Leo, a pomerianian beagle, gets a bite of a hot dog from owner Colleen Temple at Bark in the Park at Funko Field on Monday, July 22, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Dog owners have reduced risk of dying from heart problems, says researcher

Researchers analyzed data on more than 3.8 million people taken from 10 studies

Cats may have nine lives, but owning a dog may extend yours, a Toronto researcher says.

A study released Tuesday suggests dog owners live longer than their canine-less counterparts, experiencing nearly a one-third lower risk of dying from heart problems.

Caroline Kramer, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, led the systematic review published by an American Heart Association journal.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 3.8 million people taken from 10 studies published between 1950 and 2019.

They found that dog ownership was associated with a 24 per cent risk reduction in death overall, and the risk of death due to cardiovascular-related issues dropped by 31 per cent. This gap was even more pronounced among dog owners who had survived a heart attack, whose risk of death was 65 per cent lower than non-owners.

Kramer says the results are promising, but more research is needed to prove there are health benefits to having a dog.

“It is an important paper to suggest (a link), but not to provide a definitive answer,” she said. “Maybe it’s not the dog itself, it’s that people already have a healthier lifestyle before.”

The clinician scientist noted that her team’s analysis didn’t account for variables that may explain the difference in health outcomes between dog owners and the rest of the population.

It’s possible that dog owners are more likely to have higher incomes, or that furry companions fit into their already active lifestyles, she said.

While it’s difficult to disentangle cause and effect without a randomized clinical trial, Kramer said there’s research to indicate that man’s best friend may be good for your health.

In two papers, participants reported that their physical activity increased after adopting a dog. Another suggested that owning a dog helped older English adults stay fit during inclement weather.

Kramer also cited one study that found being around a cat or dog can reduce blood pressure as much as some medications, suggesting that proximity to pets can have an immediate impact on stress levels.

She said there’s evidence that dog ownership may have other benefits for emotional health, particularly among elderly people who live alone.

Kramer has also personally experienced the positive side-effects of dog ownership in the form of her miniature schnauzer, Romeo, whom she credits with increasing her physical activity by 10,000 steps per day.

But she warned that people should consider what’s best for themselves and the dog before running to the adoption centre in the name of improving their heart health.

“If the joy of having a dog is not there, maybe the effect is not the same,” said Kramer. “If they consider all that and they have the proper lifestyle for that, I would say that maybe that it’s something that can change your life.”

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Kootenay couple escapes Spain – safe, sound, and in self-isolation

BC couple Garrett Kucher and Tory Apostoliuk make it home after almost a week of lockdown in Spain

Emergency response teams continue services during pandemic

The RCMP, SAR, and fire department proceed with operations throughout COVID-19 situation

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Mental health in the time of COVID-19

Taking care of our mental health is just as important as protecting our physical health

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. announces $3M for food banks to increase capacity during COVID-19

It is not clear how much of the money will flow towards Greater Victoria food banks

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Most Read