These Are The Overlooked Health Benefits Of Having A Dog
One of the most joyous benefits of being a dog owner is the unconditional love that you receive from your four-legged friend- but have you ever considered the physical and mental health benefits that you gain from your dog? As it turns out, having a furry companion may offer more than just playtime and belly rubs. Dogs have been shown to provide a host of health benefits.
Whether you’re dealing with a serious health ailment, or are feeling a-ok, dog-owners have long reaped some perhaps unbeknownst health benefits from keeping their canine companions around. Aside from providing companionship and entertainment, there are countless mental and physical perks of being a dog owner…
Dogs Can Improve Heart Health
You know how you get that warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when cuddling with your pet? Well, it turns out that there are real, tangible heart health benefits to those sweet moments. Dog owners boast lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, and fewer heart attacks than their pet-less friends.
In addition, patients recovering from a heart attack survive longer on average when they have a pet to help manage their stress levels. Those puppy cuddles are an even better idea than you originally thought!
Dogs Can Diagnose Low Blood Sugar Levels
If someone you know is a diabetic, you know how important it is to respond quickly when blood sugar levels start to drop. Fortunately, dogs can help detect falling levels before you even know it’s happening. In fact, one study found that more than 1/3 of dogs possessed this special talent.
These dogs displayed changes in behavior when their owner’s glucose levels fell. The science is a bit of a mystery, but minute muscle tremors or slight changes in your scent may provide the clues they need to alert you to the impending danger.
Dogs Have The Ability To Detect Cancer
In a 1989 case study in The Lancet, one dog owner was prompted to have a mole on her leg checked by her doctor when her dog wouldn’t stop sniffing at the spot. It turned out to be malignant melanoma. Since then, dogs have been trained to detect a range of cancers, even in the early stages.
While you should always prioritize regular health screenings, it’s nice to have some backup from your furry friend, who may know that something is off.
Dogs Can Reduce Depression
When you’re on the receiving end of your dog’s unconditional love, you’re likely to find a greater sense of purpose, decreased feelings of loneliness, and increased feelings of joy and happiness. Perhaps this is why hospitals and nursing homes often use pet-facilitated therapy to keep spirits high in the face of trying circumstances.
Some universities even bring therapy dogs on campus to reduce anxiety and increase happiness for students during exam season.
Dogs Can Be Therapeutic For Kids With ADHD
For children struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a pet dog can be a perfect complement to their treatment plan. Kids have the opportunity to learn greater responsibility when they own a pet, and playing with their dog in the backyard is a simple and fun way to burn off some extra energy.
Dogs are also known to have calming effects on adults and children, and can provide a much-needed source of calm energy in your home- also an important factor in not only managing, but improving the symptoms of ADHD.
Dogs Can Lower A Child’s Likelihood Of Developing Related Allergies
While you probably shouldn’t bring a pup home if someone in your family already has a dog allergy, introducing a pet in the home from an early age can actually reduce the likelihood of an allergy developing down the road. Pediatrician James E. Gern published a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that suggests this.
Dr. Gern found that children who grow up with pets develop stronger overall immune systems and may be up to 33% less likely to develop pet-related allergies.
Dogs Can Reduce Your Risk Of Developing Eczema
The famous Dr. Gern conducted a study that found growing up with pets made you less likely to develop pet-related allergies. In addition to this, he also found that you’re less likely to have eczema, an allergic condition characterized by the itchy, red patches, and sometimes blisters, that it causes on your skin. Why is this the case?
According to Dr. Gern, this may have to do with the overall strengthening your immune system enjoys when exposed to the frequent low-level dirt and allergens that accompany dog ownership- especially if this is taking place from a young age. Essentially, your skin microbiome will thank you for the diversity brought on by your dog.
Dogs Can Help Keep Your Immunity Strong
Owning a canine can keep you young, beautiful, and healthy looking, and can also assist with overall immunity. Since they require regular walks and outdoor activities, they force you to go into the sunshine and get your vitamin D- which is crucial for overall health, especially your immune system.
Now this isn’t an invitation to go out there and bake until you burn. If you want to avoid wrinkles and discoloration, the sun and your pup are here to help, but know your limits and don’t stay out in the sun without protection for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, especially during solar noon.
Dogs Are A Natural Pain Reliever
No wonder dogs are frequent hospital guests. While they help you combat feelings of loneliness and recover from illnesses, they also serve as a natural pain reliever. Spending just a few minutes per day petting your canine companion has been shown in various studies to produce therapeutic benefits that are on par with, or greater than taking Ibuprofen- and without the side effects.
