Owning a dog may lower your risk of an early death

Henrietta Strickland
October 10, 2019

A man walks his dog on the boardwalk along Lake Ontaro in Toronto on Monday, January 16, 2017.

A study released Tuesday suggests dog owners live longer than their canine-less counterparts, experiencing almost a one-third lower risk of dying from heart problems.

The analysis of 10 previous studies published between the years 1950 to May 2019 included approximately 3.8 million participants.

By the end, researchers determined those who suffered a stroke or heart attack and also owned a dog had a significantly lower risk of death from a heart attack or stroke compared to those who did not own a dog. They found dog owners, when compared to non-owners, had a 24 percent reduced risk of "all-cause mortality", a 65 percent reduced risk of death after a heart attack, and a 31 reduced risk of mortality "due to cardiovascular-related issues".

"For those people, having a dog was even more beneficial", Kramer said. Our analyses did not account for confounders such as better fitness or an overall healthier lifestyle that could be associated with dog ownership.

While it's hard to disentangle cause and effect without a randomized clinical trial, Kramer said there's research to indicate that man's best friend may be good for your health.

Beyond emotional support, it appears dogs can provide physical support as well. Another suggested that owning a dog helped older English adults stay fit during inclement weather.

While these non-randomised studies can not "prove" that owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this, according to the AHA's scientific statement on pet ownership.

Kramer, a dog owner herself, says she hopes this study will lead to others evaluating the psychological and social benefits of owning a dog, too.

She added, "I can say that adopting Romeo" - her miniature Schnauzer - "has increased my steps and physical activity each day, and he has filled my daily routine with joy and unconditional love".

But she warned that people should consider what's best for themselves and the dog before running to the adoption centre in the name of improving their heart health.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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