Your furry family member adds lots of value to your life. When you come home from work after a hard day, there she is waiting to let you know you are the most important person in the world. When you’re feeling down, there he is to boost your spirits and remind you that you are perfect just the way you are.
Our canine companions remind us every day of the simple joys and comforts of life. But did you know that they may be benefitting your wellbeing beyond just helping you feel good? In fact, recent research suggests that our dogs may be helping us improve our cardiovascular health.
This beneficial relationship is likely due to several factors, each independently verified by different scientific studies. Let’s take a closer look:
Dogs Lower Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
Numerous studies have shown that time spent with dogs has an immediate effect on our cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure and heart rates. In study after study on various age and gender groups, time spent petting and engaging our furry friends improves two of the most vital indicators of heart health.
And, the benefits of dog ownership seem to have a cumulative effect on heart health as well. Dog owners show a lower blood pressure and heart rate on average when compared to non-dog owners.
Dogs Lower Stress Levels
One of the ways that stress levels are calculated in medical research is through measurements of certain hormones in the blood stream. Researchers have repeatedly tested levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and oxytocin (a hormone associated with relaxation and feeling good) in the bloodstream before, during, and after study participants have spent time with dogs.
Time and time again these studies have shown that time spent with dogs, for most people, lowers cortisol and boosts oxytocin. This is true even if the dog does not belong to the person being studied.
Perhaps even more surprising research revealed that when testing for the same hormones, dogs showed similar patterns indicating lower stress when they spent time with people. Turns out our long partnership with dogs, which recent research suggests may go back as far as the Ice Age, may have helped us co-evolve to appreciate each other’s company.
Dogs Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
Given what scientists now understand about the relationship between the endocrine system with levels of cholesterol and triglyceride levels, it might not come as a surprise to find that some evidence does suggest that dog owners have lower levels of both of these negative heart health indicators.
While it is important to note that lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, not smoking, and exercise have a larger impact on heart health, that does not make it any less true that owning a dog may be boosting cardiovascular health for their human friends.
Dogs Get You More Active
Finally, studies have shown that dog owners get more exercise than their non-doggo counterparts. While much of this has been documented as additional walking, many researchers believe this additional exercise is one of the reasons that dog owners have better cardiovascular health in general. Turns out you don’t need a super active dog like a Border Collie to get the body moving.
Next time your furry friend is at the door waiting for their daily walk, thank them for providing you with the motivation to get off the couch, get some fresh air, and helping you take better care of yourself!
It doesn’t matter if you have a pure bred prima donna or a mixed breed wonder dog, your canine companion can help you stay motivated to get moving. And, if you want to take it to the next level, why not use your dog as an excuse to boost your activity levels even more?
- Join an organized dog sport such as Flyball, Agility, Dock Diving, or Herding Trials
- Take your dog on a hike at a nearby nature preserve. Just make sure you provide them with the correct gear to keep them and the local wildlife safe at all times.
- Enjoy the time outdoors with a camping trip with your best friend
- Take up jogging or bike riding with your canine companion
- Join your dog for a trip to the dog park
Thank Your Dog by Giving Them the Best
There is a growing movement of people who are learning more about how a raw food diet for their pets doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Choosing the best for our pets no longer means fussing with nutritional tables, carefully measuring supplements, or creating complex spreadsheets to make sure our dogs are getting the benefits of a balanced raw food diet.
Have you joined the movement? Before you feed your dog commercial dog food filled with low quality ingredients, preservatives, fillers, and food with most of the vital nutrition squeezed out through high pressure and high temperature industrial cooking methods, ask yourself if you are really doing your best for your dog.
After all, every day your dog may be giving you the gift of heart health just by being their furry selves. Why not give them the best?
Susan is a professional writer with a Masters in Science Studies from Virginia State University, she has also worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.