By John Salak –
Let’s cut to the chase. Get a dog and chances are you’ll be happier, healthier and live longer. Don’t take our word for it. Such renowned institutions as the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association (AHA) recently reported that dog ownership supports heart health, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, better weight control and helps with depression.
If that isn’t enough to grab a furry friend, the University of British Columbia chimed in that a pooch partner may just help your child become a better reader.
The American Heart Association’s report actually reflects the work of several studies that reviewed millions of data reports for patients worldwide.
These studies “provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality. While these 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.” said Glenn N. Levine, M.D., who chaired the writing group on the report.
The association noted that previous studies have shown that dog ownership lessens feelings of social isolation, improves a person’s physical activity and can even lower their blood pressure. Researchers consequently believe this results in better cardiovascular outcomes for dog owners compared to their pooch-less counterparts.
But just how much better? The AHA’s review of 10 separate studies that found that compared to those without pets, dog owners were 24 percent less likely to die of any cause; 65 percent less likely to die after a heart attack; and 31 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular-related issues.
“Our findings suggest that having a dog is associated with longer life. Our analyses did not account for confounders such as better fitness or an overall healthier lifestyle that could be associated with dog ownership. The results, however, were very positive,” added Caroline Kramer, M.D. Ph.D.
The Mayo Clinic also supports the notion of pooch power by reporting on the ongoing Kardiovize Brno study of the connection between personal health and dog ownership that began in 2013 and runs through 2030. This study’s 2019 evaluation of almost 2,000 people with no history of heart disease compared the physical differences between those who owned dogs and those who didn’t.
“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,” reported Andrea Maugeri, Ph.D., a researcher with the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the University of Catania in Catania, Italy. “The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.”
Adults aren’t the only ones to apparently gain benefits from dogs. The iconic connection between children and dogs may help improve a child’s reading skills, according to the University of British Columbia.
During its study, children in Grades 1 – 3 first read aloud to either an observer, the dog handler and their pet or without the dog. They were next offered the chance to continue reading or to close their books. Kids reading with a dog at hand tended to stay the course.
“The findings showed that children spent significantly more time reading and showed more persistence when a dog — regardless of breed or age — was in the room as opposed to when they read without them,” reported Camille Rousseau, a doctoral student who helped manage the study. “In addition, the children reported feeling more interested and more competent,” she added.
Combined these reports may indicate that man’s best friend may also be one of his more important.