Researchers in Sweden found that owning a dog is linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease and death.
The study, published in Scientific Reports tracked 3.4 million Swedes ages 40 to 80 for 12 years. Anyone with a history of cardiovascular disease before the study began was excluded, and the researchers controlled for age, sex, marital status, income and other factors. Owning a dog was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of death from any cause and a 23 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The study’s lead author, Tove Fall reported the effect was stronger with certain breeds, particularly pointers and retrievers. An epidemiologist at Uppsala University, suggested that this may reflect different kinds of owners: picture the owner of a Labrador retriever, and then one who has a Pomeranian. If you’re wondering how the researchers knew who owned which breed of dog, in Sweden, all dogs are registered with the Board of Agriculture and tagged with an ear tattoo or a micro-chip.
“Owning a dog is good motivation to get out and exercise and may provide some social support,” Dr. Fall said. But the study does not prove cause and effect, and in any case, “not everyone is up to owning a dog. Don’t give a dog to your grandmother in the hope that she’ll live longer.”
To quote Dr. William Castelli, Director of the famous Framingham Heart Study, “walk your dog every day, even if you don’t have a dog.”