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Owning a dog reduces your risk of dying early, study finds

09 October 2019

But now it's been confirmed that dogs help extend your life, according to a new study.

Kramer has also personally experienced the positive side-effects of dog ownership in the form of her miniature schnauzer, Romeo, whom she credits with increasing her physical activity by 10,000 steps per day.

"Given the magnitude of the potential benefit - and likely little or no harm - these findings should encourage clinicians to discuss pet adoption with their patients, particularly those with preexisting cardiovascular disease and those living by themselves", Dr. Dhruv S. Kazi of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston writes in an editorial accompanying the study. The study found that dog owners who live alone (compared to non-owners who live alone) had a 33% lower chance of dying from a heart attack post hospitalization. "As a pet owner myself, I can say that adopting Romeo (the author's miniature Schnauzer) has increased my steps and physical activity each day, and he has filled my daily routine with joy and unconditional love".

Using health data provided by the Swedish National Patient Register, the first study, "Dog ownership and survival after a major cardiovascular event-a registry-based, prospective study", compared the health outcomes of dog owners and non-owners after a heart attack or a stroke. Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people.

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The study, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, reported: "Dog ownership was associated with a 33 per cent lower risk of early death for heart attack survivors living alone and 27 per cent reduced risk of early death for stroke survivors living alone, compared to people who did not own a dog".

Similarly, they collected information on just over 150,000 patients the same age who'd had a stroke during that period.

In fact, a number of cardiologists believe in the benefits of dog ownership so much they will actually prescribe a dog for their patients, if they believe the person can appropriately care for a pet. "They worry because they don't want to leave the dog alone if something happens to them", Gulati said.

The data shows that all-cause morality - that is, the risk of dying from literally anything - is reduced by 24% for dog owners.

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However, the AHA also says that pet ownership is a caring commitment that comes with certain financial costs and responsibilities, so "the primary objective of adopting, rescuing, or purchasing a pet" should not be to reduce cardiovascular risk. "Dogs have positive impacts on almost all life stages".

"They influence social, emotional and cognitive development in children, promote an active lifestyle, and have even been able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures or the presence of certain cancers", the CDC said. "So like walking, not smoking".

So, in absolute terms, the slightly improved odds for dog owners might not be all that huge.

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Owning a dog reduces your risk of dying early, study finds