July 31 2019

Can dogs help keep us healthy?  The simple answer is yes!

It has been scientifically proven having a dog has a positive impact on our health and overall well-being.   

 

Here are 11 ways dogs benefit our health:

  1. Reduce Stress
  2. Improve Mood and Ease Depression
  3. Increase Confidence, Socialization and Life Purpose
  4. Strengthen Our Heart
  5. Detect Cancer
  6. Help with Weight Loss
  7. Provide Cognitive Exercise
  8. Help Regulate Allergies, Asthma and Eczema
  9. Increase Activity for the Elderly
  10. Help with ADHD and Alzheimer’s Disease
  11. Provide Protection and Safety

happy woman petting dog

 

Reduce Stress, Improve Mood and Ease Depression, Increase Confidence, Socialization and Life Purpose

Due to their easy-going nature most dogs assist us in reducing our daily stress.  The simple act of just sitting with a beloved fur baby and petting them can relieve the most stressful of days.  Numerous studies have shown that having a dog in our life reduces the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the relaxation hormone oxytocin. 

Combine this easy-going nature with a happy and playful disposition and it is a remedy for alleviating sadness and mild depression.  Since their happiness is contagious and they have a way of pulling everyone along with them on an adventure they can benefit those suffering from occasional blue moods.

For those who suffer from anxiety due to social situations or lack of confidence having a pooch can ease their awkwardness.  From walking in the park to collecting a package from the UPS person, dogs make it easy for us to interact with others.  Can anyone say I need a belly rub in the park?

Dogs also provide life purpose to those who are lonely or lacking in daily life structure, giving them something to look forward to each day.

The Maltese, Bulldog, Golden Retriever, Poodle and Yorkshire Terrier are a few dogs who are good for these situations.

 service dog with happy man.jpg

Strengthen Our Heart

It is well researched that dogs can aid with our overall heart health.  Stress, lack of activity and poor diet and lifestyle habits can increase the likelihood of cardiovascular issues.  Incidence of heart disease, heart attack and stroke can be decreased due to a dog’s natural stress reducing nature.  When we consider the fact that they also increase our physical activity it is a recipe for a healthy heart.

All those moments of walking your dog and playing fetch work to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body.    Combine chasing them around the house to fetch your favorite shoe and a heart healthy diet and lifestyle and your heart will be healthy for many years to come.

 

Detect Cancer

Science isn’t quite sure why, but dogs have been known to sense cancer in a person before they are diagnosed.  There have been reports of licking legs and nudging body parts repeatedly to get an owner’s attention. 

Whether they can pick up on chemical changes within the body or the tumor itself remains to be discovered, but clearly having a beloved pooch couldn’t hurt to reduce your risk of cancer or tumors going unnoticed.

While there isn’t enough scientific proof to back up this claim numerous dog owners have reported this phenomenon.

Dogs who have enhanced scenting capabilities may be better suited at discovery, therefore a Beagle, Coonhound and English Springer Spaniel would be good choices.  Information suggests that a wide variety of dogs have appeared to be documented.

 

Help with Weight Loss

Our fury baby keeps us on our toes regularly with walks, play time and caring for them.  For those of us who have weight loss goals this can work to our advantage since our dog usually loves being physically active.

While our friends or neighbors might not always be available to take a run or bike ride, our fury best friend will never be too busy to tag along.  Due to their happy and active nature they will naturally keep the workout going so we can reach our fitness goals with motivational licks and barks for extra exercise.

This is also true for families with children, our technological world can sometimes create too much time spent on mobile devices and in front of screens.  By having a dog in the house this is a natural way to ensure that children get enough physical activity.  Would anyone like to walk the dog?

Energetic dogs like the Jack Russel Terrier, Weimaraner, Dalmatian and Border Collie are good choices to assist in increasing the likelihood that you will reach your weight loss goals. Below are a couple of articles from our Active Dog Owner Series.

