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Dogs and your health: The pros and cons

There are a lot more canine companions around since COVID-19, so here’s the good news about our dogs—and some hairy health facts

Fido is a good boy because…

1. He’s good for my mental health

There’s plenty of research telling us that owning a pet makes us happier.

"Just ten minutes petting an animal can bring a drop in the stress hormone cortisol"

One study of students found that just ten minutes petting an animal brought a drop in the stress hormone cortisol.

Pet therapy dog visits patient in hospitalPet therapy dogs can help patients in hospitals and care homes. Credit: monkeybusinessimages

2. He brings cognitive benefits

Pet therapy was found in one study to lift the spirits and improve cognition in care home residents with dementia and other mental illness, and in another to make them less agitated.

3. He’s a great companion

Dogs can even provide support during tough times. A 2020 survey by the University of York found that 90 per cent of pet owners felt their animal helped them cope during the first COVID lockdown.

older couple running on beach with a dog on a leadRunning or walking with a dog can help keet your fitness levels up. Credit: Robert Daly

4. He keeps me fit

Walking Fido means you have to take regular exercise. British research from 2019 found dog owners were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines.

5. He’s good for my heart

There’s ample evidence having a dog can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. You might even live longer.

"In one study, being a dog owner brought a 65 per cent decrease in risk of mortality for people who’d had a heart attack"

American research published in 2019 found being a dog owner brought a 65 per cent decrease in risk of mortality for people who’d had a heart attack.

Fido’s in the doghouse when…

man with allergies to dog he's next to on couch holds tissue to his noseSome people are allergic to dog's skin cells, urine or saliva. Credit: LightFieldStudios 

1. He aggravates my allergies and asthma

Proteins found in dog skin cells, saliva or urine can bring on wheezes and sneezes or full-blown asthma symptoms.

2. He causes accidents

Walking a dog on a lead can cause injuries including finger fractures, sprained shoulder and even brain injuries, an analysis of more than 400,000 US dog owners found. People also trip over their hound in the house.

Beware of the dog sign on a gate in front of someone's front yardDog bites lead to thousands of hospital visits in the UK annually. Credit: ablokhin

3. I get bitten

Around 8,000 people are admitted to UK hospitals annually because of dog bites. Always clean the wound with water and seek medical attention if the skin is broken.

4. He spreads diseases

You can get salmonella, ringworm, skin infections and other nasties.

"You can get salmonella, ringworm, skin infections and other nasties from your dog, if you don't wash your hands"

Wash your hands after handling your dog, their food or their faeces.

Banner photo credit: Prostock-Studio

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