A new study of more than three million Swedish Dog owners revealed that dog ownership can reduce the risk of death due to Cardiovascular Diseases or to other causes.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that owning a dog can serve as a protective factor against cardiovascular diseases and death, especially for people who are living alone.

Largest study of its kind to date

With 3.4 million participants, the 12-year study is considered to be the largest of its kind. The researchers linked together seven different national data sources, which include two dog ownership registers.

All the participants don’t have any diagnosed cardiovascular diseases prior to the beginning of the study.

After a 12-year follow-up, the researchers found that dog ownership can lower the risk of death caused by cardiovascular diseases. The beneficial effect of dog ownership is more apparent in people living alone. The study found that single dog owners had 33 percent reduction in risk of death. Single dog owners also had 11 percent lesser risk of myocardial infarction during follow-up compared to single non-dog owners. Furthermore, analysis of the Swedish Twin Register showed no indication of confounding by disability, comorbidities or lifestyle factors.

Interestingly, dog breeds that originally bred for hunting provided the most protection against cardiovascular diseases and death.

The researchers noted that the study only looks for a possible association between dog ownership and mortality. They stressed out that their analysis does not provide a causal explanation regarding the protective effect of having a dog against cardiovascular diseases and death.

However, the team believes that the additional physical activity provided by the dogs can explain the observed results.

Dogs need to be walked regularly. Due to this, dog owners are more likely to be physically active than non-dog owners. The increased well being and social contacts provided by dogs, as well as the effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner, can also explain the reduced risk of death among single dog owners.

With the results of the study, the researchers concluded that dog ownership can lower the risk of mortality among the general population and the lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases in a single-person household.

Leading cause of death in the United States

Cardiovascular disease is listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. CDC estimates that about 610,000 Americans die each year due to cardiovascular diseases.

People who are diabetic, overweight, obese and physically inactive, as well as those who have a poor diet and excessive alcohol use, are at high risk of cardiovascular diseases. Major warning signs and symptoms of heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, cold sweats and discomfort or pain in the upper body, specifically in the arms, neck, back, jaw or upper stomach.