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September 2023
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Dogged with Health Problems? Buy a Pet

Study Links Improved Health to Pet Ownership

Pet ownership is benefical to human health, study shows.

Pet ownership is benefical to human health, study shows.

No one can deny that our pets, particularly dogs, are completely reliant on their human companions.  Without people like us, Fido the Foxhound wouldn’t have a thing to eat, Max the mutt wouldn’t have a thing to play and Piper the poodle wouldn’t have a place to sleep.  Sure, dogs are animals and will do what it takes to survive if they’re abandoned, but rarely do these dogs live healthy lives when left to their own devices.

But new research is suggesting that the same standard may apply to humans as well.  In other words, dog is not simply man’s best friend, but man’s best resource for maintaining, or improving, a healthy profile.

There has been no shortage of studies linking pet ownership to improved health, whether it’s lowering blood pressure simply by petting a cat, or by being less likely to die from a heart attack if you’re a senior citizen with a dog.  There have even been studies showing how pets can actually lower triglyceride levels in the blood.

These and many other examples touting the health benefits of pet ownership will be on full display at a conference in Kansas City, Missouri next month.  From Oct. 20 thru Oct. 25, veterinarians from around the globe will present a wealth of empirical data linking the health benefits of pet ownership at the International Society for Anthrozoology and Human-Animal Interaction Conference (what a mouthful!).

One of the studies presented there will be by researchers from the University of Missouri’s veterinary program.  Their analysis involved a group of older adults (not elderly, but older) to see if the participants’ pets could potentially improve their weight loss goals.

To assess whether or not there was a link, the researchers broke the volunteers into two groups.  In the first group, each participant was paired with a dog, while the other group’s participants were paired with a human.  Over the course of 12 weeks, each participant was asked to walk five days a week for at least an hour each time.  Whenever they went out for their daily stroll, though, they had to bring along their companion, human or otherwise.

Through weight measurements, time measurements and questionnaire assessments, the researchers found that the people with man’s best friend as a companion (i.e. dogs) improved their health by almost 30 percent (they walked at a quicker pace, lost more weight, their level of enjoyment from walking increased, etc.).  Those who walked with a human companion improved as well, but by a measly four percent.

What explains the difference?  Researchers think it has something to do with dogs’ inability to communicate…at least orally.  Human companions were much more resistant to walking, and expressed as much when they didn’t feel like going.

Now it goes without saying that you can still live an amazingly healthful life without a dog.  Circumstances, like young children or living arrangements, often make it impossible to purchase furry friends.  But as this study suggests, pets can serve as that extra push people need to begin an exercise program.  They encourage exercise, as opposed to discouraging it.

If you think this may be the case for you, then you need to start doing some homework.  Don’t just go out and buy one from the nearest pet store or dog pound.  Make sure that the dog you want fits your personality type.  For instance, if you’re a quiet, shy guy that’s not easily excited, then a Jack Russell Terrier is not your ideal.

Many Web sites offer this type of service free of charge.  Take full advantage of it and other resources before taking the pet plunge.


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