The many health benefits of dogs as pets

According to studies, having a dog as a companion can add years to your life. One study concluded that owning a dog played an important role in the survival rates of heart attack victims. In another of these studies, patients were evaluated for one year after hospitalization. Researchers found that those patients who were alive one year after a heart attack were more likely to own a dog.

In terms of determining the long-term survival rate of patients, another study that focused on the key psychological factors contributing to the recovery of patients with heart disease ranked pet ownership at the top. Studies have also shown that dogs can have a calming effect which in turn helps keep blood pressure in a healthy range. [1]

Dr. Deborah Wells, a psychologist from Queen’s University, Belfast, writes in the British Journal of Health Psychology that dog owners often have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. After reviewing dozens of previous research papers examining the health benefits of pet ownership, she confirmed that pet owners are generally healthier than the average member of the population.

However, her research suggested that dog ownership had more positive impact than cat ownership. In addition to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, she said dog owners experienced fewer minor ailments and serious medical problems. There was also the suggestion that dogs could aid recovery from serious illnesses such as heart attacks, and act as an ‘early warning’ to detect an impending epileptic seizure. [2]

New York State University at Buffalo even conducted a study involving 24 stockbrokers who took prescription medication for high blood pressure. Researchers found that adding a dog or cat to the stockbrokers’ lives helped stabilize and even reduce their stress levels.

In other research conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, studies suggested that hormonal changes occur when humans and dogs interact, which could help people cope with depression and certain stress-related conditions. Apparently, the simple act of taking a few minutes to pet your dog triggers a number of “feel good” hormones in humans, including serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin.

Other studies showed that the presence of animals, especially dogs, helped reduce anxiety in people facing stressful situations, such as dental procedures. Separate studies reported that walking a dog can not only contribute to a person’s weight loss, but can also be a catalyst for interacting with other people, which can help improve a person’s sense of well-being.

Most studies show that therapy with dogs is one of the most cost-effective methods of helping people who suffer from emotional problems and state that people who live without pets are exposed to “more persistent fears, more panic attacks, more frequent headaches and more to take”. medication for stress-induced illnesses than pet owners”.

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In fact, Siskin Hospital in Tennessee has a “Pet Therapy” program to help with rehabilitation. They state, “The Pet Therapy Program uses carefully screened dogs and cats as an integral part of physical, speech, recreational and occupational therapies to address treatment goals including improving range of motion, strength and endurance, balance, mobility and feeling. In addition to the physical benefits of pet therapy, patients form a bond with the animal, reducing stress and building self-esteem through the unconditional acceptance of the animals.” [3]

So the next time you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed, spend some time with your dog and if you don’t have a dog, consider getting one. Perhaps you can get your doctor to prescribe a dog for you and have your health insurance pay for it. Just kidding.

Information sources:

[1] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/11/17/dogs-health.aspx [2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6279701.stm