Dog ownership is linked to better heart health, says science

corgi smiling on a background with hearts
Want to live longer and be healthier? Get a dog (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

Dogs have a habit of winning hearts, but scientists say they can also help keep them healthy.

New research suggests that owning a pet may help maintain cardiovascular health, especially if that pet is a dog. Using data from the Kardiozive Brno 2030 study, the research examined the association of pet ownership – specifically dog ownership – with cardiovascular disease risk factors and cardiovascular health. It first established baseline health and socio-economic information for more than 2,000 subjects in the city of Brno, Czech Republic, between January 2013 and December 2014.

Follow-up evaluations are scheduled for five-year intervals until 2030. In the 2019 evaluation, the study looked at 1,769 participants with no history of heart disease and scored them based on Life’s Simple 7 ideal health behaviours and factors.

As outlined by the American Heart Association, they are body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol.

Researchers compared the cardiovascular health scores of pet owners overall to those who did not own pets. They then compared dog owners to other pet owners, and those who did not own pets.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence was later backed up by scientific studies. Dogs are so good at this that some of them are trained to detect cancer, in as little as three hours.

Toy Schnauzer
Dog owners report more physical activity (Getty Images)
Approximately 42% of subjects owned any type of pet, 24.3% owned a dog and 17.9% owned another animal. Dr Andrea Maugeri, a researcher with the International Clinical Research Centre at St Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, said: “In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level.

‘The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.’

He added that the study findings supported the idea that people could adopt, rescue or purchase a pet as a potential strategy to improve their cardiovascular health as long as pet ownership led them to a more physically active lifestyle.

Pet owners, and specifically dog owners, were more likely to report physical activity, diet, and blood glucose at ideal level, and smoking at poor level.

Lovely golden retriever and loving owners holding his ears
They look cute, too (Getty Images)
This resulted in higher cardiovascular health scores than non-pet owners, according to the study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Compared with owners of other pets, dog owners were more likely to report physical activity and diet at ideal level.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Dachshunds were originally bred to fight badgers.

The comparison of dog owners with non-dog owners yielded similar results.