You do all you can to make sure your canine companion is safe, comfortable, and healthy. You take her to the vet for her regular checkups, you make sure she eats a healthy diet, and when she gets older you make sure she doesn’t suffer from pain in her aging joints.
For all we do for our dogs, the unconditional love and loyalty that they offer us is enough. However, you may not have known that dog ownership comes with several health benefits, an often overlooked perk of having a furry friend.
Research has shown that dog ownership decreases several risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death among Americans. It appears they have this effect because of several factors: Time spent with dogs has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rates, decrease stress levels, and promote a more relaxed state.
For example, one study showed that time spent with dogs lowers cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, while raising oxytocin levels, a hormone associated with a relaxation and calm. Turns out that just spending time with a dog, even if he isn’t yours, can help relieve the stress of your busy life, improving heart health as a beneficial side effect.
Several studies have confirmed that dog owners who walk their dogs daily show significantly better activity rates than their non dog-owning counterparts. While going to the gym after work may be “optional,” apparently it is a lot harder to tell our furry friend with big brown eyes that you just don’t have time for the evening walk!
The effects of the additional exercise are significant enough that dog owners have lower rates of obesity, a risk factor for many conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Simply by making a commitment to walking your dog each day, you can improve your overall activity level, and drop a few pounds along the way.
Many people that have the pleasure of a dog in their lives are already well aware of their positive impact on our state of mind. However, it might be surprising to learn that some studies actually show that dog ownership might actually help lower the rates of several mental health problems including depression, feelings of social isolation and loneliness, and anxiety. In fact, the use of companion animals as a form of treatment for these mental health conditions is on the rise.
Now that science has identified a positive correlation, particularly for those suffering from these common mental health issues, we can expect to see more people taking advantage of the benefits of canine companionship. After all – there are no dangerous side effects, drug interactions, or long term health consequences of loving a dog!
A Heart-Felt Thanks to Dogs!
The relationship between domesticated dogs and humans goes back at least 15,000 years. Although dogs once helped our ancient ancestors hunt, heard, and stay safe from predators, they still offer us advantages in the busy modern world. By helping us stay healthy, our canine companions do more than take over the couch! In this world full of buzzing cell phones, endless distractions, and seemingly infinite pressure to perform on a moment’s notice, our fuzzy little friends offer a refuge.
Next time you find yourself worrying over the cost and hassle of that next annual vet check-up, remind yourself of how your dog is showing up for you every day!