Having a pet dog could lead to better heart health, research suggests

Owning a pet could be good for your heart – especially if it’s a dog – according to a new study.

Research found that pet owners are likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level, compared to those with no pets at all.

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

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The findings, published by the Mayo Clinic journal, are based on a first analysis of data from the Kardiozive Brno 2030 study which followed 1,769 people in the Czech Republic with no history of heart disease over five years. The subjects were scored based on Life’s Simple 7 ideal health behaviours and factors, as outlined by the American Heart Association: body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol. Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, chair of the division of preventive cardiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, US and a senior investigator of the study, explained that having a dog may prompt owners to “go out, move around and play with their dog regularly”.

Celebrate Your Pet at Every Age. Everyone loves a new puppy or kitten, says Dr. Becker. “They’re wildly kinetic, and humorous. An older pet is thinner, bonier. Their coats aren’t as soft, they might have bad breath.” But, like people, a pet’s needs change with age. They may be less active, preferring a leisurely stroll to a rollicking tug-of-war. “Our old retriever, who’s blind, still wants to retrieve.” Adapting to their changing needs will ensure your old friend remains a healthy and happy member of your family.

Dr Andrea Maugeri is a researcher with the International Clinical Research Centre at St Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, Czech Republic, and the University of Catania in Italy. He says: “The study demonstrates an association between dog ownership and heart health , which is in line with the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on the benefits of owning a dog in terms of physical activity, engagement and reduction of cardiovascular disease risk.”

The researchers plan on continuing to evaluate the data every five years until the study concludes in 2030.

Earlier this year, a separate study found that dog owners walk 870 miles a year with their pet.

Other studies have also found that owning a dog can help improve mental health and emotional wellbeing.