Dogs: Our best friends in sickness and in health

Dogs, often hailed as humans’ best friends, have been the topic of many scientific studies looking into how they might boost our well-being. In this Spotlight, we’ll explain how your friendly pup can benefit your health across the board.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), an estimated 78 million dogs are owned as pets in the United States.

In this Spotlight, we outline the research that shows how our dogs make us happier, more resilient when facing stress, and physically healthier, to name but a few ways in which these much-loved quadrupeds support our well-being.

Ways dogs keep us in good health

Many studies have suggested that having dogs as pets is associated with better physical health. It is difficult to establish a causal relationship between owning a dog and enjoying better health. However, the benefits may be the results of factors related to lifestyle adjustments that people tend to make after they decide to adopt a canine friend. The most prominent such lifestyle factor is physical activity. Dog owners are more likely to walk for leisure purposes than both non-pet owners. Studies found that adults aged 60 and over enjoy better health thanks to the exercise they get by walking their dogs. Dogs can strengthen our health as we grow older.

Dogs make people feel good

Perhaps the most intuitive benefit of sharing your life and home with a canine friend is that dogs give you “feel-good vibes”. It is really difficult not to cheer up, even after a hard day’s work, when you are greeted very often vocal enthusiasm by a friendly dog.

Moreover, dogs appear to reduce symptoms of depression and render people more resilient to stress. That is why dogs are often used as therapy animals.
Researchers hypothesize that therapy dogs can improve the psychological well-being of children going through cancer therapy, as well as help individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) deal with disruptive symptoms.

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