If you have ever had a dog you know that they have the ability to change your entire mood around with just one look. However this isn’t a coincidence from their cuteness, studies have actually shown that having a dog can significantly benefit your health. From turning your mood around to lowering blood pressure, petting a dog can be the simplest solution.
According to Doctors Foster and Smith, owning a dog has many physical benefits like lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, increasing physical activity and even increasing survival rate from heart attacks. Studies have even shown that dogs have the capability to detect the signs of a seizure and low blood pressure and are thus able to alert the owner anywheres from 15 to 45 minutes before the seizure is going to happen.
Another study from 2002 measured the fluctuation in blood pressure and heart rate among pet owners and non-pet owners when put under the stress of doing math problems. The study surprisingly found that those who had a pet had a lower heart rate and blood pressure both at the beginning of the experiment, during the experiment and their blood pressure recovered more quickly after the experiment. A similar study found that having your pet present during stressful times can be more effective at lowering blood pressure than prescribed medications.
In addition to physical health benefits, Doctors Foster and Smith also note that having a dog has many emotional and social health benefits. Some include reducing stress and anxiety, helping cope with family illness or death and creating a sense of routine and closeness.
One interesting thing to arise from this is becoming more and more common among college campuses; they are dog fairs. Usually held during finals week or times when students will be facing a lot of stress, dogs are brought in and students are allowed to spend the day petting and playing with them as a stress reducer. This is because petting a dog can increase the level of oxytocin the stress reducing hormone while simultaneously reducing the level of the stress creating hormone cortisol.
Even with all this data however, many still claim the direct correlation between having a pet and better health is difficult to prove. The National Center for Health Research notes that most of the studies conducted are based off of current health making it difficult to determine if a person is in good health because of that pet. They further claim that if a person is feeling sick they are less likely to want to get a dog. That leads to the assumption that reverse causation may be involved. If reverse causation were involved that would mean that rather than having a dog cause good health, being in good health would cause people to get a dog.
All that being said, regardless of opposition, the next time you feel down in the dumps or a little stressed out the best solution could be to go spend an afternoon petting a dog. Or if you already have one be sure to spend a little extra time walking and petting him and see if you notice an improvement in your physical and emotional health.