Why having a dog is good for your health

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There’s nothing like that shower of love and devotion that your dog gives you when you step through the door. It’s an instant pick-me-up. And Science agrees. Studies show that people who own dogs (and pets in general) have better mental health than the average population. There’s a solid reason they are being used more frequently as companions in retirement homes and hospitals too. They help us heal better. A doctor associated with the Mayo Clinic even recognises the healing power of pets and now “prescribes” them to many of his cancer patients. So how can the “power of the pooch” help you?

#1 They can prevent allergies

It may be too late for you, but if you have a new baby in the house exposing them to pets could help prevent them suffering from allergies, asthma and eczema later in life. Exposure to the irritants that cause the inflammatory responses in the airways or on the skin may desensitise the immune system to allergens. If you can swallow antihistamines for a couple of years your kid will thank you!

#2 They can protect your heart

A snuggle from your pooch may make your heart swell with happiness, but it can also help drop your blood pressure. Good news for your ticker! Researchers who followed heart attack survivors in a research trial found that dog owners had a 1 percent chance of dying within a year, compared with a 7 percent chance for subjects who didn’t have a dog. This may also have something to do with the fact that being a dog owner encourages you to stay active. The Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog owners are more likely to reach their fitness goals than those without a pet because they are more likely to stick to a fitness plan (someone has to take the dog out) and walking with an eager pooch is likely to keep your pace up too.

#3 You get sick less

Those dirty paws and hair on your couch may freak you out, but don’t be too eager to haul out the antibacterial spray. The amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker because we are being exposed to fewer germs, thus putting our immune systems into sleep mode. It’s been shown people with dogs get ill less frequently and less severely than people with cats or no pets. If you’re a “cat person” you may want to rethink things!

 

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