Dog ownership has long been linked to providing serious health benefits. Both anecdotal and scientific evidence over the last twenty years has shown that dog owners tend to be healthier than the average person who doesn’t own a pet. Studies in Sweden and Australia conducted in the last 10 years show a correlation between dog ownership and improved quality of life.
There are many amazing health benefits of owning a dog. They help increase the opportunities of going outside, socializing, and exercising. Pets help manage depression and loneliness through their companionship. Regular playing or walking with your dog can decrease triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
Whether lending a helping hand to the disabled or promoting psychological and physical health benefits, the history of dogs making life better for their best friends is great. Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits dog ownership offers.
Pick the Right Pet for You and Your Family
Before you adopt a new pet, make sure that it’s the right pet for you. You can do so by doing research on the specific pet beforehand and about the needs of your chosen pet. Before adopting your pet, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are pets allowed in my condominium, apartment, or house?
- Will I be able to afford a pet? Veterinary and food costs?
- How large will the pet become?
- Do I have enough time to spend time with, properly care for, and clean up after the pet?
- How long will this pet live?
- What type of environment does the pet need in order to live comfortably, happily, and healthily?
Surprising Health Benefits Most People Don’t Know
Choosing pet ownership can be beneficial for you and your entire family. We’ve listed a few common health benefits as well as a ton of additional reasons you might want to consider getting a dog. Let’s take a look!
#1 Keep Your Family Active
This first one might seem obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Research shows that dog owners participate in more physical activity than people who don’t own dogs. Even children with dogs spend more time doing moderate to vigorous physical activity than children without dogs.
#2 Improve Your Heart Health
Pets don’t just fill your heart with love, they actually improve your heart health. Studies show that having a canine companion is linked to decreased triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and reduced cholesterol. All of which contribute to fewer heart attacks and overall improved cardiovascular health. What’s more, even if a dog owner does end up having a heart attack- they have much better survival rates thanks to their canine companion.
#3 Improve Mental Health
The psychological and social support dogs provide their owners has long been researched. In a 2011 study involving 217 people, pet owners were found to be happier, healthier, and better adjusted than people without pets. So if you find yourself suffering from regular mental fatigue, depression, or anxiety, dog ownership might be able to tame your symptoms for the better.
#4 Reduce Risk of Eczema in Children
This may seem counterintuitive since pet allergies are usually the reason families opt not to get a dog. A 2010 study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2011, found that children who interacted with a family dog from infancy were less likely to develop eczema by age 4. Pretty amazing stuff!
#5 Alert You to Low Blood Sugar Levels
More than one-third of dogs living with diabetic people have been reported to detect when their owners’ glucose levels drop. How they do it is still unclear, but some theories include they detected minute muscle tremors or changes in their owners’ scents. What is most intriguing is that this may be a skill that can be taught to dogs.
#6 Assist During Seizures
Dogs can be trained as seizure dogs to recognize subtle behavior or body language changes during seizure events. Similar to the duties of a seeing-eye dog, seizure dogs are perceptive enough to warn their owners of oncoming attacks. Since few studies have been conducted, some researchers still have doubts that dogs can alert owners to seizures. Regardless, dogs can still provide support and companionship to patients with epilepsy, even if they can’t warn of impending attacks.
#7 Warn You About Foods You’re Allergic To
After going through rigorous training, dogs can detect even the most minuscule trace presence of allergens such as peanuts. While it’s a good idea to stay vigilant if you have a peanut allergy, peanut-detecting dogs can help ease the minds of their owners. Very impressive!
#8 Prevent Allergies and Asthma in Children
Back in the 90s, experts believed that canine companions contributed to allergies and asthma in children. Fortunately, recent research proves that the opposite is true: pets, like dogs and cats, actually reduce the chance of children becoming allergic to pets or asthmatic by 33%. Now here is where pets score bonus points – your children may even develop stronger immune systems thanks to their canine companions.
#9 Detect Different Types of Cancer
Case studies and scientific reports over three decades support that dogs are able to sniff out a variety of cancers in their owners, including skin, bladder, lung, breast, ovarian, and colon. In some cases, dogs have been specially trained to increase their accuracy in detecting early-stage colorectal cancer.
#10 Pets Help Older People with Social Interaction and Cognitive Function
According to studies being done on the effects of pets on older people – the results have proven to be positive. One of the studies found that older people with dementia experienced a decrease in agitated behaviors and their social interactions improved. Another study showed that pet therapy improves the cognitive function of older people with mental illnesses in long-term care.
Is Getting a Dog a Good Option for You & Your Family?
The reality is, our four-footed best friends provide us with unconditional love and support. They’re there for us even through the hardest of times. Although, people have the misconception that we’re taking care of our canine companions – which is partly true. However, it’s mutual – our canine companions take care of us too, and it’s confirmed according to Science.
Pets are wonderful motivators to get you moving, but they’re not just a means to a healthier end. Once you’ve decided to adopt a dog or a cat, it’s a commitment that will last for years to come. You must be willing and ready to take on that responsibility no matter what. If you do so, you’ll more than likely be rewarded with one of the most memorable, loyal, loving, satisfying, and active relationships you’ll ever experience.
And as always, we’re pro-pet adoption. Choosing to give a dog a new chance at life can be rewarding for both you and your new pet.
Emily is a writer who travels full-time in a converted school bus (aka skoolie) with her 5 year old lab mix, Eliot. She is passionate about sustainability and making healthy lifestyle changes. Emily enjoys hiking and exploring the country with Eliot.