One study observed patients recovering from joint replacement surgery and determined that those who participated in animal-assisted therapy required significantly less pain medication.
Dogs Can Delay Or Prevent Diabetes
While type 2 diabetes can have a genetic component, there are plenty of risk factors that affect your ability to acquire the condition, and dog ownership has been repeatedly proven to reduce your chance of almost all of them. Just a quick glance at all the benefits will tell you that you can improve your likelihood of achieving a normal BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol, through dog ownership.
A walk or two a day with your dog is crucial for physical and mental health, and the unintentional benefits of being out in nature, out in the cold, and creating movement in the form of light but consistent exercise, can all be critical components of warding off Diabetes and other major illnesses.
Dogs Can Detect The Presence of Major Food Allergens
You’ve probably seen police dogs who are trained to sniff out illegal drugs or even bombs, but did you know they can be trained to sniff out major allergens as well? If you face serious peanut allergies, you can enjoy a little extra peace of mind from your trained service dog.
These dogs can detect even trace amounts of peanuts in a room before you enter. While you must still be careful and keep an epinephrine pen on hand, you may still find that these pups ease some of your burden by detecting allergens before it’s too late.
Dogs Can Boost Your Mood
Of course, you probably already know that playing with your furry friend puts you in a better mood, but did you know that there’s actually science to back up what you’re feeling? Playing with your dog raises your levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain.
In fact, research shows that 15 to 30 minutes with your pet is all it takes to lower your blood pressure and boost your mood.
Dogs Can Help Kids Grow Stronger
When you were growing up, you likely heard, “Drink milk for strong bones,” or “Veggies make you grow big and strong!” These sentiments weren’t entirely wrong, but if we knew then what we know now, your parents might have just gotten you that puppy you wanted for your birthday.
Science Daily reported that children with dogs in the home had fewer sick days, fewer allergies, decreased chances of eczema, and higher levels of important immune system supporters than their pet-less friends.
Dogs Help You Stay Active
Next time your dog begs you to take him on a walk, try thanking him instead of groaning in response. When you walk or jog with your dog, or simply play with him at the local dog park, you (and your dog) are getting great exercise and having fun in the process.
Research shows that dog owners who regularly walk their pets enjoy more advanced stages of movement and lower rates of obesity than those who don’t. All those walks with your pet add up to a healthier, more active lifestyle for you.
Dogs Can Help To Relieve Stress
When life gets a little bit stressful, your brain releases cortisol and norepinephrine, which have been linked to negative effects on your nervous system. Petting your dog is an easy way to combat unhealthy stress and increase your levels of serotonin and dopamine, those feel-good neurotransmitters that help keep you calm.
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try spending some quality time with your pup for quick and easy stress relief.
Dogs Can Help You Recover from Illnesses
You may have heard how recovering heart attack patients can live longer when they have a pet by their side to help manage stress, but these aren’t the only patients who can benefit from a furry friend. Many hospitals invite in therapy dogs to help patients recovering from a wide variety of illnesses.
If you’re sick, a dog can help by providing increased mobility, more social contact, and much needed companionship to combat feelings of loneliness.
Dogs Can Help You Be More Social
From doggie Meetup groups and playdates to just chatting with another labradoodle owner at the dog park, your pup can help you make new friends! Dogs can help you meet new people by increasing your approachability and helping you overcome shyness. Be honest; you’ve definitely asked to pet a stranger’s dog.
Britain’s Warwick University found that people with dogs are far more likely to be approached by strangers and make friends sooner. Take your dog to training classes, dog parks, or outdoor cafes as a fun way to boost your social life.
Dogs Can Make You a Better Person
It’s no secret that owning a dog can be hard work, especially when you’re raising a puppy. Not to mention the constant need for attention and torn-up cushions and shoes. On the plus side, the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet can actually make you a better person.
Caring for a dog is a wonderful way to learn selflessness, and the training and daily care required provide plenty of opportunities to grow in patience and commitment.
Dogs Can Extend The Lives of Elderly People
The exercise and companionship that come with caring for a dog can have tangible benefits for elderly owners. In fact, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio includes a question concerning pet ownership in their medical screenings of clients over 75 years old and view a “yes” as a point in the client’s favor.
