We all know there can be a special bond between dog owners and their pets. But can there be health benefits, too?
A study from Sweden, published November 7, 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests a correlation between dog ownership and a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes.
Research like this is easy in Sweden because each person is assigned an identity number, every hospital visit is recorded, and dog ownership registration has been required since 2001. So the study examined more than 3.4 million Swedes between the ages of 40 and 80 over twelve years.
Mwenya Mubanga, of Uppsala University and the lead junior author, said:
“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. Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households.
“…Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected.”
This may sound like a dumb question to dog owners, but is there an explanation? Tove Fall, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at Uppsala University, speculated on causation:
“These kinds of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease. We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results. Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner.
“There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health.”
In any event, here’s another benefit to owning a dog.
The original report is at http://earthsky.org/human-world/your-dog-is-good-for-your-heart?. The photo came from that website.