01 November 2019

Get a Dog--Live Longer

Welcome back. You may have seen or heard the news: Dog owners live longer.

Whether you own, love, hate, fear, are neutral about or allergic to dogs, or are just curious, you might be interested in the studies that prompted that announcement.

U.S. pet ownership statistics, 2018-2019, by organization
(from www.dailydogstuff.com/us-pet-ownership-statistics/).
Earlier Studies on Pet Ownership
The latest findings on dog ownership followed numerous studies relating pets--primarily dogs or cats--with our health.

In 2013, for example, the American Heart Association released a critical assessment of studies on pet ownership and cardiovascular risk. That scientific statement by medical experts from the U.S., Australia, Northern Ireland and the World Heart Federation addressed systemic hypertension, hyperlipidemia, physical activity, obesity, autonomic function and cardiovascular reactivity, and survival in people with and without established cardiovascular disease.

Your dog supports you
(multiple websites).
The group’s principal conclusions were that pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with decreased cardiovascular disease risk and may have some causal role in reducing that risk.

Nevertheless, they recommended that pets not be acquired for the primary purpose of reducing risk.

Dog Owners’ Longevity
More recently, two studies on dog owners’ longer life were published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Neither had financial support from the organization.

Survival After Heart Attack or Stroke

A study by researchers with Sweden’s Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences compared the health outcomes of dog owners and non-owners after suffering a heart attack or ischemic stroke.

Linking data across Swedish records, the researchers identified patients, aged 40 to 85, who had heart attacks (181,696) and were dog owners (5.7%) or had strokes (154,617) and were dog owners (4.8%) from 2001 through 2012.

They evaluated all-cause mortality and risk of repeated hospitalization for the same cause through 2012, adjusting for available socioeconomic, health and demographic factors.

Dog owners who experienced either a heart attack or stroke had a lower risk of death after hospitalization during the follow-up period. The risk of death for dog owners living alone was 33% lower for heart attack patients and 27% lower for stroke patients; for dog owners living with a partner or child, it was 15% lower for heart attack patients and 12% lower for stroke patients. Heart attack patients also showed a reduced risk of hospitalization for recurrent heart attack.

All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Outcomes
Researchers with the University of Toronto and Toronto’s Mt. Sinai Hospital conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the association between dog ownership and both all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.

They analyzed 10 prospective studies involving over 3,800,000 adults, age 18 or older. Nine of the 10 studies included dog owner and non-owner comparison of all-cause mortality outcomes; four compared cardiovascular outcomes.

The researchers found that dog owners had a 24% lower risk of all-cause mortality, a 65% lower risk of mortality after a heart attack and a 31% lower risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues.

Wrap Up
The health benefits of dog ownership are generally attributed to increased physical activity and reduced social isolation. Before you rush out to acquire a dog, however, I recommend you review your situation and the appropriate canines.

Times have changed, but as I wrote in my e-book, No More Pets, Please!:

Rachel and Chico.
Chico was sweet, well-intentioned and, like any beagle, outstanding at search and discover and howling… if Chico were tied within a quarter mile of a bush or tree, he would become tortuously entangled in record time and howl…in those days, one used flea collars, which were ineffective, and there was a limit to how much and how often I could apply flea powder, which also seemed ineffective…I had to fumigate the house.
One incident I didn’t describe was taking Chico for a walk and being attacked by a neighbor’s dog--Chico’s wounds, the vet bill, dealing with the neighbor.

As much as I love animals, especially dogs, Chico never lowered my blood pressure. Thanks for stopping by.

American Heart Association scientific statement on pet ownership: ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0b013e31829201e1
Study of dog ownership and survival after cardiovascular event: www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circoutcomes.118.005342
Systematic review and meta-analysis of dog ownership and survival: ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circoutcomes.119.005554
Article on recent studies on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-10/aha-doa100319.php

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