Owning A Dog Could Reduce The Risk Of Heart Attack – New Study

  • In a new observational study, researchers found up to 33% lower risks of early death for heart attack survivors who owned a dog.
  • In fact, dog owners experienced a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 65% reduced risk of mortality after a heart attack than non-owners.  

Various studies have analyzed the relationship between dog ownership and cardiovascular disease. Many of them have reported beneficial effects such as improved autonomic tone, decreased sympathetic responses to stress, lower systemic blood pressure, favorable lipid profiles, and improved survival after an acute coronary syndrome.

Pet ownership (primary dog or cat) has also been shown to be linked with increased physical activity levels. Although a few smaller studies have reported the lower risk of death after a heart attack in dog owners, other investigations haven’t been able to replicate these results.

According to a new study and separate meta-analysis performed by an international team of researchers, owning a dog could be linked with longer life and better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for stroke and heart attack survivors who live alone.

Comparing Health Outcomes Of Dog Owners and Non-owners

Previous research demonstrates how the lack of physical activity and social isolation can affect patients in a negative manner.

In this study, researchers used the Swedish National Patient Register data to analyze the health outcomes of patients (aged 40 to 85) after a stroke or heart attack. All patients were Swedish residents who experienced an ischemic stroke or heart attack between 2001 and 2012.

They compared the health outcomes of patients who owned a dog with those who didn’t. The results showed that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to stroke or heart attack.

Reference: Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes | DOI:10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.118.005342 | American Heart Association

More specifically, the risk of death for stroke patients living with a child or partner after hospitalization was 12% lower, and 27% lower for those living alone. Whereas, the risk of death for heart attack patients living with a child or partner after hospitalization was 15% lower, and 33% for those loving alone.

About 154,600 patients were recorded to have had a stroke, of which nearly 4.8% were dog owners. About 181,700 patients have had a heart attack, of which nearly 5.7% were dog owners.


Flow chart of the study population

They also reviewed data of more than 3.8 million patients obtained from 10 different studies. Out of these 10, 9 studies compared all-cause mortality outcomes while 4 studies included a comparison of heart disease outcomes for dog owners and non-owners.

They found that dog owners experienced a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and 65% reduced risk of mortality after a heart attack than non-owners.

The study clearly indicates that having a dog is associated with a lower risk of death and longer life. This could be due to decreased loneliness and depression, and a significant increase in physical activity.

Although researchers have analyzed large samples, potential misclassifications (such as change of ownership or death of a dog) could have impacted the outcomes of this study.

Read: fMRI Reveals How Dogs Process Words

Also, more research is required to confirm the positive effects of dog ownership and recommending dog adoption for disease prevention. In the next study, researchers will examine how adopting a dog changes cardiovascular outcomes and what are the social and psychological advantages of dog ownership. 

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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