Dog ownership linked to lower risk of heart disease

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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.

Among canine owners, those who had terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than owners of other dog breeds But the statistical tie might have more to do with the lifestyles that those kinds of dog owners have, where they live-out in the country, rather than the city, say-and other factors, rather than anything specific to the actual breed of the dog.

According to the results, single dog owners had a 33% reduction in the risk of premature death and 11% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to single non-owners.

People who live alone seemed to benefit the most from man's best friend.

"A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household", Mwenya Mubanga, an author of the study and a Ph.D. student at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at the university, said in a statement.

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The team at Uppsala University analyzed national registries involving 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 without any prior cardiovascular diseases as of 2001. However, owning any dog will reduce an owners risk of death, just to different extents, said Tove Fall, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at Uppsala University.

No matter the breed, though, Fall and co-authors wrote dogs are repeatedly proven to have a positive health effect on those living with them. Meta-analyses have confirmed dog owners are more active-especially in poor weather-than non-owners, and the animals can act as social supports, improving an owner's perception of their well-being.

The researchers believe that the single dog owners benefit from both walking and interacting with their pet.

"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". The participants were followed for more than a decade, and 13.1 percent were dog owners at any given time during the study period.

Scientists said the companionship was key, along with the physical activity in taking it for a walk.

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