Doggie wisdom

I believe that people with dogs are for the most part physically and emotionally healthier than people without dogs. A quick Internet search will tell you as much. One can find dozens of studies proving that interacting with dogs can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, strengthen the heart and release oxytocin.

The number of scientifically proven health benefits of pet ownership is rising faster than the number of chew toys strewn around your house. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

Health pluses aren’t confined to the result of the extra exercise you get walking your dog or playing hide-and-seek with your cat. The bond that you and your pet develop is also part of the equation. “Owning a pet gives you a sense of purpose and belonging that can increase feelings of positivity and lower stress levels, all of which translates to health benefits,” says Allen McConnell, PhD, a psychology professor at Miami University.

One Japanese study found pet owners made 30 percent fewer visits to doctors. An Australian study of 6000 people showed that owners of dogs and other pets had lower cholesterol, blood pressure and heart-attack risk compared with people who didn’t have pets. In a study at the State University of New York at Buffalo, women asked to solve a math equation with their dogs nearby experienced less stress than women who worked near a human pal.

“When you interact with a friendly animal, your blood pressure lowers and your muscles relax,” explains Stanley Coren, PhD, a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher at the University of British Columbia who has published nine books on the connection between people and animals.

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