Truckee the Adventure Dog

7 Documented Health Benefits of a Dog

The health benefits of a dog are pretty well established in the medical literature. So much so that the American Heart Association last year published a scientific statement detailing the impact on cardiovascular risk. Here are seven benefits that rise to the top.

  1. Longer Life. Studies have found better survival for people with cardiac disease who have a dog than those who do not. The difference observed in survival after discharge from a cardiac unit was four-fold.
  2. Lower Blood Pressure. Studies have found lower blood pressure in people who own a dog. Though some studies of pet ownership did not find a difference, studies that were specific to dog ownership were consistently positive.
  3. Lower Cholesterol. Studies of dog ownership and cholesterol have found an association with lower cholesterol, but the observations are less consistent when controlling for BMI. This is true because owning and walking a dog is also associated with lower BMI, which in turn lowers cholesterol.
  4. Better Fitness. Among all pets, dogs are pretty clearly the most likely to promote more physical activity and fitness.
  5. Less Obesity. Walking your dog — as opposed to simply owning a dog — appears to reduce the risk of obesity in observational studies.
  6. Less Stress. Most studies that have looked at pet ownership, including dogs, have found that people with pets have less of a negative physical response to stress and more quickly shake it off.
  7. More Emotional and Social Satisfaction. Studies have found that dogs have a robust effect as social catalysts. As Jane Brody recently explained about her dog, “Max has definitely increased my interpersonal contacts and enhanced my social life.” Studies have also found potential to relieve factors, such as loneliness, that detract from mental health.

Few wellness programs have an evidence base for such a range of benefits. So if you feel inclined to adopt a dog, go for it.

Click here to read more in the New York Times, click here to read the AHA evidence review, and click here to read the study of dogs as social catalysts.

Truckee the Adventure Dog, photograph © Cody Wellons / flickr

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2 Responses to “7 Documented Health Benefits of a Dog”

  1. April 12, 2014 at 3:03 pm, Rose Aspalter said:

    One of my patients got a dog. Few months later he reported: “My dog is doing great! He gained 8 kilos. In the same time I lost 8 kilos!”

    • April 12, 2014 at 3:57 pm, Ted said:

      That’s a great story!