If you’re looking to make the most of your golden years, a dog is a great way to increase your quality of life.
Dogs Can Help Alzheimer’s Patients
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can cause a lot of stress for patients and their families. Fortunately, dogs can relieve a bit of that burden. Dr. Lynette Hart of the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine shares that having a pet at home can reduce the number of anxious outbursts shown by Alzheimer’s patients.
There’s simply something calming about the presence of a pet, even in the midst of a confusing diagnosis. You may even want to consider one for your family member with Alzheimer’s.
Dogs Can Help To Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you have yet another reason to provide a dog with a loving home. RA patients who own a pet dog are more likely to move more often thanks to pups you constantly want to pet or let outside, which is an important part of treatment.
In addition to the benefits of light movement, pups are so cuddly and playful that they make for a great distraction from your pain. Can you imagine a more lovable home health aide?
Dogs Can Help You During Seizures
If you or someone you know is struggling with seizures, you may want to look into getting a seizure service dog. These pups are both adorable and intelligent. They know how to detect subtle changes in behavior to recognize when you are having a seizure and may even save your life.
Some studies suggest these dogs may even be able to warn you of oncoming seizures so that you can take action on the front end, but at the very least, they provide a calming and supportive companion throughout your health difficulties.
Dogs Can Reduce Stress At Work
Feeling extra stressed at work lately? Why not ask your boss if you can bring your dog along to help calm you down? Don’t worry. There’s science to back you up. A SUNY Buffalo study found that couples with dogs had lower responses to stressful tasks when allowed to see their dog before or after the task.
This should be all the reason you need to bring your furry friend to the office! Dog-friendly Friday, anyone?
Dogs Can Keep The Doctor Away
While it’s always recommended to visit the doctor’s office for an annual physical or any health issues, dogs may just be the best medicine for elderly pet owners. Research shows that individuals over 65 with a dog seek medical attention 30 percent less than those the same age who do not own one.
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that seniors on Medicare who owned canines “reported fewer doctor contacts over a 1-year period than respondents who did not own pets.”
Dogs Can Make You More Attractive To Partners
Has your bachelor brother ever asked to borrow your pup for the day in hopes of getting some positive attention from women? He might actually be on to something! Your dog can make you a big ladies man (or woman!) at the park, helping you strike up a conversation with a cute stranger who loves your cute dog.
Remember the live-action 101 Dalmatians, when Roger and Anita meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after with their pups? That could be you!
Dogs Can Provide Stability
While there are no guarantees in life when it comes to career, health, or relationships, it’s a given that your furry friend will be waiting for you at the door when you get home from work each day. This small act of love will provide you with the stability we all desire.
Sure, your dog may also beg for scraps of your food every night, but the compassion and stability he shows you makes it totally worth it.
Dogs Can Help You To Be More Mindful
Walking your dog is an act of meditation on its own. This helps you live in the moment, focusing on the sights, smells, and sounds all around you to ensure that you and your best friend are safe. Of course, he’ll help too when he starts barking at all the squirrels.
Next time you’re out with your dog, try to avoid thinking about work, bills, or any other stresses in your life. Simply focus on the present with your good boy and see where it takes you.
Dogs Can Keep You Safe from Strangers
We’ve all heard the term “guard dog” and maybe chuckled a bit because your pup wouldn’t hurt a fly. But the truth is that owning a dog will keep you safe from all types of danger, from being assaulted on the street to having your home broken into by a thief.
When The Guardian asked former criminals about their old habits, the sound of a barking dog was ranked number 2 on the list of greatest deterrents when robbing homes.
Dogs Can Help With PTSD
Everybody knows that dogs are wonderful emotional support animals, especially for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These dogs are specifically trained to mitigate symptoms like anxiety, feelings of isolation, and hypervigilance, and the results from a study by Purdue University researchers show just how effective these animals are when it comes to helping veterans.
Vets with service dogs reported a 22% higher rate of satisfaction with life, including mental health rates and the ability to participate in social activities.
Dogs Can Reduce Risk Of Stroke
More than 140,000 people die each year from a stroke, with hypertension being one of the greatest risk factors. While it is crucial to eat right and exercise regularly to keep your blood pressure under control, it’s been proven that owning a dog can help you avoid this devastating experience.
According to the American Heart Association, dog owners have a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality and 31% less chance of death caused by a stroke or heart attack.
