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Dog Owners Love Their Furry Best Friends, But Does That Love Mean Anything For Our Health?

woman with shaggy dog
(Photo: Getty Images)

Everyone who owns a dog loves to talk about how great it is to own  their dog. Despite chewed up shoes, messes made on the carpet, and the seemingly never-ending costs of treats and accessories, dog owners love their furry best friends, but does that love mean anything for our health? 

There certainly has been a lot of talk over the benefits of dog ownership in the past. Previous research has shown that owning a dog reduces social isolation and can promote more physical activity, especially in older age, in addition to lowering blood pressure levels and reducing sensitivity to stress. However, a  recent study looked at the impacts of dog ownership on their owners’ health and longevity, specifically among stroke and heart attack survivors that live alone. 

Researchers observed that dog ownership significantly lowered the relative risk of death from cardiovascular and other health problems by around 30%. Likely due to increased physical activity and lower risk of dangerous isolation. They also looked at  182,000 individuals recorded to have had a heart attack, and remarkably 94% of those individuals were not dog owners. Similarly, 95% of the  155,000 stroke survivors reported not being dog owners. Meaning that pairing these folks with furry friends could potentially improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of stroke and heart attack survivors.

More studies on this are needed to firm up a potential relationship between dog ownership and an individual’s health and longevity. but with approximately 3.3 million dogs ready to put into dog shelters seeking adoption, this could be a good way to solve two issues at once! Further research here could be very helpful for the medical community to explore the option of prescribing dogs as a prevention technique for individuals with these highlighted health risks. More knowledge here would also be helpful for folks looking to address the mental and physical well being of older family members, especially for those who experience a heart attack or stroke. 

Human health is not the only place where dog related science occasionally pops up. There’s the age old question of  who’s smarter, dogs or cats? Scientists have dug into that as well in case you need more dog related science to get through the day. 

Regardless, dog owners certainly appreciate this information and agree that life without their dogs would simply be ruff. 

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