In the United States alone, there are more than 70 million pet dogs and more than 76 million pet cats. That’s a lot of fur, dudes, a lot of fur.
So, considering we pet owners have to spend thousands of dollars on vet fees, food, chew toys, litter and all the rest of the stuff that it takes to keep a happy pet, why do we do it?
Because they provide unconditional love in return, providing a sense of friendship and comfort in a way that is unmatched, sometimes even by humans. And as if you needed another reason to give your pet a hug today, research is also increasingly showing that these furry creatures offer proven benefits to your health.
It’s that last one about which I want to talk today. I’ve long known that rehabilitation facilities, some hospitals, hospices and retirement homes have house pets because there are documented benefits to owning a pet. The major benefit being simply that they make us feel better.
According to a new statement released by the American Heart Association (AHA), owning a pet, particularly a dog, may reduce your risk of heart disease.2The conclusion came following a review of dozens of studies that showed pet owners were in better health than non-pet owners. Highlights of the research included:3
- People with dogs engaged in more walking and more physical activity, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity
- Pet ownership is probably associated with a reduction in heart disease risk factors and increased survival among patients
- Owning a pet is linked with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a lower incidence of obesity
- Pets can have a positive effect on your body’s reaction to stress, including a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline-like hormone release when a pet is present.
The interesting thing about this is that it was brought to my attention by my dad. He’s an orthopedic surgeon, one of the best in the world (and that’s not bragging), and he’s always looking for better ways to stay healthy. In his early 70s, he has the mobility of a much younger man.
My sister suggested this was Dad’s way of slyly asking for a dog. However, when that idea was put forth, the glacial silence emanating from Dad’s wife was overwhelming, so the idea was shot down pretty quickly. Which means, in this instance at least, owning a dog might possibly be even less healthy than going to buy one.
While the study didn’t come right out and state that owning a dog will reduce a dude’s risk of cardiac disease, it does seem to be a health plus. Of course, it could be the longer walks that the dog owner takes that are helping with the aerobic activity meter there.
Either way, it looks like owning a dog is a good, healthy idea.
Plus they love to slobber all over our faces and jump up and down when we walk into the room and basically make us feel like we’re the greatest person on the entire planet.
And that can’t be bad.