Want a healthier heart? Get a puppy

Posted November 18, 2017

According to a new study in a Swedish publication, dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death. The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of heart attack, compared to single non-owners.

As a single dog owner, an individual is the sole person walking and interacting with their pet as opposed to married couples or households with children, which may contribute to greater protection from cardiovascular disease and death, said the study. They were also 11% less likely to have a heart attack, an effect that is not shown among people who live with others and is nearly certainly attributable to our children's leftover french fries.

The study, which is the largest to date on the health implications of owning a dog, suggested that some of the reasons dog owners may have a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease were because dog owners walk more.

Another finding was that owners of dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were the ones most protected, so dogs in the retriever, terrier, and scent hound families are the ones that may provide the most benefit.

The study, which spanned a 12-year period, involved 3.4 million Swedish people between the ages of 40-80.

A new study by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden found that bringing a new little furball into your life can improve your heart health, especially if you live alone.

It's not clear exactly how the dogs helped avert heart disease, or whether getting one directly led to better health, cautioned Tove Fall, the senior author of the paper and associate professor in epidemiology at Uppsala University.

"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.

"Dog owners in particular tend to be a little more extroverted, or outgoing" Kay Joubert, Director Companion Animal Services at PAWS, told The Huffington Post.

"Another interesting finding was that owners of different breeds differed clearly as regards to cardiovascular health", she added.

While it makes sense that owning a dog may encourage physical activity, and previous studies has shown that to be true, researchers say it's also possible that more active people choose to own dogs. "The associations we see may be that dogs affect the owner's lifestyle and well-being positively", said Fall.