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

COVID-19 tests come back negative in remote First Nation community

“There are no suspected cases in the community at this time.”

Wildway Farms open for business in Hagensborg

Local entrepreneurs Gwyneth Anderson and Joseph Battensby are hard at work at their new business

Young boy finds mask stolen during recent break-in

Gage Pootlass immediately took the mouse mask back to its rightful owner, Kathleen Booth

Bear gets into garbage at Thorsen Creek Landfill after waste disposed into wrong bin

A grizzly bear accessed garbage that was put in the wrong bin and ended up outside the electric fence

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Most Read