10 Health Benefits Of Having A Dog & Live Longer

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girl outside petting dog sitting on the ground

There are many benefits to owning a dog that goes far beyond them just being cute. Dogs can improve our overall health and help us live happier lives. Below are ten of the many benefits that humans receive by spending time with our beloved canines.

1. Decrease Depression

Depression affects roughly 40 million adults1. Did you know that owning a dog can help you be happier? Dogs reduce depression and improve your holistic health (as you’ll read below). Many of the items we discuss in this article are proven to help reduce depression as well (more exercise, less loneliness, reduced stress).

According to a Wisdom Panel Survey, 99% of dog parents (and 96% of cat parents) said their pet has positively impacted their mental health.2

2. Feel Less Rejection

A study asked volunteers about an experience where they felt rejected and then asked them to name a photo of an animal, toy, or human. Those who chose an animal or toy felt less negatively than those who picked a person.3

People who treat animals or objects like people are more likely to be empathetic and avoid negativity. So next time you talk to your dog, know that it’s a good thing and it can help you deal with rejection.

3. Exercise More

You know your dog needs exercise to be healthy. Spending time at the dog park or walking on your favorite trail are just a couple of ways your pup can stretch its legs. If your dog is getting exercise, that means you’re out and about as well. A study found that people who live with a dog tend to exercise about 30 minutes more per week than those who don’t own a dog.4

4. Reduce Loneliness

A study in Aging & Mental Health5 states that older adults who own pets are 36% less likely to say they’re lonely than those without. Connections have been found between loneliness and heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other health risks. Is it safe to say that minimizing loneliness could help you reduce illness? It certainly seems worth a try, right?

5. Lessen Stress

After 15 to 30 minutes of petting a dog, female volunteers had lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and had a higher level of oxytocin (a happy hormone) after another 1 to 5 minutes. Petting dogs has been shown to lower heart rates, as well.6

Having pets in the home has been shown to reduce blood pressure, alleviate stress, and even improve depression – benefits that the whole family can enjoy! – Elizabeth Racine, DVM

6. Keep Your Wits About You

Research stated that older, housebound adults who owned dogs or cats were better at paying attention, remembering details, and using past experiences to decide how to act than those who didn’t own a pet.3

7. Decrease Pain

Being around a dog may mean you take fewer pain medications. Adults who spent 5 to 15 minutes with a dog after surgery used fewer pain meds than those who didn’t.3

8. Diminish Allergies

Babies who grow up in homes with pets are less likely to develop allergies later in life. However, this doesn’t work later in life; early exposure is critical.

Everyone loves the wholesome image of a child growing up alongside a pet, and, as it turns out, there are a lot of mental and physical benefits for children who grow up with pets, too! According to the Animal Health Foundation, studies have shown that kids exposed to cats and dogs as infants have significantly less risk of developing allergies and asthma later in life.7 –  Elizabeth Racine, DVM

9. Minimize Doctor Visits

A study found that seniors on Medicare who own pets had fewer doctor contacts within a one year period than those without pets.8 This was especially true of dog owners, more so than cat, bird, and other animal owners. Dog owners are also 31% less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.9

10. Teach Kids Important Life Lessons

In addition to the physical benefits of pet ownership, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that pets can teach children important life lessons about responsibility, trust, love, compassion, loss, and empathy and improve a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. –  Elizabeth Racine, DVM

Sources: [1] NAMI, [2] Wisdom Panel, [3] Anthrozoös, [4] Journal of Physical Activity and Health, [5] Aging & Mental Health, [6] Frontiers In Psychology, [7] Animal Health Foundation, [8] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology [9] Real Simple Magazine January/February 2022 Issue

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