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The benefits of owning a dog and the surprising science behind it  If you have a dog and tell them it’s National Dog Day, I suspect they will reply: “I thought everyday was dog day! Now where’s my treat?”

As they woof that down, take a moment to reflect on all that your dog brings to you. Perhaps it is you, dear owner, who is getting the treat — the gift of good health.

The benefits of owning a dog and the surprising science behind it The benefits of owning a dog and the surprising science behind it  Still, another large study published around the same time found people who owned dogs had better health outcomes after suffering a major cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke.

The benefit was highest for dog owners who lived alone. Heart attack survivors living alone who owned dogs had a 33% lower risk of death compared to survivors who did not own a dog. Stroke survivors living alone with a dog had a 27% reduced risk of death.

The American Heart Association lists a reduction in diabetes to the list of health benefits of dog ownership. “People who walk their dogs regularly face one-third the risk of diabetes of those who don’t own a dog,” the AHA said.

In addition, owning a dog (or other pet) may provide important social and emotional support and is a “powerful predictor of behavior changes that can lead to weight loss,” the AHA said.

Of course these cardio benefits are just for dogs — not cats, horses, gerbils and the like. Many suggest its the potential exposure to exercise that explains the benefit: The AHA points to studies that found pet owners who walk their dogs got up to 30 minutes more exercise a day than non-dog-walkers.

But in a previous interview with CNN, Dr. Martha Gulati, who is the editor-in-chief of CardioSmart.org, the American College of Cardiology’s patient education platform, said the jury was still out on why.

“Is it the dog or is it the behaviors?” Gulati asked. “Is it because you’re exercising or is it because there is a difference in the type of person who would choose to have a dog versus somebody who would not? Are they healthier or wealthier? We don’t know those things.”
Still, while “non-randomized studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this,” Dr. Glenn Levine, chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership, told CNN in a previous interview.

The American Heart Association suggest various ways to get active with your dog in tow:
Take your dog on a picnic. “Pack some healthy snacks such as fruit, veggies, mixed nuts and plenty of water (including a bowl for the pup). Bring a ball or other fun toys, the AHA advised.
Join your kids and dog in the sprinklers. “When it’s hot, grab swimsuits and sunscreen and run around in the cooling spray with your kids and pooch,” the AHA said, or go for a swim in a dog-friendly beach or pool.

Join local fundraising walks or fun runs that include dogs or play “fetch or keep-away” with your dog, the AHA advised. “Even if you only have 10 or 15 minutes, you and your dog will get some exercise and bonding time.”

However, the AHA also cautions that pet ownership is a caring commitment that comes with certain financial costs and responsibilities, so “the primary purpose of adopting, rescuing, or purchasing a pet” should not be to reduce cardiovascular risk.
Pulling our legs (or leashes)

It’s more than just dogs, of course. Having a pet of any sort brings a circle of love into our lives — they give affection, we give it back and all of us are the better for it.
Science agrees.
“I have a list of 10 health benefits [that] studies have shown pet owners have,” said psychologist Harold Herzog, a pet-loving professor at Western Carolina University who has long studied the human-animal connection in a prior CNN interview.

“Higher survival rates, fewer heart attacks, less loneliness, better blood pressure, better psychological well-being, lower rates of depression and stress levels, fewer doctor visits, increased self esteem, better sleep and more physical activity,” are just some of the recorded benefits of pet ownership, Herzog said.
But here’s a shocker …
Herzog also

 

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