No one can say if it’s the walks or the unconditional love, but there’s something about owning a dog that goes hand in hand with better heart health, suggests a study in eastern Europe.
Researchers examined more than 1,700 adults in the Czech Republic and found that dog owners tended to be younger, female and more likely to smoke than people with different pets or with no companion animals. Yet the dog owners were also more active, had better levels of blood fat and blood sugar, and were less likely to be obese, giving them an overall better cardiovascular health profile than the rest.
“If you’re thinking about getting a pet, getting a dog will likely help you with your cardiovascular health goals. This should be a point that will help you make that decision,” said Jose Medina-Inojosa of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the study’s senior author.
Dog owners are known to engage in more physical activity and are more likely to have regular exercise habits than those without dogs, the study authors note in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. These benefits were recognised in a 2013 statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) that linked owning a pet, especially a dog, with lower risk of heart disease.
For the current study, Medina-Inojosa and his team analysed data on men and women in the city of Brno who were participating in a larger, long-term study. None of them had heart disease when they were recruited in 2013-2014, at ages 25 to 64.
Of the nearly 42 per cent of the participants with a pet, more than half owned a dog.
After accounting for age, sex, and educational level, the team found that dog ownership was associated with a higher total cardiovascular health score when compared either to those with other types of pets or those without pets.
Except for smoking, the researchers note, the dog owners were more likely to engage in heart-healthy behaviours, including exercising and eating a healthy diet, and were more likely to have ideal blood sugar levels.