Wellness

Having a Dog Might Be One of the Healthiest Decisions You Can Make

Cropped SingleCare logo By | August 5, 2015

We can all agree that dogs are adorable, but studies show that owning a pooch can actually be good for your health.

Although you’ve probably never heard the phrase, “A dog a day keeps the doctor away,” dogs may be even more effective than apples. According to PetAg, dog owners over the age of 54 visit the doctor fewer times every year and take less medication than their canine-less counterparts.

Your Dog and Your Health

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Allen Skyy/flickr

Dogs can provide their owners with emotional support. Petting a dog improves your mood by releasing serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin in the brain.

People with canines are less likely to experience depression, and for those that do, a dog can in some cases lift an owner out of a depressive episode more effectively than medication, according to FYI Living. Survey results published on ScienceDirect show that 100% of respondents claim pets positively affect their emotional and mental health.

Cuddling with your dog not only puts some pep in your step, but can also help ease physical pain. Quality time with your pooch helps lower the amount of cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone,” that your body produces.

Stress can manifest itself in many physical symptoms, such as muscle tenseness or aches, upset stomach, and headaches.

Pups provide support in more serious psychological cases as well. They can be trained to prevent Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) sufferers from exhibiting repetitive behavior by interrupting them with a nudge.

Similarly, service dogs are paired with veterans by the Department of Defense to provide companionship and curb Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms by creating a personal-space buffer in public spaces and waking veterans from nightmares.

A1996 study found that dogs also positively and significantly influence the psychological well-being of those with ambulatory disorders, as a year spent with a service dog produced, on average, a 68% drop in paid support.

Healthy Hounds

In addition to the psychological benefits, living with a dog can actually boost your immune system.

A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco contend that dog germs strengthen the human immune system by providing it with an ongoing workout. By exercising your body’s defense mechanisms, a dog’s bacteria reduces the number of colds its owners contract.

For this same reason, owning a dog can decrease your kids’ chances of developing mild health issues. According to the Telegraph, growing up in a dog-friendly household lowers the risk of acquiring allergies or asthma as they age.

Finally, surrounding yourself with pups can lead to better heart health, as the New York Times reports. Again, just petting one lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, although actually owning a dog has been linked to a reduced chance of heart disease.

Regularly walking your dog and playing fetch incorporates more exercise into your regular routine — and as we all know, there’s a strong link between exercise and cardiovascular health.

Adopt a Healthier Life

Given all the evidence, there’s little reason that anyone who isn’t highly allergic to dogs wouldn’t benefit from owning one. But of course, adopting a dog can only get you so far, and you need to make sure you’re truly prepared if your health does falter.

SingleCare connects individuals with affordable, dependable doctors. By pre-negotiating discounts of up to 50% for its members, SingleCare gives you the support you need without premiums, deductibles, limited benefits, or prior authorizations.

The company partners with a network of physicians and healthcare providers in a growing number of states across the country, giving you plenty of options to pay as you go for healthcare and even more peace of mind.

(Main image credit: Phil Jenkins/flickr)