Question Your World: Does Dog Ownership Affect Our Health?

Posted: October 17, 2019

Everyone who has a dog loves to talk about how great it is to have their dog. Despite chewed up shoes, messes 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 about the benefits of dog ownership. Previous research has shown that owning a dog reduces social isolation and can promote more physical activity, especially as we age, in addition to lowering blood pressure 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 living alone. 

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Researchers observed that dog ownership lowered the relative risk of death from cardiovascular and other health problems by around 30%, a significant amount, likely due to increased physical activity and lower risk of dangerous isolation. They also looked at 182,000 individuals who were 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 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 seeking adoption in shelters, this could be a good way to solve two issues at once! Further research could be very helpful to the medical community, exploring the option of prescribing dog ownership as prevention 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 have experienced 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 your day. 

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

For even more wonderful dog stories, check out the giant screen movie, Superpower Dogs, now showing in the Dome!