Get a Hunting Dog, Live Longer?
Results of a Swedish study published in Scientific Reports suggest that owning a dog is linked to a lower risk for heart disease and death. Why would this be the case? Dog owners engage in more physical activity (walking the dog), experience an improved sense of social well-being, and have stronger immune system development, according to researchers.
In people who live alone with their pet, the researchers found having a dog reduced death risk by 33 percent, cardiovascular-related death risk by 36 percent, and heart attack risk by 11 percent. In multi-person households, having a dog cuts cardiovascular death risk by 15 percent and overall death risk by 11 percent. Having a dog in the home does not appear to affect heart attack risk in people who live with others.
This study involved more than 3.4 million people between 40 and 80 years old over a 12-year study period, using data from a national database in Sweden and the Swedish Twin Register. Researchers discovered that hunting breeds, such as terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds, provide the largest health benefits, but any dog helps reduce death risk. More research is needed to examine the benefits of owning a dog in different climates, among people of different socio-economic backgrounds, and more.