In a recent study, a team of Swedish scientists have examined the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health.
Their finding shows that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease or to other causes during the 12-year follow-up.
The researchers analyzed data from national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80.
All people did not any prior cardiovascular disease in 2001 when they were enrolled.
The researchers’ study linked together seven different national data sources, including two dog ownership registers.
The goal was to determine whether dog owners had a different risk of cardiovascular disease and death than non-dog owners.
They found that single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease during follow-up compared to single non-owners.
Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected.
In Sweden, every person carries a unique personal identity number. Every visit to a hospital is recorded in national databases, accessible to researchers after de-identification of data.
Even dog ownership registration has been mandatory in Sweden since 2001.
The researchers suggest that a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households.
For people who live alone, their risks of cardiovascular disease and death are higher than those living in a multi-person household.
Having a dog becomes quite protective for these people.
So why having a dog may protect people’s heart health?
One reason is that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity.
Other reasons include dog owners have increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner.
The researchers also suggest that there might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog.
This could have influenced the results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health.
The results are published in Scientific Reports.