Your dog may help you live longer

By Doug Bennett • Published: February 9th, 2018
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Good news for parents of pooches: Your dog might help you live longer. New research by a team of Swedish scientists shows dog owners had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes.

After studying the health histories of more than 3.4-million people over 12 years, the researchers found dog ownership was a prominent protective factor, especially for people who live alone. Dog owners who were single had a 33 percent reduction in overall death risk and 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with single people who had no dog.

For owners, the dog’s breed also appeared to matter. Owners of dogs that were originally bred for hunting gained the most in terms of protective health benefits, the researchers found.

While the research establishes an association between dog ownership and health, researchers don’t have firm answers about the role dogs play in cardiovascular health. One possible explanation is that dog owners are more physically active because their canine companion needs exercise and play time. Other ideas center on the dog’s possible effect on the owner’s bacterial microbiome and the general well-being and social contacts that come with pet ownership.

The researchers also said it’s possible that dog owners are predisposed to healthier lifestyles. That is, they might be more active and in better health than people who don’t own dogs.

Other research has confirmed the benefits of down ownership. A study published in mid-2017 found that dog ownership makes older people more active.

So, grab that leash and get out there. Owning a dog can make your heart happier, and just might make it healthier.