Dogs Combat Heart Disease
The American Heart Association backs up Dr. McNair’s claim by stating,
In one study, more than 5,200 Japanese adult dog owners engaged in significantly more walking and physical activity than non-dog owners, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity.
This big increase in movement helps lower heart rate and blood sugar. In turn, this keeps veins free from clogging, which is the precursor to most forms of heart disease.
Dogs Boost Immune System
Thanks to owning a dog, we are 54% more active, which means that blood is pumping through the system more thoroughly. As this happens, it allows for dead cells and foreign free radicals to be washed out of the system. All of these healthy changes to the system makes room for good bacteria to burrow itself into the gut.
A study partaken at the School of Psychology for Wilkes University found a correlation between having a dog and the growth of antibodies. The results found that petting a dog for 18 minutes elevated the level of immunoglobulins within the body.
Another study found that babies’ immune systems become stronger faster for those who live in households with dogs as compared to those who do not. The reason behind this is that they are exposed to a higher dose of germs than most babies typically are accustomed to. However, these germs are not human-related, so they won’t result in an illness that would negatively affect the infant.
Lastly, Rutgers conducted a study looking at how having a pet affects your work life. In their research, they found that pet owners tend to take less sick time than their pet-less counterparts.
Dogs Smell Illnesses
There’s no question that dogs have innate senses. It’s the reason why they can be used as therapeutic resources. They are also members of the police.
Dogs are very smart and part of those big brains is being in tune with their noses.
Canines have over 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose. This is compared to the far less impressive 5 million receptors contained in the human nasal cavity. Their senses are so sharp that dogs can detect 1cc of blood that has been diluted by two Olympic-sized swimming pools full of water.
With their powerful tool known as a nose, dogs can be trained to detect many ailments that may be life-threatening to their owners. In some cases, dogs have smelled spikes in blood sugar long before the owner felt any effects.
By grabbing a designated toy as a means to communicate that they smell the low levels of insulin in their loved one, a dog’s owner is then reminded that they need to give themselves a shot.
Dogs can also be trained to sniff out cancer. A company called, In Situ, has trained over 50 dogs in how to detect early-stage cancers such as bladder, breast, melanoma, ovarian, prostate, and upper thoracic.
In order to train dogs to do this, medical researcher, Dina Zaphiris says two magical words,
From there, the dogs take off. They investigate samples of blood, spit, and condensate derived from exhaled-breath to find odors associated with the aforementioned cancers. When they are able to detect these disease, the trained dogs sit and point at the cancerous samples with their noses.
Dogs Help Alleviate PTSD
As we mentioned, dogs are therapeutic. This is especially true of people who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is commonly associated with our veterans of war.
However, anyone from domestic abuse survivors to juvenile delinquents to rape victims to people who have been incarcerated for prolonged periods of time may suffer from PSTD.
What makes a dog such a valuable companion for someone who is suffering from PTSD is simply that this is a dog, not a human. There are different pressures and expectations placed on a dog from a person with PTSD and vice versa. Those with PTSD worry that they are inconveniencing humans with their condition. This is never a worry with a loyal dog.
Dogs also help those suffering from PTSD help bring out emotions they no longer knew they were capable of, such as love. Companionship goes a long way for those who are used to hiding away from the rest of the world thanks to a debilitating condition.
Another perk of having a dog for veterans with PTSD is that these animals are well-trained. Many within the armed forced are used to the regimented lifestyle that came with the being a member of an infantry. Order-taking is a natural part of their makeup. Being able to give out orders to a companion that takes the direction to heart is soothing for veterans with PTSD.
Lastly, dogs are great because they get you out of the house…a place where many suffering with PTSD do not long to go. However, with a dog by their side, they have a reduced sense of stress, exposing their mind more freely the outside world. This is good for someone battling mental illness because the rays of the sun give Vitamin D to the body, which in turns promotes a healthy overall well-being.
Dogs Can Battle Depression/Anxiety
Much like PTSD, anxiety and depression can be crippling to the person who is battling the condition. When it comes to having a dog, cuddling is almost inevitable. There are many benefits that comes from cuddling with your furry loved one.
Interacting with a dog suppresses the creation of a hormone called cortisol. This is the hormone that our body creates in times of stress. Cortisol is responsible for our flight-or-response to situations. So, if we have chronic bouts of anxiety and react by hyperventilating and going home to hide under your covers, then when cortisol is produced that is what you will do.
Hugging your pup will stop production of this hormone, and instead release as surge of endorphins. These are stress and pain reducers. The next chain of reaction is the release of serotonin. This essential neurotransmitter battles depression by signalling good feelings to the brain.
We also create the hormone prolactin in the presence of dogs. Released by the pituitary gland, prolactin’s primary role is to produce milk following childbirth. However, in the absence of a child, this hormone fills both men and women with feelings of nurture. Nurture helps combat the overwhelming feelings of uselessness and lack of direction associated with depression.
Lastly, the love hormone, oxytocin is released. This happens when we orgasm, meet up with friends, or cuddle with our dog. In many ways, having a dog helps fight off feelings of depression that are alleviated by taking a walk in nature. Having a dog is bringing nature into your home.