So are dogs really that good for our health?
The researchers examined seven national databases in Sweden, including two that track dog ownership, and focused on people aged 40 to 80.
People living alone have been reported to be more at risk of cardiovascular disease or death, Mubanga said.
This was only an observational study, so it didn't prove any link between dog ownership and a lower risk of death from heart disease.
Those who owned mixed breed dogs had the highest risk of cardiovascular disease out of all dog owners. But their risk of a heart attack was not reduced by owning a dog. Scientists tracked the correlation between people, cardiovascular disease and whether they had a dog or not.
Dr. Mubanga went on, "perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households". Study authors believe that this is mainly due to factors that can boost cardiovascular risks such as depression and social isolation.
For people living alone, owning a dog can decrease their risk of death by 33% and their risk of cardiovascular related death by 36%, when compared to single individuals without a pet, according to the study. At the beginning of the study, none of them had been diagnosed with heart disease. During the 12-year follow-up, they found that dogs may be helpful in reducing cardiovascular risk by providing a nonhuman form of social support and increasing physical activity.
It is possible that dog owners are healthier and more active before they get a canine companion, she said. However, owning any dog will reduce an owners 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. Either way, the dogs are probably going to lick you all over.