be used to guide a treatment protocol. (read full disclaimer)
DNP, MSN, FNP-BC
Family Nurse Practitioner