Plenty of research has suggested that
owning a dog can be beneficial to
health. Two new studies now add to the
existing evidence, finding an association
between dog ownership and a
significantly lower death risk following a
stroke or heart attack.

Owning a dog could help prolong the lifespan of a
person who has experienced a serious
cardiovascular event.

"The findings in these two well-done studies and
analyses build upon prior studies and the
conclusions of the 2013 [American Heart

Association] scientific statement 'Pet Ownership
and Cardiovascular Risk ' — that dog ownership is
associated with reductions in factors that contribute
to cardiac risk and to cardiovascular events," says
Dr. Glenn Levine, chair of the writing group that
authored this scientific statement.

"Further, these two studies provide good, quality
data indicating [that] dog ownership is associated
with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality," Dr.
Levine, who was not involved in this research, adds.


Previous research has suggested that people who
live with dogs appear to have a much lower risk of
both cardiovascular and all-cause mortality,
compared with individuals who do not count dogs
among their family members.

The two new studies have now found an association
between dog ownership and a lower risk of death
among individuals who have experienced a heart
attack, a stroke , or another cardiovascular problem.
The results of both studies appear in the journal
Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes .


Dogs 'an important factor in
rehabilitation'?

The first study — conducted by researchers from
Uppsala University and the Swedish University of
Agricultural Sciences, both in Uppsala, Sweden —
used the Swedish National Patient Register to
identify individuals aged 40–85 who had
experienced either a heart attack or an ischemic
stroke between 2001 and 2012.

In total, this amounted to 344,272 individuals, of
whom 186, 421 had experienced a heart attack and
157,851 a stroke within this period. To find out how
many of these people owned dogs, the researchers
consulted Swedish Board of Agriculture and
Swedish Kennel Club records.

The researchers found that in this cohort, people
who owned dogs had better health prospects than
those who did not.

Specifically, people who had experienced a heart
attack between 2001 and 2012 and who owned a
dog had a 33% lower risk of death after
hospitalization if they otherwise lived alone and a
15% lower death risk if they owned a dog and lived
with a partner or child.

As for people who had experienced a stroke and
owned a dog, if they otherwise lived alone after
hospitalization, they had a 27% lower risk of death,
and if they also lived with a partner or a child, they
had a 12% lower risk of death.

The researchers believe that the decrease in death
risk for dog owners could be explained by the fact
that having a dog forces people to become more
physically active.