In two new studies, researchers found dog ownership may be linked to longer life and better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone.
They also found dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality.
Previous research has shown how social isolation and lack of physical activity can negatively impact patients.
Dog ownership alleviates social isolation, improves physical activity and even lowers blood pressure.
In the new study, the team aimed to determine how dog ownership affected health outcomes.
They focused on whether dog owners may have better heart health compared to non-owners.
They compared the health outcomes of dog owners and non-owners after a heart attack or stroke using health data provided by the Swedish National Patient Register.
Patients studied were Swedish residents ages 40-85 who experienced a heart attack or ischemic stroke from 2001-2012.
Compared to people who did not own a dog, researchers found that for dog owners, the risk of death for heart attack patients living alone after hospitalization was 33% lower, and 15% lower for those living with a partner or child.
The risk of death for stroke patients living alone after hospitalization was 27% lower and 12% lower for those living with a partner or child.
The lower risk of death associated with dog ownership could be explained by an increase in physical activity and decreased depression and loneliness.
The team says more research is needed to confirm a causal relationship and giving recommendations about prescribing dogs for prevention.
Moreover, from an animal welfare perspective, dogs should only be acquired by people who feel they have the capacity and knowledge to give the pet a good life.
The study is published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
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