18 November, 2017, 01:39 | Author: Marie Harrington
While the study stops short of determining a direct "causal effect" between dog ownership and lower heart disease, it indicates that dog owners may have better health because they stay active by walking their pets, even in bad weather.
Fall and co-authors drew from a nation-wide register of more than 3.4 million Swedish adults between 40 and 80 years old for their trial. Single dog owners also had an 11 percent lower risk of suffering a heart attack.
"There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health".
A single dog owner is likely the only person who regularly walks and interacts with her pet, which could contribute to these individuals' reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and death, according to the study.
Researchers found, after looking at data from over 3 million people, that the increased social support and physical activity that comes from having a dog lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11% and death from any cause by 15%.
One factor behind this may be because dogs bring dirt into homes and they lick you, which could impact your microbiome - the bacteria that live in your gut - and thus your health.
An interesting finding, though purely correlative, was that dogs belonging to breeds originally selected for hunting offered the most protection, the authors reported in Scientific Reports.
Owning a dog could be linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in single-person households and lower all-cause mortality in the general population, a 12-year study of Swedish canine owners suggests.
"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease", said senior author Tove Fall, an associate professor at Uppsala University.
In addition, the researchers were hesitant to assert conclusively that the habits surrounding dog ownership lead to health.
"However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy". "Although careful attention was paid to adjusting for potential confounders in a set of sensitivity analyses, it is still possible that personal characteristics that we did not have information about affect the choice of not only acquiring a dog, but also the breed and the risk of CVD".
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