Hiking with Your Dog – A Guide for Active Dog Owners

Swimming with Your Dog – A Guide for Active Dog Owners

 

man-and-woman-walking-englis-bulldog

Provide Cognitive Exercise

The body and mind need daily exercise, work provides this but so can having a dog.  Taking care of them daily can sometimes be a full-time job especially with a puppy.  Add in all the fun activities such as finding the pork chop that went missing from the table to locating the neighbor’s cat when they chase it up a tree and there is a recipe for lots of mental stimulation.

All types of dogs have the potential to benefit our mental capacities, no specific breed is specified here.

 

Help Regulate Allergies, Asthma and Eczema

Reports have documented that having a baby in a home with dogs can decrease their likelihood of such childhood issues of asthma, allergies and eczema.    The minimal but continual presence of a dog in the home of a baby or young child works to expose them gently to the fur and dander which can sometimes cause these issues.  This works by reducing the hypersensitivity of the immune system that they may get from exposure which can later lead to these health issues.

It should be noted however, that if the child is genetically predisposed to these conditions it would be best to check with their pediatrician since sometimes having a dog in the home can also increase their likelihood of having an episode of one of these conditions.

Poodles, Bichon Frise, Basenji and the Chinese Crested Dog are all great choices for families with children.

 

Increase Activity for the Elderly

Seniors have an increased risk of injuries related to their muscles, joints and bones as they age.  By having a dog in the home to care for they can naturally and easily increase physical activity.  This works to keep muscles toned, bones strong and joints flexible.

In certain situations, such as people suffering from osteoporosis or other issues that would increase the likelihood of falls and injuries owning should be discussed with a doctor.   Elderly family members, friends and neighbors can still spend time playing and walking dogs to assist them in staying healthy and creating a better mood at a time in life that can sometimes be challenging.

Smaller dogs such as the Pomeranian, Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Shih Tzu are best suited for the elderly since they are lightweight and easy to handle.  We can’t forget to mention, smaller messes to clean up too.  

Don'g forget, exercise is always more fun with your dog.  Here is a great article about biking with your dog

Bicycling with Your Dog – A Guide for Active Dog Owners

 elderly woman in park with dog

Help with ADHD and Alzheimer’s Disease

ADHD is a condition that causes an inability to pay attention and hyperactivity.  It has been found in certain situations to be eased by the presence of a dog.  Their natural stress reducing, and calming nature helps to relax those around them which is helpful to those who suffer from this condition.  A dog can teach a child with this condition about managing time, having empathy and even help them expel energy in a positive manner.

Individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease are also shown to suffer less outbursts of anger while in the presence of a dog due to their calming and easy-going nature.  A family member can provide supervised time with their dog to those who suffers from this condition, aiding in the mental and emotional well-being of their health.

The unconditional love and companionship they offer can go a long way to easing the symptoms of these conditions creating a healthier environment for everyone involved.

Good fur baby choices include the Sweet Rough Collie, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and any type of Retriever.

 

Provide Us with Protection and Added Safety

In our busy and chaotic lives our dog can bring us extra protection and safety when we need it most.  We might love taking a nighttime stroll through our city but feel unsafe to do so.  Taking our dog along with us on these adventures can provide extra protection and security in case a situation arises.

Dogs like the German Shepherd, Great Dane, Boxer and Bernese Mountain Dog make good dogs for protection and safety.

 service dog with girl in wheelchair

Below is a list of some areas in which therapy and service dogs are specially trained to help:

  1. Diabetic Hypoglycemia
  2. Seizure Detection
  3. Food Allergen Locator
  4. Hospital or Care Facility Therapy
  5. Brain Injuries
  6. Autism

dog visiting girl in hospital

These dogs are specially trained to perform this task as their daily work, like a live-in nurse or caregiver. With 4 legs and lots of fur of course!

Diabetic Hypoglycemia

Those who suffer from lifelong insulin dependent diabetes run the risk of having what is known as diabetic unawareness.  With this condition there is no physical knowledge or warning signs of when their blood sugar dips below the normal levels.

