If you own a dog, you probably feel the benefits of your close relationship on a daily basis, and that’s for good reason. Dogs don’t just provide us with cuddles and laughter, they also provide plenty of health benefits, from fitness to heart health, most people will find plenty of advantages in keeping a dog. Here are seven great health benefits that dogs bring to their owners.
Encourage You to Stay Active
According to Perfect Dog Breeds most dogs need walking at least once a day, which means their owner will also get one walk a day. Taking care of another life and knowing that they need exercise is often a great influence to get even the most reluctant dog walker out and about. Experts recommend that adults have a minimum of 20 minutes exercise each day, and a fast paced daily walk can help to achieve this.
Improve Heart Health
Dogs hold a firm place in their owner’s hearts, but did you also know that they can actually help to improve the heart health of their owners too? A recent study found that pet owners are less likely to have heart and weight issues. Owning a pet is related to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This could be due to their calming effect, their need to be walked which therefore requires the owner to exercise or a number of other reasons.
Improve Social Life and Reduce Loneliness
When you have a dog, a whole new world opens up to you – the one of pet parents. It’s like a brand new club which you can be a part of. Taking your dog out on daily walks will help you to get out and about and meet new people, which reduces the chance of you becoming lonely. There is a clear link between loneliness and mental health difficulties, so improving your social life can have positive effects on mental health.
Simply petting a dog can help to release oxytocin which is a stress-reducing hormone, and decrease the production of cortisol, the stress producing hormone. There is a very good reason that dogs are so commonly used as therapy animals! They fulfill our need for touch which is vital to psychological health. Physical touch boosts the immune system and reduces stress. This is especially important to people who are living alone.
Allergies have been on the rise over the last hundred years or so, also developing research suggests that dogs can help to reduce the risk of childhood allergies. Susan Lynch, a medial professor at the University of California, San Francisco believes that “Perhaps early life dog exposure introduces microbes into the home that somehow influence the gut microbiome, and change the immune response in the airways.” Whilst western culture dictates that we should keep our homes as clean as possible and use disinfectants to remove every last germ, this might in fact be causing more allergies, because we are being exposed to less beneficial microbes and are less able to fight off illness as a result.
They Make us Laugh
Don’t underestimate the power of laughter! Laughter can help to reduce tension and relieves the stress response. Dogs will make you laugh on a daily basis, whether it’s their cheeky attitude or funny antics, dogs have plenty of funny characteristics which are very amusing to their owners.
Known to Detect Cancer
Whilst this is not a highly researched or proven area, there are many reports of dogs having the ability to detect cancerous growths in the last couple of decades. Lucy, a cross between a Labrador Retriever and an Irish Water Spaniel has spent the last 7 years sniffing out prostate, kidney and bladder cancer. She has detected cancer correctly in over 95% of cases. Dogs have extremely powerful noses, which might explain why there are plenty of reports of people going to the doctors, simply on the basis that their dog kept sniffing at a certain mole or lump.
And Now…A Health Risk
We know there are hundreds of benefits that arise from keeping dogs, but it’s also important to be aware of any health risks too. One such risk is tapeworm. This is a parasite which can spread from dogs to people through the ingestion of infected fleas. Children are the most commonly affected and while they don’t usually show any signs of disease, effects on dogs can cause weight loss and mild diarrhea. The best way to prevent this is to use flea prevention treatments.
Thomas Woods is the owner of Perfect Dog Breeds, a website which has helped to educate over 10,000 about dog breeds, their body language and behavior.