Keywords: Pet ownership, cardiovascular health, risk reduction (PubMed Search)
Dog ownership has become more common especially during the pandemic.
Almost 70% of US households own a pet and almost half own ≥1 dogs.
There are many health benefits associated with dog ownership including: reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis in children exposed to pets during early ages, improvement in symptoms of PTSD, overall wellbeing & alleviation of social isolation in elderly individuals and increased physical activity.
The main positive impact of dog ownership seems to be in relation to cardiovascular risk including an association with lower blood pressure levels, improved lipid profile, and diminished sympathetic responses to stress.
Study: A systematic review and meta-analysis (10 studies, over 3 million participants) to evaluate the association of dog ownership with all-cause mortality, with and without prior cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular mortality. Mean follow up 10 years.
Results: Dog ownership was associated with a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality as compared to non-ownership (relative risk, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.67–0.86) with 6 studies demonstrating significant reduction in the risk of death.
In individuals with prior coronary events, dog ownership was associated with an even more pronounced risk reduction for all-cause mortality (relative risk, 0.35; 95% CI, 0.17–0.69). When authors restricted the analyses to studies evaluating cardiovascular mortality, dog ownership conferred a 31% risk reduction for cardiovascular death (relative risk, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.67–0.71).
The cause of this benefit is unclear. Though some activities such as the act of petting a dog has been observed to lower blood pressure levels, the mechanism for the longer survival is likely through enhanced physical activity provided by dog walking.
Conclusion: Dog ownership is associated with reduced all-cause mortality likely driven by a reduction in cardiovascular mortality. Dog ownership as a lifestyle intervention may offer significant health benefits, particularly in populations at high-risk for cardiovascular death.
Finally, meet Winston, a French bulldog who, last night, won the National Dog Show!