The title is a modified version of what was said by Tove Hall, an Uppsala University researcher and keen dog owner. She’s been involved in some research which concluded that a companion dog can be more effective for cardiovascular recovery than medication because they found that the mortality rate among patients who lived alone but had a dog was 33% lower than for those without a pet.
The study has been published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. It correlated data on more than 300,000 people who’v had a stroke or heart attack with the national dog register.
Medications used by people who had a heart attack and stroke are drugs such as warfarin. This thins the blood. Tove Hall’s work on the study was inspired by her time as a veterinarian.
“I could see how much people love dogs, and how much they meant to them in hard times. I could also see how they encourage them into a lot of physical activity.”Tove Hall
The study cannot conclusively state that dogs explain the difference between the health and welfare of these patients because the kind of older people who have a dog may already be fitter or perhaps have a more positive outlook to life.
However, it is likely that having a dog companion makes a difference in part because we know that dogs must be taken for a walk and people who have suffered from a stroke or heart attack need extra physical activity. And they need to find motivation in life. Dogs can help with that as well.
She says that dogs enriched the lives of people. This also helps people overcome and live with these serious illnesses.
I’ve got to add that cat companions play a very similar role. Of course you can’t take your cat for a stroll on a leash. Well, you can but it is extremely difficult and nowhere near as effective as taking a dog. However, we must not forget the health benefits of companion cats particularly to the elderly and lonely. These benefits are well-known and they should also be publicised.
There is a tendency for researchers to carry out studies on the relationship between humans and animals by reference to companion dogs because it is much easier to conduct those studies while neglecting domestic cats. I hope that this can be rectified.