health benefits of owning a dog

A recent study on Swedish patients recovering after a major cardiovascular event demonstrated that owning a dog puts you at a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, especially if you live alone.


Coronary heart disease and stroke are the major reasons for cardiovascular- associated mortality.

Among patients who had previously experienced major cardiovascular event – depression, social isolation, and lack of physical activity have been linked with poor outcomes. Dog ownership, as it has been previously described, can reduce social isolation, contribute to physical activity, especially in single-occupancy households. The American Heart Association issued a statement in 2013, that pet ownership might provide cardioprotective benefits in patients with established cardiovascular disease.

To further investigate the benefits of dog ownership on cardiovascular risk, a total of 181696 patients after an acute myocardial infarction (5.7% owning a dog) and 154617 patients after an ischemic stroke (4.8% owning a dog) aged 40-85 were enrolled in a study. Patients were identified through the Swedish National Patient Register and the dog ownership was confirmed through Swedish Kennel Club or Swedish Board of Agriculture, for which the registration in Sweden is mandatory since 2001.

Based on study results the dog owners had 33% lower risk of death after an acute myocardial event, for those who lived alone, as compared to control group who did not own a dog. For people who lived with a partner or child, the the risk of death was 15% less than for people who did not own a dog.

In a group of patients who had a prior ischemic stroke, those who owned dogs were at 27% lower risk of death if they lived alone, and 12% lower risk for those living with a partner or a child. The researchers also found an association between dog ownership and a reduced risk of repeated hospitalization for cardiovascular events.

According to the researchers, “the results of this study suggest positive effects of dog ownership for patients who have experienced a heart attack or stroke. However, more research is needed to confirm a causal relationship and giving recommendations about prescribing dogs for prevention”.


Written by Bella Groisman



  1. Mwenya Mubanga, Liisa Byberg, Agneta Egenvall, Erik Ingelsson, Tove Fall, Dog Ownership and Survival After a Major Cardiovascular Event, A Register-Based Prospective Study, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2019;12: e005342
  2. Dog ownership associated with longer life, especially among heart attack and stroke survivors.


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