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. "Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner", says Tove Fall, a senior author of the study and associate professor at Uppsala. Risk of death among these dog owners fell by 11% and their chances of cardiovascular death were 15% lower.
Researchers at Uppsala University reviewed data collected from 2001 to 2012 from seven different national registries, including the Swedish Agricultural Agency's dog owner's register and the Swedish Kennel Club's register, in addition to the Register of the Total Population, which contains information on birth, migration, changes of citizenship, civil status and death on all Swedish citizens and residents.
Owning a dog is associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death, according to a comprehensive new study published by a team of Swedish researchers on Friday in the journal Scientific Reports. But did you know your dog could be saving your life?
The scientists followed 3.4 million people over the course of 12 years and found that adults who live alone and owned a dog were 33 percent less likely to die during the study than adults who lived alone without dogs.
The findings emerge from a study of more than 3.4 million people in Sweden whose medical and pet ownership records were analysed to investigate the potential health benefits of dog ownership. But their risk of a heart attack was not reduced by owning a dog.
Owners of hunting breeds, including terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds, were most protected from cardiovascular disease and death.
"However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy". "Our observational study can not provide evidence for a causal effect of dog ownership on cardiovascular disease or mortality", they write.
"There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health".
The study also says that having a dog increases people's motivation to be more active and add more physical activity into their lives, especially in single-person households where the individuals are exclusively responsible for walking and exercising with their pets.
"We have a colder climate so we have indoor dogs where owners take their dogs out for a walk".