Dogs are loyal companions that love us unconditionally. They're attuned to our physical and mental needs, and studies have shown that they bring us very real health benefits. In this post we'll highlight 5 amazing ways your dog can improve your health.
1) They Lower Your Blood Pressure
Research has shown that dog owners have a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure than non-owners. This is thought to be due to the calming effect that dogs have on their owners, and the fact that people with dogs tend to be more active.
Studies have also shown that petting a dog raises levels of oxytocin – sometimes referred to as the "love hormone". Petting also decreases levels of cortisol, the "stress hormone", which in turn lowers blood pressure.
2) They Boost Your Immune System
Researchers have found that children who grow up in a home with a dog are less likely to get sick than those who live in pet-free homes. Scientists have also discovered that babies who are exposed to dogs during their first year are less prone to allergies later in life.
In fact, the link between dogs and human immunity is so strong that researchers from the University of Arizona are launching a new study to find out more. They aim to discover whether dogs act as probiotics and encourage the growth of "good" bacteria in the human digestive tract, thereby boosting our immune function.
3) They Improve Your Emotional Wellbeing
There are many psychological benefits of owning a dog, and it turns out they have a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing. Dogs are excellent stress-relievers, with the power to calm negative emotions and leave us feeling more relaxed. They've even been shown to decrease loneliness and depression by providing a sense of companionship and social support.
Other psychological benefits of dog ownership include reduced anxiety, a greater sense of purpose, and increased self-esteem. These benefits explain why dogs are such a help to people suffering from debilitating mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
4) They Keep You Fit and Active
In a study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, researchers found that people with dogs walk more each week than those who don't own dogs. The dog owners were also more likely to meet recommended physical activity requirements. This should come as no surprise – dogs need a lot of exercise, and they are great at motivating us to take them outside for a walk!
A recent study from the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK, found that owning a dog is especially beneficial for helping older people maintain physical activity levels and stay healthy as they age. They even discovered that bad weather failed to keep senior dog owners indoors!
5) They Help You Live Longer
That's right. Dogs can even extend our lives! A 2017 Swedish study tracked more than 3.4 million people and found that dog owners reduce their risk of death by 11%. Deaths from cardiovascular disease were also 15% lower among people with dogs. Even more striking is the finding that dog owners who live alone can cut their risk of death by 33% and their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by a massive 36%.
So, how do dogs help us live longer? Researchers say there's more to investigate, but it appears that dog owners live longer thanks to a combination of the incredible health benefits we've discussed in this post. There may also be some factors that scientists have yet to discover. But one thing's for sure, dogs are pretty amazing creatures!
Dogs keep us healthy in so many ways, and it's important to do our part to take care of their health, too. If you'd like find out more about caring for dog's health, check out the CocoTherapy blog archives for in-depth articles and practical tips for pet owners.