The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Canine companionship could be saving your life


November 28, 2017

There are many reasons for the dog in your life, not the least of which are companionship and affection, but added to that is always the possibility that your pooch may save your life one day.

You never know, like countless stories of everyday canines-turned-heroes, some day your furry friend may alert you to the smell of smoke as you sleep, frighten off burglars coming through a window, divert you before you stumble across a snake in your path, or drag one of the youngin’s by the trousers when they try to make a break for a busy road.

But even if your pooch doesn’t heroically push you out of the way of a careening bus, there’s a distinct possibility he or she is still helping to add years to your life.

Swedish scientists have drawn some interesting connections between dog ownership and human longevity, in research published Nov. 17.

Using a national registry and national health database, a team of medical researchers evaluated data from 3.4 million Swedish citizens, which followed the individuals for a period of 12 years. By selecting persons age 40 to 80 years old, the study specifically targeted those at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

For cross-reference against health and demographic information, the team also utilized national dog registry data, which, based on a 2001 law, requires all dogs owned by Swedish citizens be microchipped or tattooed and the corresponding owner information be filed with the government.

Several interesting things emerged from the data, primarily the fact that overall, dog owners had a lower likelihood of death from cardiovascular disease and other common causes during the 12-year period in which follow-up data was collected.

However, another surprising discovery was that individuals who live alone, typically considered more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease and death than people who live with others, showed markedly lower risk for cardiovascular-related mortality when they had a dog.

Even more surprising, while mixed breed dogs did account for a reduced risk, the data pointed to certain breeds of dogs — those classified as having been bred for hunting such as retrievers, terriers, scent hounds and related dogs — as being more strongly associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular death.

Admittedly, there are factors the study cannot account for, the authors noted, such as the lifestyle or socioeconomics that may influence an individual to choose to own a dog at all, or more specifically might guide them to a certain type of dog. Factors such as those, for instance, might mean that certain people are predisposed to being more active in general and owning a dog simply fits with their lifestyle. Or in the case of the hunting dog correlation, perhaps those individuals live in a more rural setting where other factors could positively influence their health.

Indeed, such possible factors echo findings from a similar cohort study conducted in August by the Rand Corporation, which found that while dog ownership did accompany better health outcomes, pet owners were also more likely to have more economic resources and healthier lifestyles.

So it would appear that yet again, the question of whether dogs make one healthier results in a bit of a chicken-egg answer — if you’re the kind of person to have a dog, you’re probably living the way you would anyway, only with a furry sidekick.

Nonetheless, it’s also quite possible with every walk, jog, hike and game of fetch you enjoy together, that furry sidekick is, in a roundabout way, saving your life.

Sharna Johnson is always searching for ponies. Contact her at:


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