Cardiovascular Health Benefits to Dog Ownership

Aditi Kaveti ‘23

husky
Figure 1. Dog ownership yields positive health benefits.

Loneliness and depression — in addition to a lack of physical activity — can increase the risks associated with health complications and premature death. Previous studies have demonstrated the links dog ownership has with increased physical activity, reduced social isolation, and lower blood pressure. A new study conducted by Professor Tove Fall at Uppsala University in Sweden suggested that dog ownership could yield positive effects for patients that have experienced a heart attack or a stroke. The study’s purpose was to analyze how these benefits would affect the health outcomes of major cardiovascular event survivors.

This study involved the health outcomes of Swedish dog owners and non-owners — all having ages between 40 and 85 — who had experienced a heart attack or stroke. The data was collected from the Swedish National Patient Register. The Swedish Board of Agriculture provided registration of dog ownership, confirming whether the patients were dog-owners. The researchers determined all-cause mortality and monitored the risk of recurrent hospitalization. The models were adjusted to disregard external socioeconomic, health-based, and demographic factors that would affect the results of the study. 

An analysis of the data explained that there was an evident association between dog ownership and better outcomes after a heart attack or stroke. Researchers found that there were lower overall risks of death for heart attack patients and stroke patients after hospitalization if they owned dogs. Compared to non-owners, dog owners had a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, a 65% reduced risk of mortality after heart attack, and a 31% reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues. The results of the study showed significant health benefits associated with owning a dog, especially for patients that had a heart attack or a stroke. Professor Fall explained that dog ownership would usually correlate with physical activity, having benefits for cardiovascular rehabilitation and mental health. Researchers of this study admitted that while the data showed the positive effects of dog ownership, the results did not yield a certain causal relationship. Dr. Caroline Kramer from the University of Toronto suggested that a possible future direction for this study would be to compare the cardiovascular outcomes of patients before and after adopting a dog, as well as the ways by which patients could be affected socially and psychologically by dog ownership. 

 

References:

  1. T. Fall, Dog Ownership and Survival After a Major Cardiovascular Event. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes 12, (2019). doi: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.118.005342
  2. Image retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/photos/husky-dog-siberian-husky-sled-dog-2443664/

 

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