Study: Owning a dog can help reduce risk of death

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Study: Owning a dog can reduce your risk of death - Rick Williams reports during Action News at noon on November 17, 2017. (WPVI)

The benefits that come with owning a dog are clear, including physical activity, support and companionship, but owning a dog could literally be saving your life.

According to a new study in Scientific Reports, a Swedish publication, dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and health.

The biggest beneficiaries are single people. Their overall risk of death dropped 33% and their risk of cardiovascular-related death fell by 36%, compared to single individuals who did not own a pet. Chances of a heart attack were also found to be 11% lower.

People who live with others also saw Fido-related benefits, but not as much as single folks.

Those in multi-person households had an overall risk of death that was 11% lower than non-dog owners and a 15% lower risk of cardiovascular death. But their risk of a heart attack was not reduced by owning a dog.

As a single dog owner, an individual is the sole person walking and interacting with their pet as opposed to married couples or households with children, which may contribute to greater protection from cardiovascular disease and death, said the study.

The study found that owners of hunting breeds like terriers, retrievers and scent hounds got the most protection because these dogs are more active as opposed to small dogs who do not require as much exercise, but the study's senior author said that owning any dog was enough to reduce an owner's risk of death.

The study looked at previously self-reported data on nearly three and a half million Swedes between the ages of 40 and 80 over a 12-year study period.

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