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Pet Owners Live Longer

5 Reasons Why Dogs Make You Live Longer.

Owning a pet can be expensive. But when you consider that having a dog can actually add years to your life, you may see it as a pretty wise investment! It’s pretty clear that dogs bring joy to our lives but evidence shows they are doing more than that – they are keeping us healthier too.

1. Dogs need you

Pets can help restore feelings of hope and purpose to people who are marginalised or isolated in society. Dog ownership encourages feelings of self-esteem and self-acceptance. In learning to care for an animal, owners can also learn to care for their own needs. Pet ownership keeps you in touch with reality. Feelings of being needed and responsible for another being are advantageous to owners who are otherwise detached from society and other people.

Lonely people often lose their self-esteem as they have little opportunity to satisfy their needs for affection or companionship. Isolation and loneliness are major risk factors in cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression. Dogs provide connection, love and physical contact for depressed and withdrawn people which can have very positive effects on their physical and emotional wellbeing. Dogs provide a kind of unconditional acceptance and love that humans often cannot get from other humans.

2. Dogs keep you busy

Studies show that healthy older people survive best with a variety of interesting things to do to occupy their time. Dogs require care, attention, vet check-ups, walks, socialisation, food and training. These things take time and can provide meaningful purpose to a retiree’s life. Getting out of the house to take care of a dog enables movement, variation and even social contact when owners interact with other people and their dogs. 

3. Dogs need walks

Canine companions lower risk of heart disease. But why is that? A significantly higher percentage of pet owners compared with non-owners survive heart attacks. The difference in survival rate can probably be explained by the fact that dogs require their owners to undertake physical activity. However, other studies comparing owners and non-owners of pets other than dogs found that owners were also more likely to survive a heart attack.  Interestingly, the difference was not dependent on marital status. It was attributed to the companionship and reduction in social isolation that pets provide to their owners. Additionally, taking your dog for a walk can become a daily ritual which improves your mood, health and happiness through simple exercise in the outdoors.

4. Dogs calm you down

Stress makes us susceptible to a range of illnesses. Studies have observed changes to people with high blood pressure from high-stress jobs who get a pet dog. Six months later, most had significantly lower blood pressure when stressed. When a dog enters the room, levels of the love and bonding hormone oxytocin actually increase. Oxytocin lowers blood pressure and activates the parasympathetic nerve, sometimes referred to as the ‘rest and digest’ system. Another study found that stroking a dog for less than 20 minutes causes a spike in your body’s natural antibody against invading germs, keeping you healthier and resistant to getting sick. It’s no wonder that the use of therapy dogs for unwell people is so popular and helpful in aiding recover.

5. Dogs give you an excuse to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do

Nothing brings people together like bonding over the love we have for our pets. Taking your dog to the dog park can lead to interactions with interesting people whom you would never otherwise talk to. Dogs give us a reason to start conversations and chat with strangers. Dogs can also give us a great excuse for visiting a new park, talking a walk on a dog-friendly beach or going to a dog café for a coffee. They get us out of the house and into the world!

Aside from making us live longer, dogs make us better people. Learning to anticipate the needs of another being and provide for its wellbeing teaches us great lessons in being a good human.

If you are considering adding a pet to your family, remember to Adopt – Don’t Shop! Contact the RSPCA to find a pet that matches your circumstances and give a loving animal a forever home. 

Lucy Richardson
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