Dog Owners Likely Live Longer Lives

If your dog hasn't given you enough reasons to love him as unconditionally as he loves you, here is another one. Pet owners might actually live longer lives! A new report from the American Heart Association suggests having a canine companion may help lower the risk of heart disease; in fact, studies linking pet ownership to better physical and mental health have been popping up for decades.

“People who have dogs live longer than people who have cats and the assumption has been that dogs naturally cause their owners to be more active,” suggests Dr. Thomas Lee, Co-Editor in Chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. “The emotional benefits of having an affectionate creature are also one of the theories for why dog-lovers live longer.”

Don't get us wrong, cats make great companions too, but the suggestion is that dogs encourage their owners to be more physical since they enjoy exercise so much.

Dog Owners Are More Likely to Exercise

The AHA evidence shows dog owners are more likely to exercise, have better cholesterol and lower blood pressure, are less prone to the side effects of stress and are more likely to survive a heart attack.

Dr. Lee, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says it might actually be the other way around. He suggests healthier people—those who are making the kinds of lifestyle changes that reduce health risks—are more likely to have a dog.

Even so, the findings favor dog ownership and being active with your dog on a regular basis.

Dogs Help Owners Deal With Stress

It's not all about physical activity: your dog's love goes a long way.  A 2001 study looked at 48 people with high blood pressure and high-stress jobs who agreed to adopt a dog or a cat if so asked. Half did, and six months later those who got a dog or cat had significantly lower blood pressure when stressed.

Getting a dog seems to help even if you already have heart disease. A 1995 study followed 369 people with cardiovascular disease. A year later, those who owned a dog were four times more likely to be alive than those who didn’t have a dog.

Should you get a dog to help your heart?

Dog ownership is heart healthy, but according to the AHA panel, “the primary purpose of adopting, rescuing, or purchasing a pet should not be to achieve a reduction in cardiovascular risk.”

The mere act of getting a dog is no substitute for a plan to get regular physical activity, to eat a heart-healthy diet and to get regular medical care. That said, dogs do seem to be good for your heart in many ways. For instance, dogs are a good cure for loneliness too.

8 Additional Cool Reasons Why Your Dog is Good for Your Health

Dog lovers know how much pets enrich their lives and how they make us happier and healthier overall, but there are some surprising benefits of dog ownership that you may have never heard. Aside from providing companionship and entertainment, here are a few of the countless mental and physical perks of being a puppy parent (many backed by scientific evidence).

1. Dogs Boost Your Mood

Dogs have long been known to make great companions, but did you know that they actually improve your mood? Research shows it only takes 15-30 minutes with your pet to make you feel more relaxed and calm. Playing with your dog raises your brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and tranquility. Psychologists from Miami and St. Louis Universities found the benefits of having a canine companion can be equivalent to having a human companion. Looks like pooches can get your tail wagging too!

2. Dogs Make You More Social

Have you ever thought of your dog as your wingman?  While your dog may not make you totally irresistible to the opposite sex, having one around helps you be more social, approachable and can help some get over shyness. Doing activities with your dog such as going to pet stores, dog parks or special events is great for both you and your best friend, as it is a great way to meet new people and mingle with other dogs and dog lovers. A study by Britain's Warwick University found that 40% of people reported making friends much easier as a result of owning a dog.

3. Dogs Relieve Stress

Another great yet unexpected benefit of owning a dog is that they are masters at helping us relieve stress and feel calm. According to a study from SUNY Buffalo (2006), 240 married couples with dogs were subjected to various types of stressful tasks where they were either alone, with their spouse or were able to see their dog before or after the task. Unsurprisingly, the lowest responses to stress were among those who were allowed to see their dogs. Maybe there should be a mandatory “bring your dog to work” day!

4. Dogs Help Kids Grow Stronger

Getting your little one a furry companion can be beneficial. We all value our health and dogs can actually help contribute to keeping your child healthy just by being part of the family. According to Science Daily, kids who grow up with dogs in the home have fewer allergies and are less likely to have eczema. Kids with dogs in the home also have fewer sick days and grow up with higher levels of certain immune system supporters that keep them in tip-top shape as they get older.

5. Dogs Help Us Understand Cancer

Did you know that dogs and humans get the same type of cancer? Science Daily states that owing to the similarities in the disease, dogs with cancer can help us discover more about the disease itself and in turn, we can help advance treatment for cancer in dogs as well. There aren’t any unethical tests or procedures being performed on dogs, the medical field just takes the opportunity to study the cancer and discover new methods for treatment.

6. Dogs Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

Clearly, dogs are extremely helpful in helping people deal with medical issues. Dogs have been found to be beneficial to people with various medical issues but especially with those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Dogs help people with RA move more often and they encourage play. They also help RA patients get their minds off their condition. Dogs are great motivators and they get people moving: you could say they help people take their minds off themselves and their issues. Thank goodness for that!

7. Dogs Are Therapeutic for Kids With ADHD

Pet Wiki and WebMD agree that dogs make great pets for kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Your child can release excess energy by playing with the dog, and caring for the pet will also help teach your child responsibility. Dogs can also help calm your child. Many therapists have used dogs in treatment as they seem to have a calming effect on both adults and children and help people feel more at ease during treatment.

8. Dogs Can Make You a Better Person

Having a dog teaches us patience, commitment and selflessness. Caring for a dog takes a lot of responsibility and commitment, and it teaches us to be less selfish. We learn to be less focused on ourselves and more tolerant as even the best pets can sometimes try our patience. We spend a lot of time training our dogs, but the truth is our furry best friends are busy all day long teaching us a thing or too as well.