By Orest Szczurko
A large study cross referenced the health records of Swedes with that country’s dog register and analyzed the results for the risk of death and heart related death.
First, some study specifics. This was an observational study, looking at the health care and death records of 3.4 million residents of Sweden aged 42 to 80 years old. These human records were matched with the addresses of dogs registered with the Swedish Kennel Club which registers 83% of dogs in Sweden. The health care outcomes were all cause risk of death, acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), heart failure, ischemic stroke, and hemorrhagic stroke.
All cause risk of death reduced by 33% in single-person households and 11% for multiple person households. Death from cardiovascular causes (all 4 of the above) reduced 36% for single-person households, and 15% for multiple person households.
Interestingly, owning a mixed-breed dog was associated with a 13% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, while hunting breeds, particularly pointing dogs was associated with the lowest risk (40% reduction). Owning a retriever was associated with a 10% decrease in cardiovascular death and 26% decrease in mortality.
The benefits of owning a dog may be emotional (having a companion that is always happy when you get home), and physical (owning a dog makes you take a daily walk, rain or shine). Both of these effects would be emphasized in patients living alone. As Dr Schor points out in his analysis, other studies have not shown as much benefit from owning a dog, but the large scale of this study makes it more scientifically reliable.
Mubanga M, Byberg L, Nowak C, et al. Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death – a nationwide cohort study. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):15821.
Schor, J. Does Having a Dog Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk? Natural Medicine Journal, 2018, 10(2). https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2018-02/does-having-dog-reduce-cardiovascular-disease-risk