As they say, “dog is man’s best friend”, and this true. In this video, you will discover 13 surprising science–backed health benefits of dog ownership.
Domestic dogs benefit humans physically and psychologically by being a real companion and emotional support. Animal therapy, also called zootherapy, commonly uses dogs, in particular to reduce stress and promote social interactions.
Much more than just pets, dogs are also precious allies for human health. Elderlies know this well, and often see their general condition improve by having a loving canine. But their major asset could come from their formidable sense of smell. Indeed, dogs have a flair up to 20,000 times more developed than that of humans, and can differentiate smells which humans cannot perceive.
According to a survey conducted by Ipsos, a multinational market research and consulting firm, more than 60% of dog owners say that their pet increases their well-being and relieves their stress. One in two explains that it makes them feel less alone, and 40% of the participants say the dog helps them maintain healthy physical activity.
However, health benefits of dog ownership are not limited to just elderlies. Countless studies show the health benefits of animals on kids as well as young adults. Children, adults, the sick or the elderly, everyone benefits of dog ownership.
Here are 13 health benefits of dog ownership
- Strengthens the immune system
Numerous studies confirm people who grew up with dogs tend to have stronger immune systems. This is due to the exposure to more bacteria and allergens present in dogs during childhood. It is easier for these growing children to develop a stronger immune system. Owning a dog allows them to get sick less and less often.
During the last decade it has become more evident that pet ownership and animal assistance in therapy and education have multitude positive effects on humans. A 25-year study found children growing up with “furred animals”, including canine have less risk of allergies and asthma.
- Relieves depressive states
Gardening and Petting helps fight depression. A study on a group of patients with AIDS shows that when they have a dog, they are less likely to suffer from depression than those who do not. Many other studies have shown that interacting with dogs releases serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin which help to lessen the effects of depression.
The pet plays a positive role in preventing the depression. On the one hand, thanks to the affection it shows to its master, on the other hand because of its physiological needs which must be satisfied which distract the depressed individual from negative or even suicidal thoughts.
In addition, domestic dogs do not judge or look down on his master’s illness. Have you ever seen a dog discriminate against its owner?
- Extends Life
According to a recent study published in 2019 by Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association, owning a loving dog can help live longer.
The researchers analyzed studies published from 1950 to May 2019 on health benefits of dog ownership and its association to mortality, which covers more than 3 million participants. They found dog owners were likely to live healthier and longer life than those who didn’t have dogs. It was found that those who owned dogs had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause. The benefits were even greater for people with heart problems.
- Finds Love
If you are single and looking for love, you can use your dog to meet someone. To the same extent dogs help form friendships, they increase dating chance. In fact, now some dating sites are even specially dedicated to the owners of 4-legged companions in order to bring their members together.
It makes perfect sense. People who share the same passion tend to have better relationship. Passion and love are two powerful emotions. When the two mixed together in a relationship the bond becomes stronger.
- Growing Up with A Dog Reduces Allergies
A study by allergist Thomas Platts-Mills found that children who have lived with pets have a decreased risk of developing animal allergies in the future. Another study by The Journal of the American Medical Association found a correlation between the number of pets in a home and a baby’s risk of having allergies.
Children who live around many dogs or cats before their first birthday are less likely to suffer from allergies of any type. When a household has 2 or more pets, the likelihood of a child to develop allergies is reduced by 77%.
- Reduces loneliness
Dogs create social bond. You have to walk them, feed them, communicate with them, etc. In short, they help you not only to interreact but also get out of your home, which promotes encounters, a powerful tool against loneliness. Walking with a dog increase the probability of meeting new people and exchanging conversation than walking alone. It also provides a pleasant yet neutral topic of conversation and can even be the starting point for great friendships or even love stories.
It has been proven time and time again by several researchers that having a pet in the home reduces sadness, isolation and loneliness in humans. Their presence is calming and restful. This only has the effect of reducing the level of cortisol which, in turn, affects helps maintain a healthy heart rate and blood pressure.
- Lowers blood pressure
An assistant professor of medicine at the University of Buffalo, Dr. Karen Allen, conducted a rather impressive little experiment in which she tested the effects of interacting with a dog on blood pressure. To do this, she studied a group of people whose jobs put them under intense stress.
