The Many Physical Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

As dog owners, we do owe our precious canines a lot; they bring so much into our lives in the form of love, companionship, security and trust. They are a great way to teach kids responsibility and also an opportunity for the lonely and reserved to get out of their houses and maybe even strike up a conversation with potential friends.

The enhancements that they make to our lives go far in improving our living standards as well as our overall mental health. If you are having a bad day at work, your best pal is always waiting at home to cheer you up, no matter what.

But as great as they are, the benefits of owning a dog do not stop at the psychological aspect of your wellbeing; they are also able to make improvements to your physical health in some interesting ways.

Physical Exercise

One of the key responsibilities of dog ownership is to ensure that your pet is getting the exercise needed to keep them active, happy and healthy. This means playing with them, taking them for walks and for some even having exercise routines.

Most people tend to take their dog for a walk at least three times a week but it really depends on your pooch’s breed and size to determine how much they actually need. This activity benefits the dog owner in various ways too!

In fact, a study by Sandra A Ham and Jacqueline Epping stated that 80.2 percent of dog owners reported that they take one walk for at least 10 minutes per day, which shows how dog walking can greatly contribute to an active lifestyle that can help to prevent obesity, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Heart Health

According to the American Heart Association, there are 103 million Americans living with abnormally high blood pressure, which in turn leaves them at risk of hypertension and other blood-pressure-related conditions.

Studies have shown that exercise is good for the heart, and there are so many reasons why this is the case. Overtime, regular exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, prevent blood clots, and lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol transports the fats you don’t want away from your arteries, such as LDL cholesterol, so that your blood can pass through your arteries more efficiently. This lessens the strain on your heart to pump blood. In other words, it lowers your blood pressure.

So by walking your dog, not only are you keeping him in good condition, but you’re also helping yourself, too. Plus, you get to fill your lungs with fresh air and see the sights of the outdoors, so definitely it’s a win-win situation.

Weight Management

Obesity occurs when too many calories are being consumed and not enough of them are being burned. There are many factors that contribute to the burning of calories including a person’s size, age, and genetic disposition.

It’s recommended by the World Health Organization that an adult aged between 18 to 64 years old should do 150 minutes of moderately intensive aerobic exercise each week if you are not going to be doing any highly intensive aerobic exercise.

This will of, course, vary from person to person, but it is a general guide that shows how having a dog can benefit you. Walking your dog for 10 minutes each day will greatly contribute to the moderate exercise needed each week, therefore helping you to manage and maintain a healthy weight.


Vitamin D Exposure

Vitamin D, an important bodily regulator of calcium and phosphate, is produced by the body with the exposure of sunlight. It’s also sourced in certain foods such as oily fish and red meat, but direct sunlight on the skin is the primary way we procure vitamin D.

Depending on where you live, seasonal change can drastically alter the amount of sunlight available to you at any given time, and you are getting even less if you spend most of your time inside!

Without vitamin D, we are at risk of certain heart diseases, cancers and bone conditions, such as osteoporosis or rickets in children. This is especially true for those who live in areas where sunlight is less prominent or where the days are regularly overcast, but being persistent in walking your dog is likely to increase your sunlight exposure.

Heart Attack Survivability

There are also studies that indicate a correlation between dog ownership and heart attack survival chance. In addition to showing variability between the heart rates of dog owners and non-dog owners, 28 percent of dog owners survived the first year after having a heart attack whereas 6 percent did not.

The exact cause of the survivability difference is unknown, and the evidence is not wholly conclusive (as this could be a result of misinterpreted data), but it does raise questions about the effect pet ownership has on our survival.

Other Benefits


Your immune system is your first line of defence against invading pathogens and the foreign materials that can cause your body harm, and it’s the same for all animals—including your loyal dog.

Members of the same family (including that family’s dog) share more similar populations of “good bacteria” on the skin and in the gut than they do with strangers. This means that you share microbial communities with your dog, and this can be beneficial in different ways.

One of the ways in which you share microbes is through the household dust that you and your pet are breathing in. A study by the Tufts University School of Medicine exposed mice to “dog associated house dust” and showed that this helped protect the lungs by decreasing airway allergens, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

An infection of RSV in children, particularly a severe one, is heavily associated with an increased risk of asthma. The study indicated that an early exposure to dog-associated house dust could actually see a reduction in the risk of a child developing asthma.

Assistance Dogs

The reason dogs are so compatible with humans is because there is a symbiotic understanding between the two species gained through our long history together. Couple that with their trainable intelligence and we can teach dogs to be our saviours in many situations.

Not only are guide dogs trained to help the blind navigate, but dogs can also be taught to be there for those with epilepsy. The job of the seizure assistance dog is to be on the alert and to bark when the owner is having a seizure, alerting people nearby to help.

There are also fire rescue dogs that can help in the case of a burning building or lifeguard dogs for swimmers in dangerous water. St. Bernards were trained as rescue dogs to help carry soldiers on the battlefield back to the medical tents in the Napoleonic era and to save arctic explorers who have been incapacitated in snowy wastelands, often they are depicted carrying their iconic flask of brandy.

Less Doctor Visits

In general it has been shown that dog owners visit their doctors 15 percent less often and need to take medication less than their non-dog-owner counterparts on an annual basis. It concludes that pet owners were by and large more healthy than those who don’t own pets.

The study did not outline any particular reason for the findings, but researchers did maintain controls over other variables that could play a factor, such as age, wealth, gender, and marital status. The question as to whether the same subjects were healthier to begin with, does still stand.

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