Since these patients take artificial insulin that can’t be regulated by a none working pancreas this can be devastating to their bodies leading to shock, and in severe cases death.   It is said that dogs can pick up on the scent given off by a diabetic patient as their body’s hormone level changes and blood sugar starts to drop.

The Diabetic Alert Dogs of America is an organization that trains dogs specifically to work with T1D patients.  They comment that mixed sporting breed dogs are good choices for training, as well as Poodles and any type of Retrievers.

Seizure Detection

For those who suffer from seizures, there are dogs who are specifically trained to assist them in their lives.  By being able to pickup on bodily changes in seizure patients, dogs can sense the seizure before it happens.  This allows the person to find a safe place, take necessary medications or get to medical help sometimes before the seizure even happens offering peace of mind and safety.

Canine Partners for Life is an organization who handles the training of these types of dogs and specifies that they typically train all types of Retrievers, but also Poodles and Labradoodles which all make good choices.

It should be noted that research on the effectiveness of dogs in handling this type of situation needs further review for those suffering just having a pooch to love can sometimes be enough to ease symptoms and give comfort when needed.

Food Allergens Locator

For those who suffer from severe food allergies that can be life threatening, having a companion who is trained to locate the scent can be beneficial.  Dogs may be trained to sniff out peanuts in a cafeteria for a person who has a severe allergy.  By performing this task, the dog is helping keep the person from having an anaphylactic episode.

An organization known as Allergen Detection Service Dogs train specific dogs who are put through rigorous trails for environmental, physical and intellectual abilities before a dog is selected to be used.

Hospital and Care Facility Therapy

Dogs in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes create an environment of happiness, livelihood and well-being just with their presence.   People within these facilities can benefit from interaction and spending time with these therapy dogs, increasing their overall health and recovery.  Their unconditional love and easy-going nature can reduce stress and anxiety, alleviate depression loneliness and bring joy to people in these settings with a simple nudge of their furry head or lick of their tongue.

The National Therapy Dog Organization suggests the Chihuahua, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bichon Frise and French Bulldog are all good choices in these types of settings.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

With this type of condition people who suffer can have a variety of symptoms affecting coordination of movement, their vision and memory.  Dogs who are specifically trained to assist can help with their balance, the picking up of objects that are dropped as well as preventing future injuries from happening which can cause further trauma.

Isolation can be a common result of this type of situation, having a therapy dog can also minimize the mental and emotional issues that can come about from dealing with a traumatic brain injury.

SIT Service Dogs doesn’t recommend a dog breed for this type of therapy but Labrador Retriever or any other calm dog might be a good choice.

Autism

Assistance Dogs International is an agency that specifically trains dogs for Autism therapy.  They recommend an affectionate dog that is more of a companion who can provide the unconditional love and affection a child with this condition needs.  Since this type of dog is more friendly and conducive to socializing, the child will have more opportunities to interact in a non-threatening way.  They can also provide comfort for these children when they are struggling with the world around them.  Some good choices for dogs are Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers due to their relaxing nature.

This is just a small sample of the types of therapy dogs there are, the list below highlights some other areas where they work hard.

  • Assistance for people who are blind or deaf
  • Assistance with physical challenges or those in wheelchairs
  • People who suffer from Pulmonary health conditions
  • People who suffer from Cardiovascular health conditions

 service dog assisting blind person

Below are some more resources:

Washington State University Study - Positive Affects of Petting Dogs and Cats

UCLA Heath Study - Animal Assisted Therapy & What Science Says

 In Conclusion

The very nature of a dog is what makes them helpful in so many ways in our life, including our health.  Their unconditional love and affectionate nature bring happiness to us all.

It should be no surprise that your fur baby has the potential to provide a great number of health benefits to you, your family and those around you.  Your physical and emotional well-being is enhanced and improved by the mere presence of your pooch, give thanks for the gift that they are.

Below is an infographic perfect for sharing on Pinterest.  Share with your friends and let them know the ways dogs help make us healthier.

ChewdUp 11 Ways Dogs Make Us Healthy Infographic

 

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