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The Surprising Health Benefits of Owning a Pet Dog

February 24, 2017

The Surprising Health Benefits of Owning a Pet Dog

They say that a dog is man’s best friend and the two certainly seem to share a long and illustrious history of co-evolution but did you know there are a number of health benefits that come from owning a pet dog? Research suggests that the strong connection between man and dog comes from the mutual release of oxytocin upon interaction. This hormone is responsible for fostering strong feelings of love in the brain and is usually associated with the bonding process between newborn babies and their mothers. But what else does this mean for mental and physical wellbeing?

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Immunity
Having a dog around from an early age means your immunity will get a boost. Over-sanitizing our homes is actually making us less resistant to germs and in turn we get sicker, quicker. A dog – notorious for carrying germs – can help build your immunity. They can also enhance your resilience to allergies.

Better Mental Health
Studies show that dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than those without a pet. This is partly down to the release of oxytocin and serotonin (another feel-good brain chemical) that comes from interaction and coevolution with the dog. However, the routine associated with a dog such as caring for them and taking them for walks is thought to improve a depressive episode even for those who suffer from clinical depression. Animal therapy is often used in rehabilitation programs because the presence of a dog is so calming and the act of bonding and caring for them is known to improve self-esteem.

Heart Health
Dog owners have also been proven to have lower stress levels (and consequently lower blood pressure) than those without a dog. This is great for cardiovascular health. In addition to this, dog owners are more likely to undertake regular exercise which is also good for keeping cholesterol down and reducing the risk of obesity – this is great for heart health and indeed general health.

Dogs Can Detect Cancer
There have been numerous case studies over the past two decades that seem to imply that dogs can sniff out cancer. These often involve incidents where dog owners have reported their animals continually sniffing at a lump, mole or part of the body that has later been proven to be cancerous. It is unclear whether or not the dog’s sensitive sense of smell is able to detect cancer cells in bodily fluids but, regardless, this could be one animal that may save your life one day.

– Jenny Holt, Freelance Writer

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