This National Dog Day, we’ll focus on what science has to say about how having a dog benefits dog owners.
Dogs and cardiovascular health
In a 2019 analysis of 4 million people from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia, dog ownership reduced early death by 24%. Persons who already suffered from a heart attack or stroke were 31% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Another study had similar results, especially for dog owners who lived alone. Heart attack survivors had a 33% lower risk of death when compared to those who did not have a dog. Stroke survivors who lived alone with a dog had a 27% reduced risk of death. A reduction in diabetes has also been listed by the American Heart Association as a health benefit of dog ownership, due to requirements such as walking, and the social and emotional support provided which encourages weight loss.
Pulling our legs (or leashes)
This all has to do with affection. The happier you are, the longer you’ll live. According to Harold Herzog, psychologist at Western Carolina University, “Higher survival rates, fewer heart attacks, less loneliness, better blood pressure, better psychological well-being, lower rates of depression and stress levels, fewer doctor visits, increased self-esteem, better sleep, and more physical activity,” are just some of the recorded benefits of pet ownership, Herzog said.
This leads to fewer incidents of asthma, migraines, gastric ulcers, high blood pressure, use of medicine, etc.
Mood and Therapy
Research shows that dogs are excellent emotional support animals and help to increase good moods for immediate short-term benefits and long-term physiological and psychological benefits.
In one study, children with ADHD who read to real animals showed more improvements in sharing, cooperation, volunteering, and behavioral problems than ADHD children who read to a stuffed animal. In another, autistic children were calmer and more sociable around guinea pigs rather than toys.
Support animals are also useful for veterans with PTSD or persons who suffer from anxiety. Research is ongoing to determine whether dogs can serve as ‘prescribed medicine’ for children suffering from trauma.