1. They’re good for your heart.
Sure, snuggling up with your pup can warm your heart. But researchers at the American Heart Association found that having a dog could actually reduce your risk of getting cardiovascular disease. Pooch cuddling that has heart-healthy benefits? That’s worth a lifetime of lint rollers!
2. They can act as furry therapists.
Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy (AAT) as it’s also called, has been linked to the reduction of anxiety, pain, and depression in people with a range of mental or physical health problems. Many people can benefit from pet therapy, including patients undergoing chemotherapy, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical therapy patients working on their fine motor skills. Even some academic institutions are taking note. At Miami University, students can take advantage of pet therapy that alleviates feelings of homesickness and depression. Dogs are on call during midterms and finals when those feelings are at an all-time high.
3. They can sniff out cancer.
Did you know that dogs have a sense of smell that’s 1 million times stronger than ours? (Can you even begin to imagine what bacon must smell like to them?) Working dogs use their keen sense of smell to locate bombs and drugs, but amazingly, pups can also sniff out what’s going on inside our bodies. Research has found that your everyday, average household pooch can be trained to distinguish the differences in the breath of those with breast and lung cancer to those without. Another study found that dogs could be trained to detect biomarkers in the urine of those with prostate cancer.
4. They keep us moving.
If you have a dog, you’ve probably walked it, right? Well, all that walking can add up. One study found that dog owners were 34 percent more likely to achieve their recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week than non-dog ownersTrusted Source. And don’t dismiss walking as wussy exercise. Just because it’s low-impact (for your joints) doesn’t mean it’s no-impact (for your health).
5. They lower your stress levels.
Yes, we know our pets can make us happier, but research shows that interacting with dogs can help reduce stressTrusted Source. Even something as simple as playing fetch or petting your pup can increase levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin in your brain, and lower production of cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone.
6. They lower blood pressure.
Blood pressure might sound like a concern for people in their golden years, but really everyone can benefit from keeping their numbers in check. And a study from the American Heart Association found when pet owners get support from their furry friends, it’s enough to lower blood pressure brought on by mental stress.
7. They ease social isolation.
Rejection can sting, but it eases off when you’re greeted with a wagging tail. And science confirms pets help our sense of belonging. One study found that pet owners reported having higher self-esteem, felt more conscientious, and even bounced back from social rejection betterTrusted Source. Another study revealed that women and single adults found the most benefit of mental well-being from owning a dog.
8. They can help you quit smoking.
Still lighting up but trying to quit the habit? A new roommate of the canine variety may be just what you need. In one study, 28 percent of smokers who owned pets reported that knowledge of the harmful effects of second hand smoke on their pets would motivate them to quit.
9. They can help boost your immune system.
Just petting a dog may be enough to keep that pesky cold away. One study conducted on college students reported benefits to overall health, particularly to the immune system of those students who were asked to pet dogs (as opposed to those asked to pet stuffed animals or nothing at all)Trusted Source. So next time you feel the sniffles coming, reach for the tissues—and your trusty sidekick.
10. They can detect life-threatening health issues.
In addition to sniffing out cancer, dogs can also be trained to identify when their human counterparts experience a seizure. Or for people who struggle with severe allergies to peanuts, a dog’s extraordinary sense of smell can be used to catch that nut before their owner has a potential reaction.
Article originally published online at www.greatist.com.