How owning a dog could improve your health

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Nearly everybody will smile when they’re petting a dog. If the dog happens to plant a big kiss right on your hands or face, you will probably laugh and giggle, even while pushing the dog away. Did you know that dogs can bring more than a smile to your face, though? Science shows that they actually improve your health.
One Autistic Teen
For years, one autistic teen named Cadence wanted a service dog. Knowing that this dog would improve the teen’s self-esteem and anxiety, Cadence’s mother applied for one over and over again. Every time, her mother kept telling Cadence the sad response—no.
While Cadence has high function as an autistic girl, she still struggles with emotions sometimes. Cadence needed the unconditional love of a dog to balance those moments and bring her that smile. After four years of lowered spirits and let-downs, Cadence finally got a service dog, and the teen couldn’t have been more excited.
The Health Benefits of Dog Ownership. For Cadence, a service dog will help improve her emotional health, and ultimately the physical side too. Still, Cadence isn’t the only one who will benefit from owning a dog. Here are just a few ways that dogs can boost your health and bring you happiness:
Dogs Strengthen Your Heart
According to the American Heart Association, dogs can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. There could be several reasons for the lowered risk, including the time spent exercising the dog and the distraction from work or family stress.
Although the AHA has not been able to link dog ownership and heart disease conclusively, studies do show that dog owners have better heart health.
Dogs Lower Stress
Remember how dogs make you laugh and smile as you pet them? Ultimately, those lighthearted laughs will lower your stress levels.
A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia revealed that petting a dog causes your body to release those “happy hormones,” including serotonin and oxytocin. At the same time, a dog will also lower the stress hormone cortisol.
In one Missouri study, scientists tested the hormone levels of dog owners and non-owners alike. They found that people received the most benefit (through increased serotonin levels) when petting their own dogs. Also, simply stroking the dog for 15-30 minutes lowered the participants’ blood pressure by 10 percent.

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