10 Health Benefits of Dogs

10 Health Benefits of Dogs (Wagging Tails)

Whether you’re a dog owner, volunteer, or good neighbor, spending time with dogs can have a positive effect on your overall well-being.  If you’ve ever had to leave or have lost a furry friend, you know how much a part of your life they fill. Some people go as far as saying: get healthy, get a dog.

Here are 10 key benefits of dogs:

1. Improve your heart health

Studies have shown that having a canine companion is linked to lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, and decreased triglyceride levels—which contribute to better overall cardiovascular health.  Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden found that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease than people who did not report owning a dog. That was true even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, body mass index and socioeconomic status.

2. Keep you fit and active

Health experts recommend that adults get about 2-3 hours of moderate exercise per week.  Dog owners are much more likely to hit that goal. I personally enjoy walking much more when I have a companion, and those of you with dogs can probably agree, but my dog ends up taking me for a walk!

3. Help you lose weight

Want to drop a few pounds?  Let your dog take you for a walk.  In 2010, one small study discovered public housing residents who walked “loaner” dogs five times a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds over the course of a year.

4. Improve your social life

Have you ever been walking by yourself?  Ask yourself, do you feel compelled to stop and talk to complete strangers?  Now think about how often you stop to speak with other dog owners during walks with your dog.  Stopping to engage other dog walkers about their dog can lead to sharing stories about our “favorite friend”

5. Add meaning and purpose to your life

After retirement, it can be difficult to find structure and meaning in our day-to-day living.  Dogs can help by forcing us to continue to be there for them. They help prevent loneliness and isolation, and they give us a reason to get up in the morning.

6. Stave off depression

It is widely believed that dog owners are less prone to depression than the dog-less.  There is evidence that isolated elderly women suffer less from depression than those without pets—especially dogs.

7. Provide pain relief

Distraction techniques are commonly used to reduce a wide range of chronic pain symptoms.  Dogs don’t cure pain or make anyone pain free, but keeping the mind and body busy by interacting with your “friend” can help reduce suffering and pain.  Spending time with a therapy dog has been proven to reduce the amount of pain medications used by patients with neurological injuries by about half.

8. Reduce doctor visits

Social Psychology established that animal-owning seniors on Medicare “reported fewer doctor contacts over a 1-year time period when compared to non-pet owners.  They found that owners of dogs, in particular, benefited the most.

9. Fight disease and injury

Dogs seem especially tuned in to their owners’ health and emotional needs. Some dogs have even been trained to sniff out cancer.  Alzheimer’s patients are also soothed by spending time with dogs.

10. Reduce Stress

It has been shown that dogs can help ease tension at the office and at home. Just petting a dog can lower your blood pressure and heart rate—just ask our therapy dog, Bentley.  Bentley feels it his mission to greet each and every one of our clinic patients. He loves coming to work, so if you stop in, please feel free to pet him. He is a friendly, happy dog and can’t wait to help!


Jan Hanson, MS, PT