Dog Owners Live Longer

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A Swedish study suggests that owning a dog is linked to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and death.

Researchers used demographic data on 3.4 million Swedes ages 40 to 80. In Sweden, all dogs are registered with the Swedish Board of Agriculture and identified by number with an ear tattoo or a subcutaneous chip.

Anyone with a record of cardiovascular disease before the 12-year study began was excluded, and the researchers controlled for age, sex, marital status, income and other factors. Owning a dog was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of all-cause death and a 23 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The study is in Scientific Reports.

The effect was stronger with certain breeds, particularly pointers and retrievers. The senior author, Tove Fall, an epidemiologist at Uppsala University, suggested that this may reflect different kinds of owners: picture the owner of a Labrador retriever, and then one who has a Pomeranian.

“Owning a dog is good motivation to get out and exercise and may provide some social support,” Dr. Fall said. But the study does not prove cause and effect, and in any case, “not everyone is up to owning a dog. Don’t give a dog to your grandmother in the hope that she’ll live longer.”