According to the ASPCA, 44% of all households in the US own at least one dog, and there are approximately 78 million dogs in American homes. We own dogs for various reasons: for companionship, for protection, even for work. But did you know that owning a dog is also good for your health? Read on for 10 dog-induced health benefits!
1. Keeping you active
Health experts recommend that adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week, and studies show that dog owners are much more likely to meet this goal. Our dogs tend to keep us moving, which is especially beneficial as we get older.
2. Helping you lose weight
Daily dog walks go a long way in helping you lose weight, studies show, as they force you to be active for 10-30 minutes at a time. The best part? Most people see dog walking as a daily responsibility rather than a chore to be dreaded, like a trip to the gym might be!
3. Improving your heart health
As it turns out, dogs can both fill your heart and make it stronger. Studies have shown that contact with dogs can lower our blood pressure, reduce our cholesterol, and reduce our overall risk for heart attack. People who own dogs are more likely to survive a heart attack, too!
4. Reducing stress
Research shows that spending time with a canine companion lowers blood pressure and anxiety while increasing serotonin and dopamine levels–two neuro-chemicals that make you happy and calm. Dogs can make it easier to perform a stressful task and have been shown to reduce tension in the workplace and between married couples.
5. Improving your social life
Dogs make great talking points! Studies have shown that dog owners have less trouble making friends than non dog-owners; perhaps because we dog owners love talking about our furry friends! Dog owners are likely to encounter people with similar interests while out on walks or at the local dog park.
6. Giving us purpose
As we grow older and especially after retirement, it can become difficult to find purpose and structure in our lives. Owning a dog can provide just that, simply by requiring basic daily care. The responsibility of dog ownership helps give us a reason to get up and get going in the morning!
7. Fighting depression
As aforementioned, dogs have been shown to have a positive impact on our mood. It is widely believed that dog owners are less prone to depression than those without dogs, especially for older, more isolated individuals. Having a constant, non-judging companion by your side can certainly go a long way in keeping depression at bay.
8. Preventing allergies
Contrary to popular belief, having a dog around actually lowers a child’s chance of becoming allergic to pets by 33%! According to a 2004 study, children in dog-owning homes may also develop stronger immune systems. How paw-some is that?
9. Reducing trips to the doctor
For people over the age of 65, owning a dog can reduce your trips to the doctor by 30%. A study found that animal-owning seniors reported fewer doctor contacts over a year-long period than their non-animal owning counterparts. Owners of dogs in particular were reportedly “buffered from the impact of stressful life events” and therefore sought medical assistance less often.
10. Battling disease and injury
Have you heard about dogs who can sniff out cancer? Many experts believe dogs can detect a variety of illnesses and alert their owners to them, including skin, kidney and prostate cancers. Service dogs can also help their owners manage certain diseases by providing necessary assistance and increasing mobility and independence. Dogs have even been known to soothe Alzheimer’s related symptoms, such as emotional flare-ups and spurts of aggression.
So now you know: dogs don’t just make our lives more complete, they might actually help to extend them! Be sure to thank your dog for all he does for your health–he deserves it!
Looking for a canine companion? Think adoption first! Resources like Petfinder.com can help you find the perfect dog for you in your area.