(Victoria Larned, CNN) Owning a dog could save your life.
Dog ownership is associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and death, finds a new Swedish study published Friday.
For people living alone, owning a dog can decrease their risk of death by 33% and risk of cardiovascular related death by 36%.
Multi-person household owners also saw benefits, too. Risk of death among these dog owners fell by 11% and their chances of cardiovascular death were 15% lower.
As a single dog owner, an individual is the sole person walking and interacting with their pet as opposed to married couples or households with children, which may contribute to greater protection from disease and death, said the study.
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Owners of hunting breeds, including terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds, were most protected. [This may be because these are very active breeds, requiring more energy from their owners.]
However, owning any dog will reduce an owner’s risk of death, just to different extents, said Tove Fall, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at Uppsala University.
“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results,” said Fall. This includes taking the dog out for a walk in any weather condition.
The findings also suggest increased social well-being and immune system development as additional reasons why dog ownership offers protection against cardiovascular disease and death.
Fall believes that while their study provides strong evidence for the health benefits of dogs, their work is not done yet, since it does not answer why dogs achieve these results or why specific breeds seems to offer more protection.
Bond commented that owners of hunting breeds may be getting more exercise because these dogs are more active as opposed to small dogs who do not require as much exercise.