Why are dog owners healthier?

Are dog owners healthier than other pet owners?  It has long been believed that pet owners live healthier lives and research from Queen’s University in Belfast in 2007 indicated that dog owners tended to have lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

A psychologist from the university, Dr Deborah Wells, was published in the British Journal of Health Psychology stating that she felt the reasons behind this could be partly because of regular dog walking or ‘walkies’.  The walk itself is not just beneficial but also the social interaction with other dog walkers and dogs.

Another reason presented was that an animal actually offers his owner greater social support than any human could and hence this was possibly why pet owners tended to be healthier.

Dr Wells said:

“It is possible that dogs can directly promote our well-being by buffering us from stress, one of the major risk factors associated with ill-health.  The ownership of a dog can also lead to increases in physical activity and facilitate the development of social contacts, which may enhance both physiological and psychological human health in a more indirect manner.”

Dog owners do not only benefit from lower blood pressure and cholesterol however.  Dog owners fare better than cat owners for example, according to Dr Wells’ research, which showed dog owners suffered from fewer serious medical issues and minor ailments.

Even the recovery from illnesses can be helped by dogs as it was suggested they could help recovery from serious problems such as a heart attack and there have been many cases where a dog has acted as an ‘early warning’ to others about a forthcoming epilepsy seizure, for instance, such as Toby the West Highland Terrier, recently nominated for the national Dog’s Trust Honours award for ‘doggie devotion’.