The experiment consisted of recording the blood pressure of a group of 48 stockbrokers, carefully examining their blood pressure in very stressful situations. Of the 48 members, a group of 24 were chosen to interact with a dog as a replacement for their usual treatments with anti-stress medication.
Results showed that contact with a dog was more effective in lowering blood pressure than taking medication
- Better Cardiovascular Health
Dog owners tend to have healthier hearts studies suggest. Many health benefits of dog ownership already mentioned above contribute to a stronger heart in dog owners, but more and more benefits are being discovered. Other studies confirm these hypotheses by demonstrating a decrease in heart disease and better resistance to stress with a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and the release of adrenaline in people living with a canine pet.
Having a dog in your home would protect against cardiovascular disease and decrease overall mortality, reports a 2017 Swedish study that followed 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80. After excluding demographic factors and other risks, the scientists concluded that people who own dogs have their risk of cardiovascular disease reduced by 23% and their risk of death from all causes by 20%. They believe it is because domestic dogs make it possible in particular to reduce stress and loneliness, factors favoring the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.
- Promotes physical activity
Dog owners walk three times more than non-owners, according to a University of Liverpool study. Based on the activity of 700 people, the researchers calculated that people with dogs spend an average of 300 minutes per week walking them, which is 200 minutes more than people without dogs.
More unexpectedly, it was also found that dog owners also practice more sports, such as cycling, jogging, and gym, even without the presence of their animal. All of these contribute a better cardiovascular health as well as emotional health.
- Helps the sick to heal
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is increasingly used in addition to traditional therapies. American researchers have shown that the interaction with dogs had beneficial effects in children suffering with cancer in particular, as well as adults with high blood pressure and anxiety.
Cynotherapy, care of human disorders using a “therapeutic” dog as mediator, helps the mentally ill to reduce their disorders by stopping the process of isolation and promoting their adaptation to social life. The dog also makes it possible to reduce psychotropic treatments thanks to their soothing effect.
- Decreases stress
Petting a dog, and more generally a pet, causes a chemical reaction in human brain that secretes oxytocin, a hormone also known as ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical’. Oxytocin promotes mental appeasement and produces warm, fuzzy feelings, which, in return, lowers stress and anxiety. It also helps regulate emotional responses and certain pro-social behaviors, such as empathy, trust, positive memories, positive communication, and others.
Researchers have shown that the concentration of oxytocin increases in humans when their dog looks at them with affection and dedication. This release of oxytocin on both sides strengthens the bond and creates a feeling of well-being between the pet and its owner. A 2005 study showed a significant reduction in cortisol, a stress hormone, after just five minutes of interacting with a dog. Another 2007 meta-study indicates that activities with animals are associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms. Children who grow up with a companion dog would also be less prone to anxiety disorders.
There are several reasons for these beneficial effects. Among others, caring for a dog occupies the mind and helps to get rid of negative thoughts. The presence of a dog also has a soothing effect and strengthens self-esteem. The canine also promotes social relationships.
- Prevents or limits anxiety attacks
We all experience some form of anxiety and panic at certain times. It is a natural response to stressful situations, sudden or approaching dangers. But when it becomes persistent to the point of becoming anxiety attacks medical care is required.
If properly trained dogs can help. A trained canine pet can prevent and limit their owners’ anxiety attacks through conditioned learning. The behavioral responses expressed by the dog in the event of an imminent anxiety attack depends on the type training it receives.
- Detects cancer with 97% reliability
Dogs has a particularly strong sense of smell. It is a given fact, and scientists have already been exploiting these characteristics to help them find drugs or explosives. Today, an American study reveals that dogs could also be extremely good at detecting certain diseases, including cancer.
Researchers at BioScentDx have trained dogs – beagles, to encourage them to distinguish normal blood samples from blood samples containing malignant lung cancer cells. Result: the dogs would then have been able to identify the affected samples in 96.7% of cases and healthy blood in 97.5% of cases.
Tumors emit characteristic chemical compounds that canine scent can identify. In various experiments, dogs have, for example, succeeded in detecting people with lung cancer through their breath, or prostate cancer in the urine. They can also recognize malignant cells responsible for breast cancer. A procedure tested in particular at the Institut Curie and which shows a reliability close to 100%.
The dog would also be able to detect the concentration of sugar or glucose in the blood of the diabetics.
As you can see, dogs are good for our health; they are not just pet. But remember, the dog must have a good emotional balance to become an emotional support. Treat your dog with love and respect.