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Owning a Dog Could Extend Your Life Says Study

Happy smiling young golden retriever dog under light gray plaid. Pet warms under a blanket in cold winter weather. Pets friendly and care concept.

Owning a Dog Could Extend Your Life Says Study

Dog ownership could help improve your heart health according to a new study.

Owning a Dog Could Extend Your Life Says Study

If you’re thinking about getting a family pet, there’s a plethora of research out there that says owning a pet is a great idea. For a start, this study here found that dogs can help reduce stress in the workplace while this research found that both cats and dogs can help those suffering from anxiety and depression.

And now there’s proof that dog ownership could be associated with a longer life and better cardiovascular health – especially for heart and stroke survivors who live alone. 

The study and meta-analysis published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes (a journal of the American Heart Association) compared the health outcomes of dog owners and non-owners of a heart attack or stroke using data provided by the Swedish National Patient Register. 

“The findings in these two well-done studies and analyses build upon prior studies and the conclusions of the 2013 AHA Scientific Statement ‘Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk’ that dog ownership is associated with reductions in factors that contribute to cardiac risk and to cardiovascular events,” said Glenn N. Levine, M.D., chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership.

Previous research has demonstrated how social isolation and physical activity can have a negative impact on a patients outcome, while previous research into dog ownership has shown that it alleviates social isolation, improves physical activity and can even lower blood pressure.

The Dog Ownership Study

The patients studied were Swedish residents ages 40-85 who experienced heart attack or ischemic stroke from 2001-2012.

The study found that compared to people who did not own a dog, that for dog owners:

The risk of death for heart attack patients living alone after hospitalization was 33% lower, and 15% lower for those living with a partner or child.
The risk of death for stroke patients living alone after hospitalization was 27% lower and 12% lower for those living with a partner or child.

Researches also reviewed patient data of over 3.8 million people taken from 10 studies.  Through this meta-analysis the researchers found that dog owners had:

24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality;
65% reduced risk of mortality after heart attack; and
31% reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues.

“Having a dog was associated with increased physical exercise, lower blood pressure levels and better cholesterol profile in previous reports,” said Caroline Kramer, M.D. Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and an Endocrinologist and Clinician scientist at Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital, part of Sinai Health System.

“As such, the findings that people who owned dogs lived longer and their risk for cardiovascular death was also lower are somewhat expected.”

Studies deemed eligible for analysis included those conducted among adults age 18 or older, original data from an original prospective study, evaluated dog ownership at the beginning of the study and reported all-cause or cardiovascular mortality of patients. Studies were excluded if they were retrospective, did not provide an absolute number of events that occurred and reported non-fatal cardiovascular events.

“Our findings suggest that having a dog is associated with longer life. Our analyses did not account for confounders such as better fitness or an overall healthier lifestyle that could be associated with dog ownership. The results, however, were very positive,” said Dr. Kramer.

“The next step on this topic would be an interventional study to evaluate cardiovascular outcomes after adopting a dog and the social and psychological benefits of dog ownership. As a dog owner myself, I can say that adopting Romeo (the author’s miniature Schnauzer) has increased my steps and physical activity each day, and he has filled my daily routine with joy and unconditional love.”

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