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Massive Study Says Dog Ownership Increases Lifespan

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on November 22, 2017
Posted in Dog

Many studies have suggested that owning a dog is good for your health. One found that newborns who grew up with dogs were less likely to get sick, while another revealed that children with dogs in their households are less stressed. Dogs can apparently improve the health of senior citizens as well, largely because of the active routine that comes with pet ownership.

Most of these studies were met with skepticism due to a variety of factors, such as length or size.

The latest study on dogs and health benefits, however, is far more difficult to refute, which is extremely satisfying considering the significance of its conclusion.

No Room For Rebuttal

Swedish researchers monitored the health of over 3.4 million adults over the course of twelve years. The participants were between 40 and 80 years of age and had no prior history of heart disease.

Compared to participants who didn’t own dogs, those who did own dogs were discovered to have a lower risk of death as well as a lower risk of developing any cardiovascular condition.

“A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household,” wrote researcher Mwenya Mubanga.

“The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of myocardial infarction during follow-up compared to single non-owners.”

The Best Breeds For Extending Your Life

Single pet owners were also 8% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than single people without dogs.

Married participants with dogs had a lower risk of death and cardiovascular disease than married participants without dogs, especially if the married participants owned dogs originally bred for hunting, like terriers or retrievers.

As for specific breeds, single owners of Retrievers and English Springer Spaniels were 26% less likely to die, whereas owners of Beagles or Bloodhounds were 37% less likely to die. The breed that appeared to cause the largest reduction in early mortality, a whopping 40%, was the English Setter.

Is It All Just About Going Outside More Often?

While the researchers cannot safely conclude that dog ownership was the reason certain participants had better health, they noted that this is far from the first study to suggest such a relationship.

Senior study author Tove Fall provided numerous potential explanations for why owning a dog can improve your health.

The most plausible theory stems from the increase in physical activity due to consistent walking or playtime sessions. Dog owners are likely stronger when it comes to emotional health as well, possibly because pets provide unconditional love in addition to more gateways for friendship.

The researchers said their study is the largest in history to investigate dog ownership and human health benefits.

Read also: Deicing Dangers

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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