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Dogs: best friends of men and their health

Dogs, often considered man’s best friend, have been the subject of numerous scientific studies aimed at determining how they can improve our well-being. Here’s how your friendly dog ​​can benefit your health.

Dogs, friends for over 20,000 years

It is not known exactly when dogs were first domesticated. A study published last year claims that, at least in Europe, dogs were tamed 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. It is likely that man and dog have shared a special bond of friendship and mutual support since at least Neolithic times. But why is this bond so enduring?

Of course, these cousins ​​of wolves have always been very effective in ensuring our safety and that of our homes. By keeping our houses, our livestock and our various material goods. Throughout history, humans have also trained dogs to help them hunt.

They also bred many quirky-looking species for their cuteness or elegance. But dogs are also highly valued companions, renowned for their loyalty and seemingly constant willingness to make their masters smile.

Here’s the research that shows our dogs make us happier, more resilient to stress, and healthier physically. To name just a few examples of how these beloved quadrupeds contribute to our well-being.

How Dogs Keep You Healthy

Many studies have suggested that having a dog as a pet is associated with better physical health, as reviews of the existing literature show.

For example, owning a dog reduces a person’s risk of premature death by up to a third. Likewise, researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, suggest that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease. How is it possible ? It is difficult to establish a causal relationship between owning a dog and being healthier.

physical activity companions

However, the benefits may appear through a range of factors related to the lifestyle adjustments people tend to make after deciding to adopt a canine friend. The most important factor is physical activity. There is no escaping it. If you own a dog, you should commit to walks twice a day. And sometimes even more.

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According to an article published in The Journal of Physical Activity and Health, dog owners are more likely to walk for recreation than people who don’t own pets and those who own cats.

The findings are based on studying a cohort of 41,514 participants from California, some of whom owned dogs, some owned cats, and still others did not have pets.

Additionally, several recent studies have found that adults aged 60 and over enjoy better health from the “forced” exercise they get from walking their dog. Over a week, this extra time spent walking may in itself be enough to meet WHO recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Benefits from childhood and even before

Dogs can boost our health not only as we age, but also much, much earlier than that: before we are even born. Research suggests that children who were exposed to dogs while still in the womb, because their mothers spent time with dogs during pregnancy, had a lower risk of developing eczema in their early childhood. Similarly, children exposed to certain bacteria carried by dogs also saw their asthma symptoms decrease, the researchers noted.

Dogs are good for people

Perhaps the most intuitive benefit of sharing your life and home with a canine friend is the fact that dogs give you “feel good vibes” almost instantly.
It’s really hard not to rejoice, even after a hard day’s work, when you’re greeted with an often vocal enthusiasm by a friendly dog.

This, the researchers explain, is due to the effect of the “love hormone”, oxytocin. When we interact with dogs, our oxytocin levels skyrocket. This hormone is largely responsible for the social bond. This hormonal “love injection” stimulates our psychological well-being.

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Previous studies have found that dog owners have more positive social interactions, and the presence of canine friends makes people more confident…and also more trustworthy. Additionally, dogs seem to reduce symptoms of depression and make people more resilient to stress.

This is why dogs are often used as therapy animals. Additionally, dogs seem to reduce symptoms of depression and make people more resilient to stress.

This is why dogs are often used as therapy animals. Dogs make people feel good, and their only job is to help people under stress feel better.

Researchers hypothesize that therapy dogs may improve the psychological well-being of children undergoing cancer treatment, as well as help those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to manage disturbing symptoms, or even prevent the onset of anxiety episodes.

What clinical research on dogs can tell us

Our canine companions could also give us clues and open up new avenues of research when it comes to clinical research regarding our own health issues.

A study that MNT covered earlier this year reveals that dogs share certain metabolic conditions, like obesity, with their human owners. So, knowing more about the gut microbiota of dogs and how it is affected by diet could help us understand how best to approach our own eating habits.

Understanding dog health to better understand human health

Like humans, dogs can also develop certain forms of cancer. Like us, dogs can have brain tumors that have a similar destructive effect. So knowing which genes predispose our canine companions to gliomas could also translate into cancer research for human patients.

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Also, a contagious form of canine cancer could shed some light on how forms of cancer found in humans developed. Dogs may also exhibit some hallmarks of dementia, such as reduced problem-solving abilities. The researchers say that by understanding how cognitive tasks are affected in these quadrupeds, we might be better equipped to solve the puzzle of dementia in humans, too.

Dogs are one of the few animals that replicate many of the key characteristics of dementia. As a result, she continues, understanding their cognitive abilities could be valuable in helping us understand the causes of this disorder in humans.

Dogs aren’t just incredibly lovable and often very funny friends with their antics. Their company also allows us to stay physically fit. In addition, their health problems often mirror ours. Most importantly, we welcome them into our lives and have done so since time immemorial because they instantly bring us the joy and calm we would otherwise have had to work hard to achieve.

Sources

https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms16082
https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1348/135910706X103284
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/having-a-dog-can-help-your-heart–literally
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18382031/
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00234/full

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