Owning a dog is wonderful, but you know what else is wonderful? The benefits that come with owning a dog, like support, companionship, and physical activity. Now, thanks to a new study, we've found that dogs are literally saving our lives.
According to a recent study published in Scientific Reports, dog owners have a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and death. In fact, dog owners who live alone decreased their risk of death by 33 percent and their risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent when compared to single individuals who did not own a pet. Chances of a heart attack were also found to be 11 percent lower. Pet owners who live in a multi-person household also saw benefits, with the risk of death reduced by 11 percent and their chances of cardiovascular-related death down by 15 percent.
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“A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household,” said Mwenya Mubanga, an author on the study and a PhD student at Uppsala University.
Benefits for Single Dog Owners
The study, which looked at more than 3.4 million Swedish individuals between the ages of 40 and 80, found that because single dog owners get more one-on-one time with their pets, they're more likely to live longer, healthier lives. Owners of hunting breeds — scent hounds, retrievers, and terriers — in particular were found to be most protected from cardiovascular disease and death. Owning any breed, however, will reduce an owners risk of death, just to different extents, reports Associate Professor Tove Fall, the senior author of the study.
“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results,” Fall said.
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A Messy Home is a Healthy Home
As all dog owners know, dogs are messy and tough to clean up after — but it may be time to start thanking your pooch for all the untidiness he brings into your life. Study results suggested an increased immune system development and social well-being as additional reasons why dog ownership offers protection against cardiovascular disease and death, and researchers believe that this is because dogs not only lick, but they also bring dirt into homes — both of which could impact your microbiome, aka the bacteria that live in your gut, and your health. In other words, the dirt your dog brings into your home may be making your gut healthier. Who knew?
“It may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events,” Rachel Bond, MD, an associate director of Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.