Health: Just Another Great Reason to Love Your Dog

By Dr. Laura Cloukey, Medical Director, The Villages Health® Pinellas Care Center

Why do you love your dog? Probably because they are cute as all get out. But what about the fact that they actually improve your health? Excluding, of course, the stressful moments when they chew your favorite shoe, pee on your brand new rug, or eat that 16-ounce prime rib that was sitting on the counter, it has been scientifically proven that your canine best friend improves your physical and mental health.

Love Your Dog: Physical Benefits

There are multiple benefits to owning, loving and just being around a dog. Perhaps most importantly, your canine companion gets you to move your body and move your blood. Sedentary lifestyles are a health hazard. Weight gain, rising blood sugars and de-conditioning does your body no favors, and can even shorten your life span. But just watching a dog can motivate you to bounce off the walls with them. See how they move, play, think and run – doesn’t it make you want to? Someone has to walk the energy off that dog. It might as well be you! So make a plan, get up and go somewhere. Your dog doesn’t care where – all he needs is his nose and the millions of smells out there waiting to be sniffed.

Love your dog: walking a dog

Your dog won’t be the only happy one in this arrangement. The more you walk, the more you condition your muscles and stretch your ligaments. Best of all, physical movement works out the most important muscle of all — your heart. The more conditioned your heart is, the more efficient it will be, needing less beats per minute to circulate your blood, which in turn delivers a rich oxygen supply to those working muscles. In addition, a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine proves that petting a dog can lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. The calming effects of your dog can have a noticeable impact on your cardiovascular health.

Love Your Dog: Mental Benefits

Not only does the body benefit when you love your dog, but the mind does as well. As you take care of your furry friend, your brain gets a rush of oxygen, which stimulates and nourishes your brain cells. The more active you are with your pet, the more your stress levels go down as your endorphins rise. It also has been proven that dogs can prevent loneliness. A study published in 2002 concludes that animal assisted therapy (AAT) reduces loneliness in long-term care facilities. AAT can simply mean a dog or other pet sitting by a person. This type of companionship can significantly improve a person’s mood and fulfills the natural social need that every human requires. Wonder what is in your dog’s mind? They are probably thinking about bacon, wondering why that other dog is wearing a pink dress or when their best friend is going to get home from work. This should be a mutual relationship: your dog helps you and hopefully you are helping them just as much.

Love your dog: man being licked by dog

It only takes 30 minutes per day, five days per week, for a total of 150 minutes of weekly walking to maintain heart health. With a dog by your side, it is very easy to accomplish this goal! If you do not currently have a dog, think about adopting. The companionship can benefit both you and your little pal. Sorry cat lovers, it is proven that dogs actually are better… from a medical standpoint.

Last updated: 11.19.2017
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Written byDr. Laura Cloukey

Laura Cloukey, DO is Medical Director of The Villages Health® Pinellas Care Center in The Villages®, Florida. Hailing from her hometown of Waltham, Massachusetts, Dr. Cloukey attended the University of Massachusetts for her undergraduate studies and received her medical degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. She did her internship and residency at Carney Hospital and Boston University. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. Prior to coming to Florida, Dr. Cloukey was at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital system in Boston, which is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. She relocated to The Villages to join The Villages Health to help build a novel and superior health care system that promises patient-centered care, while delivering informed, relevant care plans and better outcomes.

Coach Image

Written by Dr. Laura Cloukey

Laura Cloukey, DO is Medical Director of The Villages Health® Pinellas Care Center in The Villages®, Florida. Hailing from her hometown of Waltham, Massachusetts, Dr. Cloukey attended the University of Massachusetts for her undergraduate studies and received her medical degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. She did her internship and residency at Carney Hospital and Boston University. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. Prior to coming to Florida, Dr. Cloukey was at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital system in Boston, which is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. She relocated to The Villages to join The Villages Health to help build a novel and superior health care system that promises patient-centered care, while delivering informed, relevant care plans and better outcomes.

The Villages, The Villages Health, America’s Healthiest Hometown, and their associated logos are trademarks of Holding Company of The Villages, Inc., and are used with permission.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

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