Dog ownership was associated with a 33% lower risk of early death for heart attack survivors living alone and 27% reduced risk of early death for stroke survivors living alone, compared to people who did not own a dog. Dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 31% lower risk of death by heart attack or stroke compared to non-owners. 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 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.
- 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.
In the study, nearly 182,000 people were recorded to have had a heart attack, with almost 6% being dog owners, and nearly 155,000 people were recorded to have had an ischemic stroke, with almost 5% being dog owners. “We know that social isolation is a strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death. “The results of study suggest positive effects of dog ownership for patients who have experienced a heart attack or stroke. However, more research is needed to confirm a causal relationship and giving recommendations about prescribing dogs for prevention. Moreover, from an animal welfare perspective, dogs should only be acquired by people who feel they have the capacity and knowledge to give the pet a good life.”
“Our findings suggest that having a dog is associated with longer life. Our analyses did not account for confounders such as better fitness or an overall healthier lifestyle that could be associated with dog ownership. The results, however, were very positive,” said Dr. Kramer. “The next step on this topic would be an interventional study to evaluate cardiovascular outcomes after adopting a dog and the social and psychological benefits of dog ownership.