Along with always having love and companionship, there are plenty of real health benefits to having a dog. 

Ninety-eight percent of pet owners consider their dog to be a part of their family. Owning a dog improves the quality of people lives in so many different ways. 

Here are seven different health benefits to keeping a dog. 

They’ll keep you active

Perfect Dog Breeds reports that all dogs need to get out and have some exercise, even if they are a tiny lapdog. Experts recommend that you get a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week. This only equates to just over 20 minutes exercise per day, which is easily achievable if you have a dog who you take on a daily walk. This study found that walking dogs right up until our 70s and 80s results in less doctors’ visits and fewer limitations on daily activities. 

They’ll improve your mental health

In another study carried out by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 74 percent of pet owners reported that having a pet had helped to improve their mental health. Keeping a dog can help to alleviate stress anxiety and depression. Taking your dog out on a walk will encourage more social interactions and therefore ensure people are less lonely. Pets are very tuned in to human emotions and behaviors and they are very often used in therapy to help make people feel more at ease. 

They’ll improve your heart health

The simple fact that dogs require walking means that their owner is much more likely to take them out for a walk and therefore keep fit. Research conducted by St Anne’s University Hospital Brno found that owning a pet can help to maintain cardiovascular health and improve blood pressure. Dr Andrea Maugeri reported that “In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet, and blood sugar at ideal level.”

Owning a dog is linked to a longer life

A study that included more than 3.4 million people found that there is a link between keeping dogs, and the length of their owner’s life. People who lived alone with a dog had a 33 percent reduced risk of death versus those who lived alone without a dog. Keeping a dog typically promotes a healthier lifestyle for the owner as they have to keep active and take them out on walks, which ties in to the longer expected lifespan. 

Reduces stress levels

Dogs are great at helping to reduce peoples stress levels. Interacting with animals decreases the levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and helps to lower blood pressure. Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition carried out some research which shows that when someone performs a stressful activity, they are less likely to experience as much stress if they have their pet with them. 

Decrease the risk of asthma

Growing up with a dog reduces the risk of childhood asthma. A Swedish study found a correlation between pet ownership and the reduced risk of asthma. Children who grow up with dogs have a 15 percent less chance of asthma than those who don’t have a dog. 

Get sick less often

Although many believe that cleaning our homes to perfection is vital to reduce germs, this is actually doing more harm than good. By removing all the germs in our homes, our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix and are less efficient at fighting illness off when it hits. Owning a dog means you will be exposed to more diverse bacteria, and research in this area suggests that being exposed to a wide variety of microbes is actually good for us. 

…And One Health Risk

While there are plenty of health benefits to owning a dog, there are also a few negatives too. Salmonella is one of the increased risks that pet owners are exposed to. Dry pet food can carry salmonella which is a nausea inducing bacteria that can infect the small intestine. To avoid this, keep small children away from dog food, and always wash your hands after feeding your dog. 

Thomas Woo is the creator of Perfect Dog Breeds, a company which aims to educate people on the many different breeds of dogs which are available, and how to care for them.

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