In the last article on this topic, we explored the long evolutionary road we have traversed paw in hand with our beloved canines. You also learned that, as dogs evolved with humans, our interaction and relationship progressed to a whole new level of communication and understanding. In that regard, you were acquainted with the ways in which our dogs show unconditional love for us through body language and general behavior.
Now, among other things, we will look into the ways in which a dog’s love and company directly and positively affect the health of the humans the pet lives with. Apart from that, we will also make mention of how dog ownership can effect a positive change in one’s life, which further leads to new habits that are ultimately beneficial for us.
The Health Benefits of Dog Ownership
So, what are the direct, observable health benefits of having a dog in your life? Some of them stem from the things dog owners do that other people don’t, while other benefits come from just living with and being around dogs all day.
For one thing, dog owners lead a much more active and outgoing lifestyle because they have to. Most dogs, including many of the smaller breeds, require being taken outside on a regular, daily basis to stretch their legs, have some fun, and explore their environment.
- While this is a matter of mental and physical health for dogs, it unavoidably develops healthy habits in a human at the same time.
- One of the habits that life with dogs entails is certainly prolonged, regular walking outdoors. Walking bolsters the health of your heart, which is particularly beneficial for the elderly and may actually prolong their lives.
This was confirmed in a study that was published a few years ago by the American Heart Association in the Circulation journal, stating that owning a dog is likely to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- The experts from AHA noted that this was most likely due to the fact that dogs encourage physical activity. Needless to say, for younger folks, owning a highly active and physically demanding dog breed can mean a lot more than just taking a casual stroll in the morning and evening.
- Some dogs make excellent hiking companions, and others love to jog along with their owner and take part in various other exercises too.
Some experts have also concluded that people who are dog owners, in general, live longer than cat owners. Apart from a more active lifestyle, dogs bonding with humans also provide emotional satisfaction and stability due to a dog’s unconditional love and affection.
- That means a reduction in stress, a general therapeutic effect, and sometimes lower blood pressure. A dog’s unyielding devotion can thus be a strong crutch to fall back on during any emotional crisis and especially when we are just feeling somewhat down.
- Interacting with our dogs is known to produce neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin in our brains, which are important factors in our general mood and calmness. An increase in serotonin is particularly important because this is one of the ways to fight clinical depression and reduce stress.
Other studies, such as the one published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology back in 2004, make another interesting case.
- While it might seem fairly counterintuitive, life with dogs reduces the possibility of many kinds of allergies developing in very young children. The opposite was believed to be the case just a couple years ago, and one would certainly think it was so at first glance.
- As it turns out, however, children who have been living with dogs from earlier than six months of age get fewer allergic reactions than those who haven’t.
- It also appears that the presence of dogs bolsters their immune systems, resulting in fewer colds and other minor health issues with infants too.
- It’s likely that the germs that dogs carry around push the immunity of those that are around them to work much harder, ultimately resulting in better overall health.
As a bonus, dogs are always a welcome addition to the lives of those who suffer from social anxiety or just feel a lack of social interaction in general. Having a dog means you are much more likely to go outside and meet new people, especially if you go to places where other dog owners congregate, such as dog parks. In such situations, owning a dog often sparks up casual conversation.
Can Dogs Sense Illness?
We already covered the uncanny ability of dogs to sense how we feel emotionally, but what about when we are sick? This has been another popular belief about dogs for quite a while, but, interestingly enough, it also turned out to have a lot of truth to it. Once again, most of this marvel revolves around a dog’s incredibly sophisticated sense of smell. It appears that just as they are able to sniff out changes in our emotional state, they can also detect subtle and major changes in our body.
One of the diseases a dog can smell on us is cancer of numerous kinds. The theories first started with stories, such as that given by Canada Free Press, telling of a woman in 1989, whose dog kept sniffing a particular mole on her thigh exclusively until she decided to check it out with a doctor. It was quickly confirmed that this was a malignant melanoma.
More attention was given to this matter by experts in the recent decades, and the theory has largely been confirmed thus far in many studies.
- One such study was performed in 2006 and published in the Integrative Cancer Therapies journal.
- It was found that dogs were able to detect lung and breast cancer with staggering accuracy after being trained to sniff out the disease from breath samples. The results were incredible across all stages of these illnesses.
- Other experts have reported that a very similar task can be fulfilled by dogs when it comes to bladder cancer too by using urine samples.
Other diseases that dogs have been observed to detect, as was supported by other peer-reviewed studies by experts, include narcolepsy, low blood sugar, migraines and sometimes seizures. Sometimes, dogs have also proven to be better than humans at detecting these diseases and even predicting attacks by those like narcolepsy and epilepsy. While quite a few dogs are already in various services in order to help in this regard, this is a subject that is still being closely studied as we don’t understand a lot about it.
Either way, it is evident that there is much more to this friendship than just a dog’s unconditional love and affection. Apart from just being loving and devoted, man’s best friend can actually help those of us in need in many ways, justifying the title on a whole new level.