August 26, 2019 | Abby Caviness
Some individuals may be using National Dog Day to snuggle their pups and give them some extra love on Instagram, but have you ever considered the health benefits of dogs? A 2017 study suggests having a canine companion may improve human health.1 If you are not convinced, USHEALTH Group® is providing a few health benefits of dogs to get you onboard!*
Top 5 Health Benefits of Dogs
Maybe you already love dogs and have one of your own, or you are warming up to the idea of finally buying your kids the dog they have been asking about for months. Either way, dogs are more than just fluffy, lovable animals—so, here are a few benefits of dogs you may not be aware of!
Dogs can lower blood pressure2
According to researchers at the University of Harvard, owning a dog reduces a person’s risk of heart disease. Though researchers are unable to pinpoint exactly why this is, they do believe this benefit may be related to the lifestyle adjustments people tend to make after adopting a dog. In addition, a 2017 study by Medical News Today reported that owning a dog reduced a person’s risk of premature death by up to a third. Again, researchers are unable to explain the exact cause of this benefit, but it is worth noting.
Dogs encourage exercise2
One way researchers have explained lower blood pressure in dog owners is a tendency to increase exercise. People who own a dog are committed to taking their dog outside to use the restroom at least twice a day. In addition, several studies—including a study by the University of Missouri—found that “adults aged 60 and over enjoy better health thanks to the “enforced” exercise they get by walking their dogs.” This increase in activity in all age groups can be linked to lower blood pressure, thus making dogs a good motivation for exercise.
Dogs make you happy2
While you may not consider happiness to be a health benefit, dogs increase the level of the “love hormone,” oxytocin, in your body. This hormone makes you feel good, cheers you up after a hard day or week and boosts your psychological well-being. The benefits of owning a dog may allow you to cope with stress more effectively and improve your social interactions. Due to this effect, dogs are also often used in hospitals to cheer up patients—notably, children going through cancer therapy.
Dogs increase mindfulness3
While making you happy, dogs can also have a calming effect. Allowing you to relieve your daily stress and tension, you have a greater ability to be more present in your life. This increased mindfulness will allow you to strengthen your relationships, both platonic and romantic. Once you are no longer stressed and worried about issues that normally take you away from your friends and family, you can focus more on those relationships and make a concerted effort to spend quality time with them.
Dogs can save you from a burning building4
Over the years, dogs have garnered a reputation for saving their owners from imminent death. In many situations relating to house fires, dogs have been credited with saving their owner’s life when they licked their face, alerting them of the danger. Since dogs are hyperaware of their surroundings, they are more likely to detect danger at night than their sleeping owners. Additionally, dogs can detect intruders, which may come in handy if you live alone.
Additional Health Tips
The flip side of dog ownership is the risks. Animals, in general, tend to carry different germs and bacteria than humans, which can have adverse effects on the human body. So, it is important to follow some of these simple tips to keep yourself safe from disease:5
- Wash your hands after touching your pet, their food, equipment, or waste
- Teach your children to wash their hands after playing with the pet and avoid kissing them
- Avoid touching wild animals, and do not try to domesticate them
- Practice good hygiene with your pet by keeping them out of the kitchen and removing their waste from your yard
- Keep your pet healthy by taking them to the vet regularly
- Make sure your pet is clean by giving them baths and cosmetic treatments (i.e. fingernail clipping)
Owning a dog can bring a lot of joy and order to your life when you may be in need. There are so many benefits to having a canine companion, you may want to consider getting one! However, with every good thing, there can be a few risks. So, it is important to do your research before taking the leap! And if you do, it could be just about the best decision you have ever made!
*This material is provided by USHEALTH Group for informational/educational purposes only and should not replace medical/clinical advice or direction from your health care provider.
- Macmillian, Amanda, “It’s Official: Dog Owners Live Longer, Healthier Lives,” Time.com, published November 17, 2017, https://time.com/5028171/health-benefits-owning-dog/
- Cohut, Maria, “Dogs: Our best friends in sickness and in health,” MedicalNewsToday.com, published August 26, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322868.php
- Frates, Elizabeth and Moses, Lisa, “Get Healthy, Get a Dog: The health benefits of canine companionship” Health.Harvard.edu, accessed August 24, 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/get-healthy-get-a-dog
- Wenger, Adam, “11 Ways Dogs Can Save Your Life,” Healthline.com, last modified December 9, 2014, https://www.healthline.com/health/dog-health-benefits#1
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Healthy Pets, Healthy People: About Pets & People,” CDC.gov, last modified April 15, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html