The health benefits of adopting a dog

The health benefits of adopting a dog

Almost everyone loves a dog, but did you know having a pet also has health benefits? Read on for four wonderful benefits of sharing your life with a canine companion.

Get more exercise
Dogs like to – love to – go for walks. What’s good for Fido is also good for you. There are very few days when I do not meet the recommended 10,000 steps per day and often greatly exceed that number. Plus I’ve seen so many areas of the city and happened upon some great concerts in the park only because I was out walking my dog.

I’m not the only one. A study of 5,200 Japanese adult dog owners were found to be 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of walking and physical activity – significantly more than non-dog owners. Escape the back yard and get out and enjoy the beautiful sunrises and sunsets with your canine companion.

Make new friends
I moved to Chicago nearly three years ago, and I’ve met all my friends in the city because of the dog factor. Dogs are a natural ice breaker to begin a conversation, and you cross paths with people, and fellow dog owners, more when you are out and about daily. And, friends are important to your overall health. A study from Brigham Young University suggests social relationships lead to longer and more fulfilled lives.

Lower Stress
Even on a bad day, coming home to a dog readily greeting you will put a smile on your face. “Petting your dog is relaxing, but more than that, it can help lower your blood pressure and cut down on levels of a stress hormone,” says Dr. Marc Silver, a cardiologist at the Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center, and a dog owner. “And, exercising is another way to reduce stress, which is something you are more likely to do when you have a dog.”

Help your heart
According to the American Heart Association, dog ownership could help to decrease your risk of heart disease. While no study to date offers definitive proof that having a canine companion is good for your heart, it could be because dog owners potentially walk more, have a good social circle, and have lower stress, which are all important to heart health!

“While no study leads to a concrete reason, the evidence is strong enough to allow the American Heart Association to issue a Scientific Statement on Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk,” says Dr. Silver. He explains the statement reviewed the available research on the influence of pet ownership on improved blood pressure, cholesterol and other cardiovascular disease risk factors and concluded that “pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may be reasonable for reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.”

A word of caution
While dogs can help improve your health and give you unconditional love, make sure you have the time and resources to train, socialize, care for and spend time with your dog. If your dog will spend long hours alone because of your work, travel or social schedule, a dog is not the right pet for you. Consider volunteering for your local animal shelter and pet sitting for friends and family instead.

Adoption is an option
If you do decide that a dog fits your lifestyle, consider adoption. Shelters and rescues all over the U.S. are filled with dogs – from mixed breeds to purebred dogs – just waiting to be wonderful companions. In Chicago, you may want to check out PAWS Chicago, ALIVE Rescue, The Anti-Cruelty Society, Chicago Canine Rescue, Animal Welfare League and City of Chicago Animal Care and Control.

The health benefits of owning a dog

Kate’s dog, Abby, enjoying a walk in Chicago

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About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller, health enews contributor, is a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations. She came to Chicago and Advocate Health Care in 2014 after living in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Texas. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking” around Chicago while taking photos for Instagram.