Dogs and Cardiovascular Health

A 2019 analysis of nearly 4 million people in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom found dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction in dying early from any cause. If the person had already suffered a heart attack or stroke, having a dog was even more beneficial; they were 31% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Another large study published around the same time found people who owned dogs had better health outcomes after suffering a major cardiovascular event such as a heart-attack or stroke.

The benefit was highest for dog owners who lived alone. Heart attack survivors living alone who owned dogs had a 33% lower risk of death compared to survivors who did not own a dog. While stroke survivors living alone with a dog had a 27% reduced risk of death. The American Heart Association lists a reduction in diabetes to the list of health benefits of dog ownership. “People who walk their dogs regularly face one-third the risk of diabetes of those who don’t own a dog,” the AHA said. In addition, owning a dog (or other pet) may provide important social and emotional support and is a “powerful predictor of behavior changes that can lead to weight loss,” the AHA said. The AHA points to studies that found pet owners who walk their dogs got up to 30 minutes more exercise a day than non-dog-walkers.

Dogs and Cardiovascular Health

Still, while “non-randomized studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this,” Dr. Glenn Levine, chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership, told CNN in a previous interview. The American Heart Association suggest various ways to get active with your dog in tow:
  • Take your dog on a picnic. “Pack some healthy snacks such as fruit, veggies, mixed nuts and plenty of water (including a bowl for the pup). Bring a ball or other fun toys, the AHA advised.
  • Join your kids and dog in the sprinklers. “When it’s hot, grab swimsuits and sunscreen and run around in the cooling spray with your kids and pooch,” the AHA said, or go for a swim in a dog-friendly beach or pool.
  • Join local fundraising walks or fun runs that include dogs or play “fetch or keep-away” with your dog, the AHA advised. “Even if you only have 10 or 15 minutes, you and your dog will get some exercise and bonding time.”
However, the AHA also cautions that pet ownership is a caring commitment that comes with certain financial costs and responsibilities, so “the primary purpose of adopting, rescuing, or purchasing a pet” should not be to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Anxiety and Mood

Pet owners certainly believe their pets provide emotional support, especially during times of stress, Mueller said, and thankfully science appears to back that up. “There’s some research that shows having a pet with you during an anxious event could help reduce the stress of that event,” she said. “Studies have shown repeatedly that people’s good mood increases and bad moods decrease around pets,” Herzog said. “And so we know that there’s immediate short term benefits, physiological and psychological, with interacting with pets. I have no doubt about that.”  A 2015 study found children with ADHD who read to real animals showed more improvements in sharing, cooperation, volunteering and behavioral problems than ADHD children who read to a stuffed animal. Another study found autistic children were calmer and interacted more when in the presence of guinea pigs than toys. A 2020 study found a reduction in perceived stress and other symptoms in veterans with PTSD who walked shelter dogs. Of course, walking is exercise, and exercise reduces stress, but the study also found that stress reduction improved more when veterans walked with the dogs. Who had the most improvement? Veterans with higher levels of reported PTSD symptoms who walked with shelter dogs.

Pets as “Personalized Medicine”

Another research method being used, said Mueller, are longitudinal studies, in which huge numbers of people are followed over long periods of time. The hope is that these studies, and the more scientifically designed experiments, will tease out more precise reasons for why a particular pet might be a good fit for a person and their medical needs. One day, Mueller says, it might be possible to ‘prescribe’ a dog for a young active child, a troubled adolescent or cardiovascular patient and know – as much as science can ever know – what the outcome is likely to be for their health. Maybe we’ll finally have data to put behind the “cat vs. dog” debate, or just how and why a bird, fish, lizard or gerbil might soothe our stress and provide companionship. Until then, fellow dog (and cat and other pet) lovers, I guess we’ll have to stick with what we intuitively know: Pets are some of the most loving “people” in our lives, and that, if nothing else, makes them good for us.

How Telepet Can Keep Your Furry Family Healthy

As seen above, various medical studies have shown that pet ownership is proven to improve our health – but it’s also important to keep our pets healthy themselves. Due to the pandemic, there has been a record number of new pet owners. Thanks to our Telepet offering pet owners can get medical help without leaving their home. Phone, text, email, or video access to licensed, credentialed veterinarians. Every pet parent needs support. Whether you talk to us, your own veterinarian, or search the web, pet parenting is a job no one should have to do alone. We want every pet to have the best of life, to share your home and your heart, long into the future. Telepet streamlines your appointment workflows and clinic communication, so you and your team can get back to doing what you love. We’re on a mission to restore the balance for veterinary professionals through simple yet mighty solutions. Our platform is built from veterinarian feedback, enabling your appointments to run smoothly while you and your team provide superior care to your patients. Learn more about our Telepet offering at: https://www.competitivehealth.com/telepet/

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Overall Well-being 

Not all family is human. Pet-friendly benefits can be an important factor in employees’ overall well-being. Pet programs reduce stress, boost morale and of course, increase productivity for employees with furry family members.

Quality Care

Pet owners are crazy about their pets. Pet owners also want to provide their furry loved ones with quality care. With Telepet they get 24/7 access to licensed veterinarians who can help with emergency visits and regular check-ups.

Virtual Solutions

Going to the veterinarian is stressful for owner and pet alike. Pet telehealth offers a great solution that can help avoid such stress in many instances. In fact, half of all veterinarian appointments could be handled well through virtual vet services.

Here are some helpful resources that you might find useful: