If you’re a dog owner, you probably think of your dog as a furry member of the family. And chances are your dog is great in that role, always ready for a snuggle or for some playtime that is sure to make your day better. But have you ever thought of your dog as a valuable contributor to your overall health? As more research is conducted we’re finding out just how powerful all that unconditional love can be. Here are a few ways dogs are contributing to better health for humans: They improve quality of life for cancer patients. When I watched my aunt go through chemotherapy, I saw just how difficult the treatments can be. She was often very sick, but without fail, her rescue mutt, Ralph, would always put a smile on her face. So, it’s no surprise to me that therapy dogs are now being used with cancer patients. As this article notes, being around dogs helps cancer patients feel less stressed and anxious and provides them with a comforting companion, one they can talk to about their fears (if they want) or one who will offer quiet support by staying right by their side. They reduce our risk of developing allergies. When dogs are around newborns they can make it less likely the babies will develop allergies. As this article from MedicalDaily.com explains, a recent study found that being around dogs can boost immune development, while “reducing the probability of certain allergic diseases.” They’re good for our hearts. Dogs do much more than provide unconditional love. In fact, as WebMD.com notes in its slideshow on how our pets improve our health, dogs are great for our hearts. In fact, as the article points out, people who’ve recently had a heart attack and who own dogs, are more likely to survive the first year after their heart attack than people who don’t have a dog. And in general, pet owners have a lower risk of developing heart disease. They help kids grow into healthy adults. Yes, dogs are fun play companions for children, but all that playtime can actually have a large impact. For example, as this article notes, kids with dogs get more physical exercise, which makes them healthier. And there can also be mental health benefits. The article also explains that children who spend a lot of time around dogs “become more nurturing adults” and have “higher self-esteem.” In almost every stage of my life, I’ve had a four-legged friend by my side. And while my dogs could always boost my mood when I needed it, I had no idea the overall impact they were having on my health. It goes to show that along with laughter, dogs are great medicine, too.
Vee Cecil is a wellness advocate for humans and their four-legged friends. She is a Kentucky-based fitness instructor and recently launched a blog, where she shares her favorite health tips, tricks and recipes.