In the present study, we evaluated the effect of a nonevaluative social support intervention (pet ownership) on blood pressure response to mental stress before and during ACE inhibitor therapy. Forty-eight hypertensive individuals participated in an experiment at home and in the physician's office. Participants were randomized to an experimental group with assignment of pet ownership in addition to lisinopril (20 mg/d) or to a control group with only lisinopril (20 mg/d). On each study day, blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma renin activity were recorded at baseline and after each mental stressor (serial subtraction and speech). Before drug therapy, mean responses to mental stress did not differ significantly between experimental and control groups in heart rate (94 [SD 6.8] versus 93 [6.8] bpm), systolic blood pressure (182 [8.0] versus 181 [8.3] mm Hg), diastolic blood pressure (120 [6.6] versus 119 [7.9] mm Hg), or plasma renin activity (9.4 [0.59] versus 9.3 [0.57] ng. mL(-1). h(-1)). Lisinopril therapy lowered resting blood pressure by approximately 35/20 mm Hg in both groups, but responses to mental stress were significantly lower among pet owners relative to those who only received lisinopril (P<0.0001; heart rate 81 [6.3] versus 91 [6.5] bpm, systolic blood pressure 131 [6.8] versus 141 [7.8] mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure 92 [6.3] versus 100 [6.8] mm Hg, and plasma renin activity 13.9 [0.92] versus 16.1 [0.58] ng. mL(-1). h(-1)). We conclude that ACE inhibitor therapy alone lowers resting blood pressure, whereas increased social support through pet ownership lowers blood pressure response to mental stress.