Dog owners are less likely to die following a stroke or cardiac arrest

If you’re worried about your heart health, give your pet a cuddle.

Nov 7, 2019 |
3 min read

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The reasons to bring a dog into your life are legion. Canines are referred to as Man’s Best Friend for a reason – the companionship offered by these animals is second to none. Also, it has been discovered that dog owners live longer and enjoy superior heart health.

This is based on a study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. As part of the study, Swedish scientists following studied over 180,000 individuals that experienced a historic heart attack and 150,000 stroke patients.

In the aftermath of such a major cardiac event, further complications are always possible. Some may even describe them as likely. Around 30,000 of the individuals surveyed by the study passed away within a year of their health problem.

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The team behind the study looked for a unifying factor within the survivors that recovered from their health scare. They discovered that 5% of these individuals had a dog waiting to greet them after a hospital stay.

These patients that lived alone with a canine companion were a third less likely to suffer further complications. Even those with partners and children benefitted from a tail-wagging chum.

These patients were up to 15% less likely to struggle with their health.

That’s amazing, but what difference does having a dog really make?

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Some will say none at all. Maybe they’re right. It’s possible that these statistics were strictly coincidental. There is every chance that those that experienced no further problems were otherwise healthy and would have been fine anyway.

Here’s something to bear in mind, though. Having a dog reduces your risk of a heart attack in the first place. Studies have long claimed that pet parents enjoy lower blood pressure and less stress than those that eschew animal companionship. It’s certainly food for thought.

There are a number of reasons for how dogs can boost our health.

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Having a dog means that there is somebody to come home to. This can be critical for single people, especially the elderly. Loneliness is one of the biggest killers in the world.

Having a dog gives us something to live for. Yes, friends and family provide the same impetus. A dog literally needs their human, however. Until canines evolve and develop opposable thumbs, they cannot feed themselves. That alone is enough motivation for many people to put their feet on the floor and face another day, even when the idea feels overwhelming.

Owning a dog leaves us with no choice but to get some physical exercise. Dogs need to be walked – that’s a universal truth. Walking for an hour a day provides the body with all kinds of health benefits.

These are compelling arguments for bringing a dog into your life. Here’s another – over 3 million dogs are placed into animal shelters each and every year. These animals have plenty of love to give and are waiting for kindly people to provide them with a forever home.

I don’t really like dogs, but maybe I should get one for my health

Actually, no. If you’re not a ‘dog person,’ don’t attempt to force a relationship. This will do more harm than good for both the human and animal.

Canines are intuitive. The animal will understand that you’re not bonding and experience stress as a result. This could lead to unwelcome and unwanted behaviors, which will just escalate the issue.

The results above can apply to any well-cared-for household pet. Cats are the most obvious alternative – especially now that we understand that cats bond with humans just as securely as dogs.

You should enjoy the same benefits from any pet, though, whether it’s a rabbit, a chinchilla, a lizard, or a tarantula. Ultimately, it comes down to the care for another living creature and giving yourself a reason to keep on truckin’.

If you do decide to adopt a dog, good on you. Just remember that the onus will be on you to provide them with a good life. That means high-quality food, plenty of exercise, toys and stimulation, regular veterinary check-ups, and, most importantly, lashings of attention and affection.

A dog is not a part-time commitment to perk you up while you’re feeling under the weather. Unless you’re prepared to treat them as a furry family member, equal to the humans in your household, don’t make the commitment. If you can take this on, however, you can seemingly look forward to a long and happy life.

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