How Loving a Dog Loves You Right Back

Woman playing with her dog.
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You've probably seen the paw-shaped bumper stickers that read, Who Rescued Who? A new study on the effects of dog ownership reveals that saying may be even more accurate than we realized.

According to the Swedish study, released last week, owning a dog can substantially lower risk of disease and death particularly in people living alone. For those owners, the overall risk of death is decreased by 33 percent while the risk of cardiovascular-related death goes down by an amazing 36 percent with dog ownership.

That's not all. If you live alone, your chances of having a heart attack go down by 11 percent. Talk about mans best friend.

Multi-person households enjoy the positive effects of dog ownership, too. These owners saw an 11 percent lower risk of death and a 15 percent drop in risk of cardiovascular death.

The benefits of dog ownership are more dramatic for people living alone, most likely, because those owners are solely responsible for caring for the dog in other words, they receive 100 percent of the benefits, rather than sharing them with other family members. That's good news because previous studies have shown that people who live alone have an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease.

Its certainly no secret that our overall well-being improves when a dog enters our life. Owning a dog usually means better physical activity (all those walks add up) and increased immune system development. Not to mention the soul-nourishing companionship that often leads to reduced stress and lower blood pressure.

Florida Hospitals Volunteer Services Pet Therapy Program takes the healing power of dogs to the next level. These sweet, easy-going canines visit patients young and old, providing smiles, support and a much-needed distraction.

Introduced in 1995, the program now has 60 dogs that make more than 9,000 patient visits each year. When the dogs go room-to-room, they help patients take their minds off whatever they're going through, says Meagan Krizek-Fonseca, a certified child life specialist who oversees the Volunteer Services Pet Therapy Program.

No matter how serious the diagnosis, they're reminded that there is always love to be given.

Who rescued who, indeed.

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