Dogs Boost Your Attention To Detail
Think about it; any job posting you come across will have the exact same requirement: a sharp attention to detail. Some are born with it, and others need a canine companion to bring out that side of us. When you have a dog that relies on you, it’s all in the details.
As you begin to feed your dog regularly, give them medicine at a certain time, and make sure they’re being walked multiple times a day, it will make you more alert while improving memory and attention to detail.
Dogs Can Improve Your Self-Esteem
There are few things more incredible than having your dog by your side, whether he’s comforting you while you’re sick, watching TV by you, or just licking you until you feel like the most important person in the world. It not only boosts your mood, but also your overall self-esteem and confidence.
Having a dog draws more people to you, resulting in higher confidence. But just remember to keep your head held high and always be the person your dog thinks you are.
Dogs Keep the Rodents Away
Cats may have the reputation for chasing mice, but dogs can help too. Certain dog breeds are known for their pest control abilities, such as terriers. These dogs were specifically bred for the activity, as Jack Russells were brought up as fox hunters and others have spent time chasing rodents on farms.
Cat and mouse? More like dog and mouse! Forget the mouse traps, and let your terrier or dachshund chase them away.
Dogs Can Help You Combat Addiction
Dogs help you battle your addictions by relieving a variety of symptoms, including anxiety and loneliness, and letting you take responsibility for something or someone other than yourself. Not to mention the increased physical activity and social interaction that’ll do wonders for your overall life.
Addiction is a disease, but it gets better knowing your friends, family, and dog are by your side to help. This isn’t a cure for addition, and more work is required in order to truly kick addiction- but a helping hand (see: paw) can’t hurt.
Dogs Promote Bone And Joint Health
The phrase “dog with a bone” just got a whole new meaning. Research shows that going for daily walks with your dog has more health benefits than one could even imagine, including the delay of age-related bone density and strength decline. That means fewer painful joint injuries, like hip fractures.
You can do yoga and cardio as much as you want, but it doesn’t compare to a beautiful beach run with your Labrador.
Dogs Can Help You Sleep Better
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t let their dogs up on the bed, you may want to think again. Studies have shown that people, especially women, who sleep in the same room as their dog feel more rested upon waking up. Can you believe your space-hogging pup is helping you get a good rest?
When 40 women were asked by Mayo Clinic why they preferred to sleep with their dogs, the majority stated that it made them feel more safe and secure.
Dogs Can Help Those With Autism
A dog can be a wonderful addition to a family affected by autism. Interacting with the animal allows an autistic individual to form close bonds, and practice verbal and nonverbal communication. Meanwhile, the unconditional love from your dog can reduce stress, and instill a sense of empathy, responsibility, and compassion.
Especially for those with an autistic child, you should consider welcoming a dog into your family as a loving support animal for all, not just for your child.
Dogs Can Increase Levels Of Oxytocin
You may be thinking, “What is oxytocin, and is it worth having my couch chewed up for?” The answer is yes. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone,” and it plays a key role in our relationships with other humans and animals. For the record, a new mom is filled to the brim with this when she looks at her baby (and her dog)!
A study has shown that just looking into your dog’s eyes can increase oxytocin levels by 130% in dogs and 300% in their owners. Now that is love!
Dogs Can Make You Smarter
Did you know that talking to your dog means you’re probably smarter? This is due to anthropomorphism, or attributing human traits to an animal. Your high levels of empathy and ability to look at your dog as more than just an animal mean that you’re able to look outside the box, and that’s awesome.
You know what that means? Your friends can no longer give you dirty looks when you talk to your dog like they’re human and ask them what they want for dinner. It just means you’re smart!
Dogs Can Make You A Better Parent
Even if you don’t have a child of your own just yet, a dog is great practice with the patience, resilience, and unconditional love that parenthood requires. Especially if you decide to get a puppy, you can expect to spend as much time with the dog as you would a baby!
If you’re already a parent, the benefits of dog ownership speak for themselves. A dog gives your child a permanent playmate and instills responsibility and thoughtfulness in them from a young age.
Dogs Can Reduce Overall Medical Issues
People take medicine every day to decrease blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and combat the effects of chronic stress, but a cuddle session with your puppy can help too. Dog owners can enjoy those very same benefits without popping pills, as one study found that they suffer from fewer overall medical issues than their pet-less counterparts.
While you should never stop taking medicine without first consulting your doctor, having a pup is certainly a much more enjoyable way to prevent heart disease and a host of other medical issues than a cocktail of drugs.