There is no doubt that living with people is good for dogs. As Jennifer and I argue in Welcome Home, our book about living with dogs and cats, dogs “have successfully adapted to us and our ways, seizing the opportunity that our planetary dominance presents, greatly increasing their numbers, and extending their range beyond what was possible in the absence of people.” That’s a roundabout way of saying that we provide food, water, shelter, veterinary care, protection, and most importantly, love.
But a new study (actually a meta analysis of studies dating back over 50 years and involving nearly 4,000,000 people) found that living with dogs is pretty great for people. Living with a dog was associated with a 24% decline in mortality from all causes.
Even more profound, the risk of death from heart disease, the number one killer of people worldwide, dropped a whopping 65%. The benefit was greater for those who otherwise lived alone, even if they already had a stroke or heart attack. Heart attack survivors living alone who owned dogs had a 33% lower risk of death compared to people who did not own a dog. In short, if you want to live a very, very long time, get a dog.
Combined, the two studies suggest that public policy be amended to favor dog adoption and I can think of a lot of fruitful areas for discussion to save more people and likewise save more dogs, such as banning housing discrimination for people with pets, allowing dog care expenses to be deducted from taxes, and subsidizing the care of dogs via medicare, medicaid, and private health insurance. At the very least, the studies give new meaning to the question, “Who rescued who?”
The original study, “Dog Ownership and Survival: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” is here.
An article summarizing the two studies is here.
Welcome Home is here.
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